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Our panel of 83 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

It is certainly true that moral philosophers recognize that people who are in receipt of orders are operating under duress, and this may play some part in excusing their behavior. The fact that one is under duress does not necessarily excuse everything that is done, though. The evidence of what happened in the Holocaust suggests that people who did not want to carry out the various atrocities that went on did not suffer as a consequence. In fact, most of the participants were enthusiastic and profited directly from their cruel conduct.

Even where this is not the case, many would refuse to do something immoral even if the consequences are serious for the agent. Utilitarians might contemplate the balance between the pains and pleasures involved, but from the point of view of deontologists there are many situations where the fact that the agent will suffer if he or she does something evil would be irrelevant to the issue of whether they should do it or otherwise. If it is wrong you do not do it regardless of the consequences, order or no order.