Chapter 9 of our text includes the terrorism situation at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and it needs to be read before engaging this discussion.
The principle of utility involves maximizing happiness as a desirable outcome of decisions. Although it does not get directly said, there is an inverse intention to minimize the undesirable outcome of disaster. Utilitarian decisions are directed toward outcomes—that is, the consequences of decisions.
The Olympic hostage situation was a high-tension moment, full of dangerous surprises and strategies to deal with the situation that did not work out for the best. Among the strategies was the idea to kill the leader of the terrorists so as to disrupt the terrorist plot and to allow a good outcome in which the hostages would be saved. In the situation it was also entirely possible that a terrible outcome might occur in which all would die. The situation was an emergency.
The German legal system might eventually take the terrorists and their leader to trial, but first there was the need to end the hostage situation. The account in our text ends with, “But it was the lesser of two evils.”
As utilitarian ethicists this week, how shall we reason through to the decision of the law enforcement authorities at the 1972 Munich Olympics?