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ABSTRACT

I believe that there is no intrinsic moral difference between killing and letting die. That is, there is no difference that depends solely on the distinction between an act and an omission. I also believe that we can reasonably establish this thesis by appeal to the Bare Difference Argument. The form of this argument involves considering two imaginary cases in which there are no morally relevant differences present, save the bare difference that one is a case of killing and one a case of letting die. But in the pair of cases under consideration this bare difference makes no moral difference. Hence it cannot be that the bare difference between killing and letting die is in itself a morally important difference.

Winston Nesbitt has recently argued that the Bare Difference Argument fails because “the examples produced typically possess a feature which makes their use in this context illegitimate, and that when modified to remove this feature, they provide support for the view which they were designed to undermine”. I argue that Nesbitt misunderstands the logic of the Bare Difference Argument and that accordingly his objections are mistaken.