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Jules van Schaijik

The effects of thinking the unthinkable

Nov. 5, 2011, at 6:36am

The idea that there are intrinsically evil acts—acts that are always and everywhere wrong no matter what the circumstances or consequences may be—is often challenged by appeals to extraordinary cases, real or imagined. Killing one innocent person, it is said, though obviously wrong in most cases, may be justified if it is the only way to save fifty others. Or adultery, though morally bad in general, can hardly be considered wrong in the case of Mrs. Bergmeier, for whom it was the only way to get out of prison and rejoin her family.

I have always found such arguments troubling, especially when they are used extensively in the classroom. Rather than nourishing, clarifying and strengthening

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