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Monday, October 26, 2009

John Yoo and Consequentialism

The debate over whether or not Berkeley law professor John Yoo should be punished for helping shape Bush interrogation policy brings up what I call the "Failsafe Dillemma." In the book/movie "Failsafe," an accidental attack by an American bomber crew brings up a striking philosophical question: Is the deliberate destruction of a city to prevent nuclear war permissible?

A non-consequentialist will say no, even preventing a nuclear war does not justify murdering the people of one city. Doing wrong to prevent something bad from happening is still doing wrong.

A consequentialist will say that destroying one city to save tens of millions from death is moral. Choosing to save that one city means causing additional people to die. John Yoo, by supporting enhanced interrogation, demonstrates himself to be a consequentialist. Estase is not sure that consequentialism is rejected by most people, though he it strikes him as repulsive.

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