Martyrdom As a Consequentialist Demand
Consequentialism, in its simplest form, assesses the goodness or badness of an action by the consequences that it brings. I argue that consequentialist moral reasoning can require that its adherents sacrifice their lives. The literature on philosophical ethics is abundant in thought experiments asking the question of whether and under what circumstances it might be justified to sacrifice the few for the greater good. They ask whether we should be willing to sacrifice others. The question of whether one should sacrifice oneself has been largely overlooked. I contend that insofar as consequentialists are willing to sacrifice others for the greater good, there is a stronger requirement to be willing to sacrifice oneself. The consequentialists call to martyrdom is compelling because sacrificing oneself, unlike sacrificing others, circumvents the formidable deontological objection of treating others as mere means and can be an affirmation of one’s autonomy.
Rachelle Bascara did her BA in Philosophy at the University of the Philippines, and her MA in Philosophy at the University College London. Before coming to do her MPhil Stud at the Birkbeck Philosophy Department, she spent a year as a visiting student at the Philosophy Department of the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, she is a PhD student at the Philosophy Department of Birkbeck College. Her main interests lie in moral, political, and social philosophy, and she is particularly interested in the areas where they overlap. The aim of her doctoral research is to construct a defensible unified theory of oppression, which she argues is currently unavailable in the academic philosophical literature.