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Unformatted text preview: invoked to justify detention without trial, torture, and (in an article cowritten by one of the authors) coercive interrogation all arguing that the state should do some injustice to prevent more. "Lesser evil" principles sweepingly justify atrocities if the body count is right, legitimizing killing innocents to terrorize people into ending wars or sacrificing organ donors; the alternative is recognizing vital interests of individuals are matters beyond such calculation
Eric Blumenson, Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School, NEW CRIMINAL LAW REVIEW, Spring 2007, p. 229 In its most general form, the central principle put forward here is a universal lesser evil principle that regards no atrocity as unacceptable per se, but as morally indeterminate pending investigation into "what the facts show." The sweep of this principle is breathtaking. Should we intentionally bomb civilians to terrorize a population into abandoning its war effort? According to this principle, the answer depends on the numbers. Should the state mandate the sacrifice of organ donors? If each sacrifice would save multiple lives, and one accepts the act-omission and aggregation arguments of the authors, the state is morally obligated to do so. The life-life tradeoff criteria would have supported the Incas' practice of human sacrifice, if one remembers that the Incas thought their gods had the causal efficacy over famine and pestilence that deterrence is claimed to have now over crime rates. (Is our objection merely to the naivete of their science, or to the idea of using one person's life as a means to communal ends?) At the least, the unrestrained sweep of the life-life tradeoff principle turns what most of us understand as morality on its head. If we cannot accept the morality of such human sacrifices, we have all the reason we need to reject the life-life tradeoff principle that would justify them. Despite this, some people may doubt that there is any genuine alternative to tradeoffs: they may think that if we are clear-eyed enough, we will have to recognize that sometimes we confront the...
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This document was uploaded on 11/20/2013.
- Fall '13