Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

I'd like to use another example to illustrate my argument in this post:

In consequentialism, given a choice between saving five lives and saving ten lives, you sacrifice five lives to save ten lives. And all things being equal, that's a reasonable, if tragic choice.

But it's not just about raw numbers. Suppose it's a choice between saving five kids or ten psychos. In that case we should save the kids rather than the psychos. Indeed, it isn't clear that we even have a duty to save the psychos. On the one hand we didn't put them in that life-threatening situation. On the other hand, they're a danger to society. 

So this is an example of how consequentialism has simplistic appeal. It's true that sometimes numbers matter, but not because consequentialism is correct. That calculus is only valid when there are no other moral considerations in play. 


  1. What are your thoughts of D. A. Carson's response to Dr. Welty in his commentary? I think his argument is a tu quoque argument back at the Dr. Welty. It seems that he argues if you take an eschatological understanding of fulfillment then you can't read the antithesis as merely Jesus reaffirming the mosaic commands or correcting Pharisaic misunderstandings. That it misses that if you have fulfilled the the OT in such a way then there must be a level of discontinuity in the thing fulfilling it. So, it seems he saying if you accept Dr. Welty's interpretation then you can't hold to eschatological fulfillment.

    1. I saw that but it's been a few years. I'll have to pull that off the shelf and reread it.

    2. I was looking to see if Dr. Welty ever responded but I didn't see anything. It didn't deal with most of Dr. Welty's case. He goes on to say that he has an a priori acceptance of the moral law.
      It is not only OT prophecies (understood as verbal predictions) that “prophesy” and are “fulfilled,” but very frequently the “prophecies” are in fact legal structures and institutions that “prophesy” and are “fulfilled.” They are, in short, typologies that establish patterns that point forward. That is presupposed by Paul, for instance, when he tells us that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed (1Co 5: 7): the legally established Passover of the Mosaic covenant is a prophecy that anticipates the ultimate “Passover.” It is presupposed again when texts that describe David or some other early Davidic king are said to be “fulfilled” in King Jesus, the ultimate Davidide. (c) When one speaks of “prophecy” and “fulfillment” in this larger eschatological sense, inevitably there is both continuity and discontinuity between the prophecy and the fulfillment. If X in some sense prophesies Y, and Y in some sense fulfills X, it is impossible to think of continuity alone. Equally, however, it is impossible to think of discontinuity alone, for all links between X and Y would disappear. If the ancient Passover celebration anticipates Christ our Passover, the discontinuities are plain: Jesus is not a literal lamb, his blood was never put on the two doorposts and the lintel, he is not eaten by a family, and so forth. Yet the fundamental continuity is equally plain: Just as the death of the Passover lamb and the sprinkling of its blood ensured that the angel of death “passed over” the house, so the death of Christ our Passover and the shedding of his blood ensure that those protected by Christ escape the certainty of death and judgment. The Passover ritual simultaneously looked back to the Passover night in Egypt, and looked forward to the ultimate Passover sacrifice. ...
      Thus in the antitheses (vv. 21– 48), when Jesus says, for instance, that under his authority the prohibition of adultery includes the prohibition of lust, Welty says this is merely unpacking moral dimensions that are implicit in the OT commandment; there is no discontinuity. But it is better to say that the “fulfillment” terminology suggests that all the moral dimensions Jesus delineates are not already in the legal antecedent but are precisely that to which the legal antecedent points. In other words, both Welty and this exposition usually come out at the same place when it comes to understanding what Jesus is teaching and demanding, but Welty claims such material was already present in the OT law— and thus he loses the eschatological framework, the sense that the new fulfills the old.

      Carson, D. A.; Carson, D. A.. Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) (Kindle Locations 6552-6557). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

      Carson, D. A.; Carson, D. A.. Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) (Kindle Locations 6532-6557). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.