Preference and Prevention: A New Paradox of Deontology

28 Oct 2022 04.00 PM - 05.30 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Andrew Forcehimes

Deontologists hold that killing is so morally serious that it ought not to be done, even to prevent more killings.  For such a constraint to matter, it must be that we should generally want it to be respected.  That is, we should prefer Five Killings over One Killing to Prevent Five.  But this verdict turns out to be incompatible with regarding it as a matter of great importance whether or not the prevention attempt turns out to be successful. Since deontic constraints are incompatible with taking their violations seriously, we must reject them.

Richard Yetter Chappell is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Miami. He is the author of Parfit's Ethics and many articles in journals including Noûs and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Chappell regularly posts about consequentialism and effective altruism on his blog, Good Thoughts (, and is co-editor of