Posted: September 17th, 2017

philosophy

 

Your Assignment:
Read the following thought experiment from Bernard Williams and then write an essay that answers the questions that follow:
“Jim finds himself in the central square of a small South American town. Tied up against the wall is a row of twenty Indians, most terrified, a few defiant, and in front of them several armed men in uniform. A heavy man in a sweat-stained khaki shirt turns out to be the captain in charge, and after a good deal of questioning, Jim is able to convince the captain that he got there by accident while on a botanical expedition. The captain explains that the Indians are a random group of the inhabitants who, after recent acts of protest against the government, are just about to be killed to remind other possible protestors of the ‘advantages’ of not protesting. However, since Jim is an honored visitor from another land, the captain is happy to offer him a guest’s privilege of killing one of the Indians himself. If Jim accepts, then as a special mark of the occasion, the other Indians will be let off. Of course, if Jim refuses, then there is no special occasion, and Pedro here will do what he was about to do when Jim arrived, and kill them all. Jim, with some desperate recollection of schoolboy fiction, wonders whether if he got hold of a gun, he could hold the captain, Pedro, and the rest of the soldiers to threat, but it is quite clear from the set-up that nothing of the kind is going to work: any attempt at that sort of thing will mean that all the Indians will be killed, as well as himself. The men against the wall, and the other villagers, understand the situation, and are obviously begging him to accept. What should he do?” (JJC Smart and Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism: For and Against, 1973)
What would Mill tell Jim to do, according to his theory of utilitarianism? Be clear in explaining Mill’s recommendation, and how he would justify it. In doing so, you must include a discussion of the following:
o The Principle of Utility and how it would specifically apply in this situation—who gets “counted” and how?
What would Kant tell Jim to do, according to his deontological theory? Be clear in explaining Kant’s recommendation and how he would justify it. In doing so, you must include a discussion of the following:
o The first version of the Categorical Imperative and how it would specifically apply in this situation (hint, you have to say what the maxim would be and what duty would be generated according to it).
o The second version of the Categorical Imperative and how it would specifically apply in this situation.
Explain one criticism of both Mill and Kant. Afterward, argue for which ethical approach, on your view is superior. Be specific and provide reasons for your claim.

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