Introduction to Ethics
Handout 13 - Marquis
A Theory of the Morality of Killing is a statement of this form:
an act of killing of morally wrong if and only if _________________ .
Such a theory will explain why killing is wrong (when it is wrong).
The Desire Theory of Killing (DTK):
DTK: an act of killing is morally wrong if and only if the victim does not want to be killed.
The Future-Like-Ours Theory of Killing (FLOTK):
FLOTK: an act of killing is morally wrong if and only if it deprives the victim of a future like ours.
Four Plausible Consequences of the Theory:
a. implies that being biologically human is not a morally significant category.
b. it is compatible with the view that it is wrong to kill some nonhuman animals.
c. does not entail that active euthanasia is always morally wrong.
d. entails that it is (in general) morally wrong to kill children and infants.
A Fifth Consequence:
e. entails that it is (in general) morally wrong to kill unborn fetuses.
That is, the Future-Like-Ours Theory entails that abortion is in general morally wrong.
A Pro-Abortionist Reply:
Marquis actually says, “this ... future-like-ours argument, if sound, shows only that abortion is prima facie wrong, not that it is wrong in any and all circumstances.” So, really, Marquis' theory is this:
FLOTK': an act of killing is prima facie morally wrong if and only if it deprives the victim of a future like ours.
To say that an act is prima facie morally wrong is to say that there are moral reasons against doing it.
The claim that some action is prima facie morally wrong is compatible with the claim that that action is in fact morally right. This is because there might be stronger moral reasons in favor of performing the act.
Thus, Thomson could agree that abortion is always prima facie morally wrong (since it deprives the fetus of a future like ours) but that it is often morally permissible. The Case of the Famous Violinist illustrates how some sort of act could be prima facie wrong but typically morally permissible.