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Identified versus Statistical LivesAn Interdisciplinary Perspective$
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I. Glenn Cohen, Norman Daniels, and Nir Eyal

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190217471

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190217471.001.0001

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Risking Life and Limb

Risking Life and Limb

How to Discount Harms by Their Improbability

Chapter:
(p.77) 5 Risking Life and Limb
Source:
Identified versus Statistical Lives
Author(s):

Michael Otsuka

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190217471.003.0006

This chapter argues that complaints against suffering harm should be discounted by the chance that someone—rather than the chances that particular individuals—would suffer harm. The case, after such discounting, for preventing the greater harm is not undermined by the mere fact of ignorance of the identity of who would suffer harm. Even when ignorance of a victim’s identity is explained by the presence of objective and indeterministic risks of harm, the presence of such risks hardly undermines the case for preventing the greater harm. It fails to undermine this case even when the victim’s identity is, in principle, unknowable, because there is no fact of the matter who he would be, given the openness of counterfactuals. When, moreover, neither the number nor the identity (or identities) of would-be victim(s) is known, that fact does not undermine the case for preventing the greatest expected harm rather than exhibiting a preference for identified victims.

Keywords:   complaints, discounting harm, identified victim, objective risk, indeterministic risk, open counterfactuals, expected harm

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