Kerah Gordon-Solmon has been awarded a SSHRC Insight Grant for her project, "Duties, Constraints, Prerogatives, and Permissions: Or, How to Defend Lesser-Evil Options". Congratulations, Kerah!
Here is a bit, from Kerah, about the project:
“Here are some innocuous claims. Some states of affairs are better than others, in virtue of being better for persons than others. (For example, states of affairs in which we suffer less are better, other things equal, than those in which we suffer more.) We have presumptive moral reason to help bring about better states of affairs, which will sometimes be decisive. But we also have prerogatives to favour our own interests, sometimes at the expense of what is impersonally best. Third, and lastly, we are subject to moral constraints (against harming innocent persons, or breaking promises), which limit what we can do in pursuit of our own, or others', good.
Again, none these claims is controversial. Promoting the good, exercising prerogatives, and complying with constraints are basic elements of our ethical lives. And yet, adjudicating among them to figure out what we are permitted, or obligated, to do when they steer us in different directions is a notoriously difficult task. Reconciling a plausible account of each within a unified theory is an even greater challenge. The aim of my project is to make advances toward the latter via pursuit of the former.
In particular, I shall make a case-study of how we ought to adjudicate between our presumptive duties to promote the good, and our presumptive duties to comply with constraints, in the context of lesser-evils cases. These are cases in which we are justified in contravening a constraint (i.e., against harming the innocent) by the great good we will achieve, or the great evil we will prevent, in doing so. In these cases, agents are generally believed to have two permissible options. We may inflict the harm to promote the greater good, or we may comply with the constraint against harming, thereby allowing the greater evil to eventuate. Despite - or, perhaps, because of - its widespread acceptance, this belief is seldom defended. I shall fill this lacuna.”