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The Moral Evaluation of Past Tragedies: A New Puzzle

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
Author:
Saul Smilansky Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa, Israel, smilsaul@research.haifa.ac.il

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The past is full of terrible tragedies, including slavery, World War I, and the Holocaust. Morality would clearly appear to support the preference that the victims of those calamities would have lived free and peaceful lives. And yet, a puzzle or even a paradox appears to be lurking here. Moral evaluation can be either personal or impersonal, yet neither one of these two perspectives, nor any other prevalent moral evaluation of events, appears to yield the morally expected conclusion. To the best of my knowledge this puzzle has not been discussed before. If there is no way to escape this surprising conclusion, then morality appears to be much more grim and unsympathetic than we normally think.

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