By Tony Fitzpatrick
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Additional resources for Applied Ethics and Social Problems: Moral questions of birth, society and death
Is my need for a holiday the same as yours for an operation? Is the rich man’s need for food the same as the poor man’s? Presumably not. But if not, against which scale should we rank those needs? Sen, for instance, has argued that what matters is the capability to achieve certain functionings. A parcel of goods (say, a wage of £300 per week) will engender different capabilities depending on the attributes of the person who receives those goods. Welfare is therefore defined not according to wealth and income but according to the relevant set of capabilities and functionings.
But many authors have observed how a recognition of natural and social determinism is a recurrent theme in political radicalism, for it can inspire not fatalism and pessimism but a collectivist ethos of struggle and solidarity whereby people work together to overcome conditions that might otherwise defeat them as isolated individuals (Dubos, 1998, pp 127-35). A more nuanced account of responsibility balances the personal with the environmental (Scanlon, 1998, pp 277-94). So, autonomy is here defined as freedom as appropriation.
All things being equal, the doctrine says not: that while it was foreseen that your retaliation would kill civilians, it was not your intention to do so. Indeed, any credible theory of a just war says not that civilian deaths must always be avoided but that they must be minimised (see Walzer, 2000, pp 152-9). The DDE suggests there is no moral equivalence between yourself and the terrorists. Consequentialists, however, question the distinction between intending and merely foreseeing along the lines suggested above.
Applied Ethics and Social Problems: Moral questions of birth, society and death by Tony Fitzpatrick