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Moral Dilemmas
 PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2014 10:03 am Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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Moral dilemmas fascinate me. I believe there always is a right choice, or at the very least, a least evil choice, but some scenarios genuinely baffle me. A scenario that I've wrestled with for years is this one:

Let's say a terrorist is holding 100 people hostage. He says he will kill them all unless you kill an innocent person. What do you do?

I'd be inclined to say, no matter what the terrorist is going to do, you can't kill an innocent person, but I'd be interested to hear what you guys think. Also, feel free to post your own moral dilemmas.

And, yes, the Walking Dead thread did inspire this one.
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 PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:50 am Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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Personally, I stand by the "don't kill the innocent person" stance. As they say, there's always a third option. The third path might not be successful, and you may lose those 100 people, but killing one innocent person is not an option. It's a moral slippery slope.

I think Jacen Solo is a good example of this. The writers tried to portray that Jacen was in situations where he had to choose between the needs of the many versus the needs of the few and the only option to save the many was to turn to the dark side. Say what you will about the quality of writing concerning the setup, it was a slippery slope that set Jacen off into self-destruction.
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 PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:30 pm Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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I'd kill him. This reminds me of the test where a train is on its way and there are workers on the track. You have the choice to let them die or throw a fat person onto the track, stopping the train. I remember doing this test at the science museum and I quickly threw the guy onto the track. The computer said most people do nothing, as this means they don't actively do anything bad, and that only psychopaths throw the guy onto the track. Good times.

But Skuls is right in pointing out that this is a false dichotomy, there's always another option, and the terrorist could well be lying. I'd go into more detail but I'm being called away.
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 PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2014 3:07 pm Reply with quote  
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  Taral-DLOS
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I remember the train experiment, except in the context of pulling a lever to divert the train into another person (still the same several-people-by-accident vs. one-person-by-your-own-hand dilemma). I hadn't heard that "only psychopaths" throw the person on the train, just that it was much less common.
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 PostPosted: Wed Mar 26, 2014 5:55 pm Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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Darth Skuldren wrote:
I think Jacen Solo is a good example of this. The writers tried to portray that Jacen was in situations where he had to choose between the needs of the many versus the needs of the few and the only option to save the many was to turn to the dark side. Say what you will about the quality of writing concerning the setup, it was a slippery slope that set Jacen off into self-destruction.

If I recall correctly, Darth Caedus is what got me started thinking of this question. Wink
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 PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 4:37 am Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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Much like the 'dead thread there really isn't one right answer, but it's based on your POV and belief structure.

It basically boils down to two philosophies:

Consequentialism: One should strive to do the most good and the least bad. In other words the ends justify the means and you should pull that lever, shoot that person, etc.

Deontology: One should strive to do that which is most purely good based on their own standards of ethics. In other words the end does not justify the means. Don't pull the lever because then you would be doing a bad thing, nevermind whether someone else is doing a good or bad thing.
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 PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 7:24 am Reply with quote  
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  Taral-DLOS
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I was watching last week's episode of Arrow yesterday (in anticipation for this week's episode to be put online tonight), and this season they've been playing a lot with this idea.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


Anyways, this discussion just made me think of that. If you're not watching Arrow, you should be. Fun show Smile
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 PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2014 8:19 am Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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One thing that's often not taken into consideration with the 'no-win, greater good' scenarios is the long term consequences for the person who has to make the decision and the unintended fallout of that kind of choice. Most people would be haunted by the person they had to murder to save those other lives. What if that psychological damage causes that person to in turn cause harm to others?

If the person in question is a decision maker, and these life and death situations pop up often, it can become a problem. Making that kind of choice turns a person gray. It blurs the line between right and wrong, good and evil. The next time they have to make that decision, they might have a harder time seeing the situation clearly. They're more apt to just see the two choices and quickly make the one that saves more lives without working harder to find a middle path that could possibly save everyone.

But then there's another factor you can toss into the scenario to really mess with people. What if you can divert that train to either kill 100 random people that you don't know, or divert it to kill just one person that you know and like? That choice forces you to consider how you value life. Is the life of someone you know worth more than the lives of people you don't know?
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Re: Moral Dilemmas
 PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 8:34 am Reply with quote  
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  Hogy
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Reepicheep wrote:

Let's say a terrorist is holding 100 people hostage. He says he will kill them all unless you kill an innocent person. What do you do?


