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Off Her Trolley? Frances Kamm and the Metaphysics of Morality



Frances Kamm's aptly titled Intricate Ethics is a tour de force of what Peter Unger calls the ‘preservationist’ approach to ethical theory. Here is some of what she says about her methodology:

Consider as many case-based judgments of yours as prove necessary. Do not ignore some case-based judgments, assuming they are errors, just because they conflict with simple or intuitively plausible principles that account for some subset of your case-based judgments. Work on the assumption that a different principle can account for all of the judgments. Be prepared to be surprised at what this principle is . . . . I say, consider your case-based judgments, rather than a survey of everyone's judgments. This is because I believe that much more is accomplished when one person considers her judgments and then tries to analyze and justify their grounds than if we do mere surveys. (5)



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1 Kamm, Frances, Intricate Ethics (Oxford, 2007). Unless otherwise noted, all page references are to this book.

2 Unger, Peter, Living High and Letting Die (Oxford, 1996), pp. 88ff.

3 See Doris, John, Lack of Character (Cambridge, 2002).

4 Rachels, James, ‘Active and Passive Euthanasia’, reprinted in Killing and Letting Die, ed. Steinbock, Bonnie and Norcross, Alastair (New York, 1994), p. 115.


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