The Elements Of Moral Philosophy By James Rachels Analysis

1200 Words 5 Pages
Is the act of killing a person, worse than letting him or her die? American moral philosopher and author of The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels’, answers this question, as well as the alleged moral distinction between killing and letting. Rachels’ begins by illustrating the various factors of particular actions and disputes the application of morality in certain situations. By using his Equivalence Thesis and its justification, the Bare Difference argument, Rachels’ argues that the action of killing and letting die are viewed equally, as there is no moral difference between them.
For those who have not ventured to read his book, Rachels’ Equivalence Thesis states that killing a person and letting them die, is virtually one in
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The Smith and Jones Bare Difference Case, addresses Smith, who knows that he will acquire an inheritance if his little cousin dies. Smith then sneaks into his cousin’s house, where the cousin is taking a bath and drowns him. The other scenario Rachels’ describes: Jones is aware that if his cousin dies, he will inherit the large sum of money. During the night, Jones sneaks into his cousin’s house with intentions to drown him. However, upon reaching the bathroom, Jones notices his cousin has slipped into the bath and is now unconscious on the floor. Jones has the option to remove his cousin from the water to save him, but chooses to let his cousin die instead. Both examples illustrate Rachels’ Equivalence Thesis, that Smith and Jones act or intention to kill, is the same as letting die. Furthermore, he argues that drowning the cousin or letting him die acts on a motive of personal gain for the individual. As a result, both cases show the same intention of entering the bathroom with paralleled outcomes; therefore, Rachels’ uses this evidence to validate his …show more content…
For this very reason, I find his Bare Difference Argument to be invalid and will describe it with two different examples. Firstly, one could say that the argument is not compelling by looking at two cases regarding a terminally ill patient. Case one, has doctor Eric, who has a terminally ill patient that requests for assisted suicide, but he has worked overtime and is tired. Rather than caring for the terminally ill patient, he chooses to address his tiredness and doesn’t realize when the patient goes into cardiac arrest. Rather than aiding the patient, he falls asleep on the couch, knowing she will die regardless of his actions. Case two shows doctor Jim, who has a terminally ill patient that has requested for assisted suicide, as the patient has been suffering for twenty years. Doctor Jim purposefully turns off the respiration unit when no one is looking and the patient dies as a result. By addressing both of these cases, we see that Doctor Eric was acting out of selfishness, whereas Doctor Jim was attempting to aid the patient in her requests. However, although the actions according to Rachels’ would be the same, ending a patient’s pain and suffering can be argued as assisted suicide, rather than murder. Unlike the Smith and Jones example, the doctors here were not acting out of the same motive; one doctor was

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