The Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life

Spoiler: The Ethics of Killing does find some abortion to be acceptable. This is probably the basis of most mainstream(i.e. simple) criticism of this work. However, even for someone that disagrees with some of Jeff McMahan’s positions, the Ethics of Killing is well written, and helps the reader, both professionals as well as students, gain a deeper, physical and metaphysical conception of what is wrong with killing. The writing style uses many examples that appeal to intuition, both positively and negatively, and appeals to which are used by McMahan to make sensible arguments. This work, intended as the first part of a two part series on Killing, attempts to find exactly what is morally wrong with killing. One answer that is dealt with is what exactly is morally wrong with ending a life. McMahan attempts to resolve such fundamental questions by starting with a notable focus on identity. In identifying what is essentially ‘us’ as embodied minds, and not something simply biological, McMahan opens new considerations by which to explore the ethical issues in killing. Ultimately, McMahan succeeds in providing a well written examination, that, while can be questioned, must be taken seriously.

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