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Title: Killing, a Conceptual Analysis
Author(s): TSAI, Cheng-chih
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 24    Issue: 3   Date: 2017   
Pages: 467-499
DOI: 10.2143/EP.24.3.3248539

Abstract :
It is commonly held that killing is morally wrong and that killers need to be punished, and in marginal cases where killing seems justifiable, we are advised to resort to the ethics of killing for general guidance. It is also commonly held that the notion of killing per se is accountable in terms of ‘causing death’, which is a metaphysical (or even physical) issue, having nothing to do with ethics. However, this dichotomy – between the ethics of killing and the metaphysic of killing – is questionable and we claim that the notion of killing itself presumes a social norm, which generally involves ethical considerations. This explains why there has been much debate concerning the distinction between killing and letting die. According to the account of killing that shall be proposed in this article, the distinction is based on a social norm rather than a metaphysical reality. Likewise, there is no metaphysical ground for an active-killing/passive-killing distinction. With the help of a value-time diagram that captures a key feature of a genuine act of killing, six classic scenarios in the ethics of killing are analyzed within the same framework. The prominent feature of this approach is that no physical action is an act of killing before the imposition of a social norm.

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