Knowing Killing and Environmental Law
18 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2006
Date Written: January 2006
This paper argues that the ethical commitment against knowing killing should play a role in decisions about environmental problems. The ethical commitment against the knowing killing of one person by another - against murder - is reflected in laws that exist in all fifty U.S. states, in modern regulatory laws at the federal level, and in civil jury awards in tort cases involving profit-oriented corporations. This ethical commitment is also reflected in otherwise disparate approaches to moral philosophy. The ethical value discussed here is thus not a new norm, nor, in its traditional setting, a controversial one. Applying this norm in the context of environmental risks does create several complications, but they are not enough to de-activate the norm in this setting.
This analysis reveals the morally problematic nature of using cost-benefit analysis to evaluate environmental decisions. Cost-benefit analysis involves precisely the kind of pre-killing weighing of the choice whether a person will live or die which our norm against knowing killing condemns.
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