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Application of a Moral Theory
Answer the questions that follow the case below. Please read all of the instructions so you will address all of the points that are required for this assignment.


In “Mr. Truman’s Degree,” Elizabeth Anscombe wrote, “Come now, if you had to choose between boiling one baby and letting some frightful disaster befall a thousand people—or a million people, if a thousand is not enough—what would you do?” (Anscombe 64).

She was arguing that Truman was wrong to kill innocent civilians, including babies, when he ordered the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Anscombe presented a deontological argument. Some acts, regardless of their consequences, are always wrong. The word deontological comes from the Greek word deon, which translates to “duty.” For deontologists, it is the character of the act that matters more than the consequences of an act. Immanuel Kant is a famous deontologist. He argued that we should never do an act unless we would universally will it. That is, we should never lie and we should never kill innocent people.

Those that justified the bombings presented both utilitarian and ethical egoist arguments. Utilitarians argued that it is morally acceptable to kill innocent civilians, even babies, if it does the greatest good overall. They argued that more lives were probably saved by these bombings because the war ended shortly after these attacks.

Ethical egoists argued that it saved more American lives. We need to look out for ourselves and it is natural that we should value American lives over other human lives. Hence, Truman’s actions were morally justified when he ordered the bombs to be dropped.

A passage in the textbook states,

Could President Harry Truman have foreseen all of the consequences of his decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II? Obviously he could determine the more immediate consequences, such as the shortening of the war and the saving of American lives. But could he have foreseen the long-range consequences: the cold war, the development of the hydrogen and neutron bombs, the stockpiling of nuclear weapons to the point of “overkill,” the radiation fallout and consequent pollution of the atmosphere, and so on? (Krasemann 47)

Deontologists argue that certain moral rules exist that place restrictions on our conduct that cannot be violated for the sake of any outcome. What do you think? Was bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki morally justified? What reasons support your claim? What ethical theory supports your position? Please submit a response of at least 150 words. You must include terminology and concepts from the textbook into your main post.


2 pages, 4 MLA

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