Didn't somebody here (or on The Walking dead thread) say there is always a third choice?

Kill my/yourself is also an option here. We are an innocent person in this case are we not? Just sayin'.
I'm not sure how christians would see that decision. Suicide or self sacrifice? Selfishness or unselfisness?

Life Is The Path wrote:
This reminds me of the test where a train is on its way and there are workers on the track. You have the choice to let them die or throw a fat person onto the track, stopping the train.


This scenario seems pretty easy. You are strong enough to throw someone big and fat enough to stop a train, ergo you are a superman. Superman can stop a train by himself. No one needs to die.

I'm starting to sound like a lawyer who gets people off on technicality aren't I? Confused

I like Tarals example (I also watch Arrow). It was pure instinck. Like mother protecting her child. Sometimes you make your choice subconsciously and It may be different than where your moral conviction stands. Lots of kill or be killed scenarios are among them.

Darth Skuldren wrote:
Most people would be haunted by the person they had to murder to save those other lives. What if that psychological damage causes that person to in turn cause harm to others?
Good point.

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 PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 11:26 am Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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Darth Skuldren wrote:
One thing that's often not taken into consideration with the 'no-win, greater good' scenarios is the long term consequences for the person who has to make the decision and the unintended fallout of that kind of choice. Most people would be haunted by the person they had to murder to save those other lives. What if that psychological damage causes that person to in turn cause harm to others?

If the person in question is a decision maker, and these life and death situations pop up often, it can become a problem. Making that kind of choice turns a person gray. It blurs the line between right and wrong, good and evil. The next time they have to make that decision, they might have a harder time seeing the situation clearly. They're more apt to just see the two choices and quickly make the one that saves more lives without working harder to find a middle path that could possibly save everyone.

That's interesting, and it reminds me of something else. I now view morality primarily from an internal rather than an external viewpoint. In other words, I think it is the internal state of a person that decides whether they are a good person or not rather than the amount of good they do, the amount of people they positively affect etc. This may seem a self-centred way of viewing things, but it is what makes the most sense to me.

For example, Immanuel Kant laid down three rules for morality that I fundamentally agree with. They are:

1. Actions are truly moral only when they are done for the sake of morality alone (i.e. doing the right thing simply because it's the right thing) rather than from an ulterior motive. The clearest moral actions, then, are those that go against our inclinations (e.g. doing good to your enemy vs. doing good to your friend).

2. An action should be judged by its motive rather than its consequences. If I benefit other people from an action I do disinterestedly and with no intention of helping others, I am not a good person. At the same time, if I mean well but there are bad consequences to my actions, I'm a better person than someone who commits those same actions with the intent to harm.

3. Actions should be done out of respect for the moral law. As far as I can tell, Rule 3 is an extension of Rule 1, so I'll just leave it there.

Incidentally, Kant's ideas line up very well with the teachings of Jesus. Hence the emphasis on loving your enemies and the contrast between the Pharisees and other less-respected members of society in Ancient Palestine. It's also why we can't morally judge other people - we can't see what's going on inside of them. Please understand that I don't believe Jesus' moral teachings "because they're in the Bible", but because they make good sense.

Darth Skuldren wrote:
But then there's another factor you can toss into the scenario to really mess with people. What if you can divert that train to either kill 100 random people that you don't know, or divert it to kill just one person that you know and like? That choice forces you to consider how you value life. Is the life of someone you know worth more than the lives of people you don't know?

Oh, man! The immediate thing I want to say about this scenario is that if you divert the train into the path of your loved one simply because less people will die, every person's life being equal to the next person's life, I think you are becoming something less than human (no offense to anyone who would make this choice!). It is part of human nature, and I think a good part of our nature honestly, to select certain people to be special objects of our love over others. That doesn't mean we don't love the other people, but we don't love equally.

That said, it may very well be the right choice to choose the needs of the many over the needs of one, but it seems so cold. Anyway, short answer: I don't know.

Hogy wrote:
Didn't somebody here (or on The Walking dead thread) say there is always a third choice?

Kill my/yourself is also an option here. We are an innocent person in this case are we not? Just sayin'.
I'm not sure how christians would see that decision. Suicide or self sacrifice? Selfishness or unselfisness?

