ASK A QUESTION
No matter whether one adopts a deontological or consequentialist account of ethics it is apparent that there exists a moral imperative to prevent genocide. To what extent and to what cost this imperative must motivate our actions is, I suppose, a subject of serious debate, however. But how can we define genocide? Surely we can all agree that the murder of 10,000,000 people constitutes genocide. But what if we subtract one fatality? Still genocide, of course. Minus one more? The same is still true. But at some point that logic fails; when we get down to the death of one, a few, or no people we certainly no longer have a case of genocide on our hands. It seems there is a sorites paradox here. If the number of people killed is ultimately arbitrary, how is the concept of genocide meaningful? Surely we can still find moral value in the deaths of millions (or even in the death of an individual), but it seems the label in itself is ultimately kind of subjective and meaningless.
April 28, 2009