Global consequentialism and the morality and laws of war
Human rights and 21st century challenges : poverty, conflict, and the environment
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2020
Rights-based and consequentialist approaches to ethics are often seen as being diametrically opposed to one another. This is entirely understandable, since to say that X has a (moral) right to Y is in part to assert that there are (moral) reasons to provide X with Y even if doing so foreseeably will not lead to better consequences. However, a ‘global’ form of consequentialism raises the possibility of some sort of reconciliation: it could be that the best framework for the regulation of international affairs (say) is one that employs a notion of rights, but if so, that (according to global consequentialism) is the case because regulating international affairs in that manner tends, as a matter of empirical fact, to lead to better consequences. By way of case study, this chapter applies these ideas to a recent dispute about the morality and laws of war, between Jeff McMahan and Henry Shue.
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