Well, I'm a Christian, and I think that would be incredibly noble and may just solve the dilemma. The one problem with sacrificing your life is that you might not know (because you're dead) whether your sacrifice worked or not. But, honestly, if the terrorist demanded one life taken at your hand, then I think taking your own would be the best possible choice. I'd be sure to ask the terrorist before I did it though, whether it would count. It would be a shame to die for nothing. Wink

Continuing with how Christians would see it, I know a lot of Christians would condemn any suicidal act because "suicide is wrong". So is lying, but sometimes you have to do it for the greater good. The way I understand traditional Christian teaching about suicide is that the reason suicide is wrong is that it shows utter lack of faith in God and a succumbing to despair. That would not at all be the case in the terrorist scenario. The person in the scenario is not wishing their annihilation, but acting to save lives. In fact that act would mirror what Christ did on the cross and it seems to me like we would be following His lead.
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 PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:21 pm Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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I think a good example of suicide exemption would be jumping on a grenade. You're not guaranteed to died, but chances are, you'll die. You could view it as suicide, but either way, you're saving the lives of comrades around you. That's a very selfless sacrifice and a very common action by Medal of Honor honorees.

As for the "100 people or 1 person you know and love" situation, I always think of the line from one of Matthew Stover's Caine novels: "I'd burn the world for you." Might be selfish as can be, but I'd always choose the people I know over strangers.
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 PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 5:51 pm Reply with quote  
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  YodaBauer2442
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I think of the show 24. Basically every episode revolves around the idea of does the end justify the means.

In the seventh season Jack Bauer has a conversation with an FBI Agent that pretty much sums up how I feel about stuff like this.

Quote:
Renee Walker: I don't know what to do.
Jack Bauer: I can't tell you what to do. I've been wrestling with this one my whole life. I-I see 15 people held hostage on a bus, and everything else goes out the window. And I will do whatever it takes to save them, and I mean whatever it takes. (wry chuckle). I guess maybe I thought… if I save them… I'd save myself.
Renee Walker: Do you regret anything that you did today?
Jack Bauer: No. Then again, I don't work for the FBI.
Renee Walker: I don't understand.
Jack Bauer: You took an oath. You made a promise to uphold the law. When you cross that line, it always starts off with a small step. Before you know it, you're running as fast as you can in the wrong direction just to justify why you started in the first place. These laws were written by much smarter men than me. And in the end, I know that these laws have to be more important than the 15 people on the bus. I know that's right. In my mind, I know that's right. I just don't think my heart could ever have lived with that. I guess the only advice I can give you is… try to make choices that you can live with. ("Day 7: 7:00am-8:00am")


TL;DR "Try to make the choices you can live with."

I don't think I could ever know ahead of time what I'd do in an extreme circumstance. Such extreme circumstances, if they ever arrived would be very specific. I'd like to think that I wouldn't judge a person in the heat of the moment when a split second decision is needed.

Though I do agree with long term effects are rarely considered in the discussion. What it'd do to you over time. Either killing a person and living with that or knowing you let 15 people die and living with that. [/b]
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 PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2014 11:32 pm Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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As for the Christian view on suicide, you're right, it's taboo going back to Genesis. Martyrdom on the other hand is a high Christian virtue. It's the distinction between giving your life to God and taking away your life, that which was given by God.
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 PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 5:18 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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Whoops, I forgot to reply yesterday. This kind of got away from me, so I'm just going to make a few comments here and there.

Taral-DLOS wrote:
I remember the train experiment, except in the context of pulling a lever to divert the train into another person (still the same several-people-by-accident vs. one-person-by-your-own-hand dilemma). I hadn't heard that "only psychopaths" throw the person on the train, just that it was much less common.


I guess I remembered it incorrectly, then. At the very least, I know psychopathy had something to do with it, as I was teased mercilessly about it.

Quote:
Consequentialism: One should strive to do the most good and the least bad. In other words the ends justify the means and you should pull that lever, shoot that person, etc.

Deontology: One should strive to do that which is most purely good based on their own standards of ethics. In other words the end does not justify the means. Don't pull the lever because then you would be doing a bad thing, nevermind whether someone else is doing a good or bad thing.


