The Morality of Killing Zombies

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Zombies: To Kill or not to Kill

Aneet Bains
Philosophy 106

Zombies are pervasive in our contemporary culture; whether they are terrorizing attractive actors in movies or television shows, or they are being meticulously detailed in comics and books, zombies seem to have invaded the popular mediums of entertainment. To be clear, when I refer to zombies I am alluding to the reanimated undead corpses that are fueled only by their will to eat flesh, preferably human, and have absolutely no rational will or judgment. The assimilation of zombies into our culture has lead to many discussion topics being raised about the moral implications of the imminent “zombie apocalypse”. Besides the obvious question of whether killing zombies is ethical, there lies a much more complex issue: should we euthanize someone who has been bitten by a zombie? The definition of euthanasia I am using is the hastening of someone’s death to avoid pain or suffering. I believe that euthanizing someone who has been bitten by a zombie is morally permissible, and I argue that position using Utilitarianism and the central tenets of Brock’s essay on Euthanasia.

After a person has been infected by a zombie, it does not take long for them, or their group, to realize what has to be done. Now the infected person can react in one of two ways. One option is that they understand what needs to be done and accept the fact that they have to die for the good of the group. The second, more egotistical, option is that the infected person decides their life is still worth living for however long they have left and refuse to be put down. For now, I will address the second option and show how killing that person, who is unwilling to die, is still within the ethical parameters laid forth by Utilitarianism. The basic concept of Utilitarianism can be understood through these adages: “the greatest good for the greatest number of people” and “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. While these are an easy way to convey the fundamental idea of Utilitarianism, they fail to truly capture its essence and intricacies. A good definition is that Utilitarianism suggests that an act is morally right if the action would produce the most net happiness of all of the choices available. With the question being whether it is ethical to euthanize someone if a zombie has bitten them, after ruminating on the definition of Utilitarianism it becomes clearer as to why killing that person is not too much of a moral quandary. It is difficult to argue the first option, being that we allow the infected person to live out the remainder of their life, cage them up, watch them suffer through the grueling process of becoming a zombie, and eventually have to shoot their head off, would maximize net happiness. There are two choices available, either killing the infected person right away, or respecting their wishes and letting them live out their life. Utilitarianism clearly states however that our happiness is equal to everyone else’s individual happiness, which means that one person’s wishes do not hold more weight or influence than another’s. Which is why the fact that the infected person decides they would be much happier staying alive is inconsequential in the final decision since everyone else would be much more unhappy and uneasy having to always be on guard to make sure that the infected has not become a full zombie yet. Utilitarianism is also based around the fact that we can make reasonable predictions about the future. The more we know, the more accurately we can predict essentially. Being able to make reasonable predictions is essential if we are to assume that an action will lead to maximizing net happiness. Through media or experience we know that if someone gets bitten by a zombie, they will eventually become a zombie themself, losing any part of their personality that defined them as a unique individual. Having that knowledge makes it all the easier the euthanize an infected...
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