Common morality is outraged by the consequentialist position that, as long as human beings can remain alive, the lesser of two evils is always to be chosen. Its defenders maintain, on the contrary, that there are minimum conditions for a life worthy of a human being, and that nobody may purchase anything—not even the lives of a whole community—by sacrificing those conditions. A community that surrenders its members at the whims of tyrants ceases to be anything properly called by that name; and individuals willing to accept benefits at the price of crimes committed upon other individuals degrade their humanity. Common morality allows a certain room for compliance with tyrannical external force, when resistance has become impossible; but there is a line that must be drawn beyond which compliance is excluded. . . .
(Alan Donagan, “Cases of Necessity,” chap. 4 in Absolutism and Its Consequentialist Critics, ed. Joram Graf Haber [Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1994], 41-62, at 51-2 [essay first published in 1977])
You must be logged in to post a comment.