And I mostly side with the deontological side. But in this instance, would I really be okay with doing nothing, and just sitting by and doing others die? I've always regarded that as a selfish motive. 'These peoples' lives are not worth as much as my own morals and peace of mind.'

Darth Skuldren wrote:
Is the life of someone you know worth more than the lives of people you don't know?
To me, yes. But my personal attachment is not worth worth more than the greater good, whatever that's understood to mean, in context. And this raises the question: What number of lives is your friendship worth?

Hogy wrote:

Didn't somebody here (or on The Walking dead thread) say there is always a third choice?


Skuls did.

Quote:
Kill my/yourself is also an option here. We are an innocent person in this case are we not? Just sayin'.


It certainly is an option in the real world, but in the train test, it didn't allow for that option. Reep brought up a good point in ascertaining, from the terrorist, whether your life would be counted.

Quote:


This scenario seems pretty easy. You are strong enough to throw someone big and fat enough to stop a train, ergo you are a superman. Superman can stop a train by himself. No one needs to die.


Not necessarily. The railings may be low enough to allow for a quick, decisive shove, or you could use some sort of lever.

Quote:
The clearest moral actions, then, are those that go against our inclinations


What if you're a good person, does that mean the clearest moral action, then, is to rob someone, murder them? That would go against your inclination.

Quote:
An action should be judged by its motive rather than its consequences. If I benefit other people from an action I do disinterestedly and with no intention of helping others, I am not a good person. At the same time, if I mean well but there are bad consequences to my actions, I'm a better person than someone who commits those same actions with the intent to harm.


As I've said, I think both the ends and means (and in this case, intentions) matter. If you intend to do good, did it in a non-harmful way, and then end result was good for others, what does it matter if you benefited? As for the latter point: I'd argue that you're a better person than the one who does the same, with the intent to harm, simply because you don't intend to harm. Whether or not your actions bear positive fruit is irrelevant.

Quote:
Actions should be done out of respect for the moral law
What moral law is that? How is this moral law agreed upon?

Quote:
It's also why we can't morally judge other people
No, but we can judge their actions.

Quote:
I don't think I could ever know ahead of time what I'd do in an extreme circumstance. Such extreme circumstances, if they ever arrived would be very specific. I'd like to think that I wouldn't judge a person in the heat of the moment when a split second decision is needed.

Though I do agree with long term effects are rarely considered in the discussion. What it'd do to you over time. Either killing a person and living with that or knowing you let 15 people die and living with that.
I very much agree with this.
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 PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2014 7:06 am Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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Life Is The Path wrote:
Reepicheep wrote:
The clearest moral actions, then, are those that go against our inclinations.
What if you're a good person, does that mean the clearest moral action, then, is to rob someone, murder them? That would go against your inclination.

I don't think there is a person good enough to always leap to do the right choice. And robbing or murdering wouldn't be moral actions. The clearest moral action is a moral action that goes against our inclinations because otherwise we might have ulterior motives.

Life Is The Path wrote:
Reepicheep wrote:
An action should be judged by its motive rather than its consequences. If I benefit other people from an action I do disinterestedly and with no intention of helping others, I am not a good person. At the same time, if I mean well but there are bad consequences to my actions, I'm a better person than someone who commits those same actions with the intent to harm.
As I've said, I think both the ends and means (and in this case, intentions) matter. If you intend to do good, did it in a non-harmful way, and then end result was good for others, what does it matter if you benefited?

I didn't say you had to benefit from a moral action. In fact it's more clearly moral if you don't. Sorry if my wording was weird. It was my second time writing that post (I hit the backspace by mistake before it was posted). Better phrasing of the second sentence might be: "If others benefit from an action I do disinterestedly and with no intention of helping them, I am not a good person."

Life Is The Path wrote:
As for the latter point: I'd argue that you're a better person than the one who does the same, with the intent to harm, simply because you don't intend to harm. Whether or not your actions bear positive fruit is irrelevant.

Yes, I would agree.

Life Is The Path wrote:
Reepicheep wrote:
Actions should be done out of respect for the moral law
What moral law is that? How is this moral law agreed upon?

Kant was writing about the innate sense of morality he believed all of humanity possessed, rather than a specific man-made law code.
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