Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2003
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 1A

Introduction to Philosophy

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber



When I have asked this question over the years, students have come up with a number of suggestions that might serve to mark the difference to our moral responses to the two cases. This list is by no means exhaustive and you should feel free to add to the list or ignore it altogether

   (1) Physical Proximity

   (2) Social Proximity

   (3) Informational Directness

   (4) Experiential Impact

   (5) Unique Potential Savior

   (6) A Single Individual Saved vs. a Multitude in Need of Saving

   (7) Leaving it to the Government

   (8) The Continuing Mess

   (9) Emergencies vs. Chronic Horrors

   (10) Urgency

   (11) Causally Focused vs. Causally Amorphous Aid

   (12) Providing a Service vs. Sending Money

   (13) Knowing Whom You Are Saving vs. Saving Strangers

   (14) Taking Care of Our Own

   (15) Overpopulation and the Ethics of Triage

   (16) Helping and Being Done With It vs. Helping and Helping and Helping

   (17) A Reasonable Demand vs. Too High a Standard

   (18) Saving vs. Helping to Prevent

   (19) Property Rights

An explanation and elaboration of each of these suggestions of differences that might, just might, mark a moral difference between the two cases, the shallow pond and the envelope, is developed further in the STUDY GUIDE for the final question and that is now posted on the PHIL S-7 WEB SITE at You can also click on any of the items in the list above and you will jump to the relevant section of the study where that difference is discussed.

To your mind do any of these suggestions mark a significant moral difference between the two cases? If so, why? If not, why not? And if not, what should follow from this about our obligations to those less well-off than most of us? If one or two catch your eye, take a look at what is said in the Study Guide under that heading. It may give you pause for thought or reason to think again or ideas for objections to which you may wish to respond.  


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