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Advise on Exploring Utilitarianism via the Survival Lottery Concept

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"The Survival Lottery":

Suppose that everyone is given a sort of lottery number. Whenever doctors have two or more dying patients who could be saved by transplants, and no suitable organs have come to hand through 'natural' deaths, they can ask a central computer to supply a suitable donor. The computer will then pick the number of a suitable donor at random and he will be killed so that the lives of two or more others may be saved." (From John Harris, "The Survival Lottery")

Based on the views of Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics, is there anything morally objectionable about the Survival Lottery? When stating your position and supporting it with reasons, what can you consider what you take to be the strongest one or two objections to your position, and how would you reply to the objections?

I am planning to write an essay on Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics, and I am planning to use survival lottery as an example.

I could really use some help with the response to the above question. In getting this response it will allow me to see different views, objections, for and against arguments, which will definitely help me to write a more powerful essay.

I would appreciate it if you could come up with a response that is rather a detailed long one, maybe couple of pages so that i can have a really good idea of the topic.

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Solution Summary

The solution, which is an advice to a student who needed assistance in writing an essay on Kantian and Utilitarianism rooted ideas explores the possibility of using the concept of 'The survival lottery' as a means of analysis Kantianism/Utilitarianism as a moral/ethical and social order perspective/philosophy.

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I've pasted a response below, which also includes your posting. I hope you find the direction helpful. Feel free to ask questions if anything I've written is confusing or unclear.

Good writing and thinking to you!


If you are endeavoring to write a compare-contrast essay on Kant's ethics and Utilitarianism, this example will go nicely. The way in which you might structure your paper is to outline the basic ideas of each, and then use the example to illustrate the ways in which they are different. If you wish to go further, you can also use the example as a way to build up your own position. Finally, you might also consider just how legitimate this example is. Critics of "lifeboat situations" deride them as morally impossible ones which not only do not occur often enough in "real life" to be worthwhile ...

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