An Analysis Of Bernard Williams Moral Dilemmas

1998 Words 8 Pages
This moral dilemma is presented by the British philosopher Bernard Williams. Moral dilemmas are most often very specific situations in which it is hard to tell what you should do. For these situations, people often use their intuitions, which helps them to find out which of their ethical theories they find is correct. In this specific moral dilemma, Jim is ultimately given two options: killing one of the villagers himself or not killing anyone. These two options hold differing consequences: one villager gets killed (by Jim) and the rest of the Indians are set free or all of the twenty villagers are killed (by Pedro). Killing one of the Indians leads to better consequences, however it involves doing something widely regarded as morally wrong. …show more content…
In his own words, Kant states that the first version of the categorical imperative is, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law without contradiction,” (67). In this situation, the maxim would be anything relating to not committing murder, such as “never kill the innocent”. If Jim was to kill the Indian, then he would have violated this maxim, and would have committed an immoral act. However, if he were to not get involved and let Pedro kill the Indians, then he is not morally responsible for the deaths according to Kant. The second version of the categorical imperative is stated as follows: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end," (57). Kant does not say that we should never use people as a means, since people use other people as a means to their own ends every day. What Kant actually says is that people should never treat others as a mere means. So, if a person is being treated as a means, then the person needs to make sure to treat that person as an end in themselves, meaning to respect that person as an agent with ends of their own. For some consequentialist moral theories, they might permit that a person can kill one person to save many other lives. However, in Kant’s mind, this is immoral and wrong. Kant’s theory explains that this is wrong because you are just using that person as a mere means to save others. This specifically applies to this situation, as the Indian you would have to kill to save the others would be used as a mere means. In this situation, all of the Indians are innocent and have done nothing

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