Could You Be Justified in Taking One Innocent Life in Order to Save the Lives of Many?

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Could you be justified in taking one innocent life in order to save the lives of many?

“There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

The justification in taking the life of one to save the life of many - This is a philosophical dilemma that has been discussed and debated over countless decades by various philosophers and ethicists. It is a question of human morality and ethical decisions. Varied cases and dilemmas regarding life and death of a fellow human being have aroused and created strong feelings, because when people feel so strongly about an issue we just know or feel what is the truth, and what is right or wrong. Emotions can however, cloud our judgement and may be irrational or cause us to make aberrant decisions and choices. Emotions can also be products of prejudice, selfishness or cultural conditioning, for example the treatment of different races as inferior and slavery were the result of people’s feelings telling them it was God’s plan.

“…We must let our feelings to be guided as much as possible by reason. This is the essence of morality. The morally right thing to do is always the thing best supported by the arguments.”

To use reason is to allow us to make the right / good ethical decisions or choices without relying on the irrationality of emotion alone.

Normative ethics is part of moral philosophy, or ethics, concerned with criteria of what is morally right and wrong and includes the formulation of moral rules that have direct implications for what human actions, institutions, and ways of life should be like. It is the attempt to devise and establish a set of principles, which can then be used as guidelines and applied to practical ethical problems. The central question of normative ethics is determining how basic moral standards are arrived at and justified.

When considering the title of this essay and the question ‘Could you be justified in taking one innocent life in order to save the lives of many?’ many things have to be taken into consideration. For example the reasoning behind the argument, the principles behind the argument and the necessity of being impartial when coming to a decision or a moral judgement must be addressed as well as other considerations. Impartiality requires us to treat each individual’s interests as equally important and at the same time not treat members of particular groups as inferior or have any form of discrimination such as sexism or racism.

So when we look at this question we must regard that all the lives mentioned are to be treated as equal. We assume all the people in this scenario are innocent and equal and therefore all have the same right to life as each other. The sanctity of human life is the idea that all human life is precious, regardless of age, sex, race, social class or handicap and it is the core of Western moral tradition. Human life is worth the same in each individual being and every human has a right to being alive. So when asked can it be justified to take one innocent life to save the lives of many, I believe the initial response would be to say no – there is no justification in taking one life at all, under any circumstance. All human life is sacred and should be seen as something worth preserving

“Because men are God’s property to be morally used by God for his purposes, it is wrong to damage God’s property” However, there may be a natural objection to the Sanctity of Life Argument for example the innocent has no future because he/she is going to die anyway, or the innocent human being has no wishes to be alive/to carry on living or finally the killing will save the lives of others, who can go on to live their lives fully.

Yet the three examples above may lead to an argument called “The Slippery Slope Argument” The slippery slope argument regards decisions, not on their own, but as the potential beginning of a trend. In general...
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