Those kooky utilitarians

 Posted by on 22 August 2003 at 3:56 pm  Uncategorized
Aug 222003

This article, entitled An Organ Donor’s Generosity Raises the Question of How Much Is Too Much, concerns a man’s thoughts about giving away his second kidney (and thus ending his own life) on utilitarian grounds. By his own calculation, his life — when compared with that of “a dying scientist who was the intellectual driving force behind a breakthrough cure for cancer or AIDS or on the brink of unlocking the secrets of cell regeneration” — isn’t worth much. He’d be “a schnook” not to give such a man his second kidney because “he could save millions of lives, and I can’t.”

And his kids must just be thrilled to hear this when he tucks them into bed at night: “I love my children, I really do. But I just can’t say their lives are more valuable than any other life.”

But no, he’s not crazy. He’s just a fully consistent utilitarian.

I found the article thanks to Peter, one of my fellow grad students at Boulder, who forwarded it to the grad list with the subject line “Those kooky utilitarians.” I couldn’t have summed it up better myself!

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