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By | October 2012
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Apart from being controversial and convoluted, John Taurek’s Should the Numbers Count and Tobias Wolff’s The Night in Question were also quite frustrating. The moral dilemmas presented in each work were of the sort that I had long ago generally set aside as one of those that “just depend,” and have no single correct path of action. I’ve always felt that these issues are not black and white, so Taurek’s attempts to implement specific rules and fit each scenario into a predetermined mold firstly, enlightened me to these new views and secondly, bothered me. Taken together with Tobias Wolff’s The Night in Question, Taurek’s work does not stand on firm enough ground. After scrutinizing both works and pondering the implications of each, I have come to the conclusion that yes, the numbers count. They count because apart from being numbers, the people presented in Tobias Wolff’s The Night in Question and John Taurek’s Should the Numbers Count are also just that- people: people with families, lives, quirks, personalities, and the desire to continue living (or at least a lack of the desire to die).

In response to Taurek’s ridicule of the idea of “collective or total pain” or happiness, I ask, what is utilitarianism but the pursuit of the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people (Taurek 309)? Were we to listen and adhere to Taurek’s words, John Stuart Mill’s principle of utility would be greatly undermined. In the immediate time and place of David’s drug case, Taurek’s assertion that David is not obligated to give up his life so that each of the five others, all strangers to him, might continue to live” is valid (299). However, it is valid only at that point in time, because afterwards, one will have to take into consideration the ramifications of the deaths of the other five. All other things being equal, the death of five people will create a greater sensation, a greater stir, than the death of one like person. It is slightly unreasonable to tell David he...

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