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Moral Dilemmas
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Re: Moral Dilemmas
 PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 12:08 am Reply with quote  
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  Salaris Vorn
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Reepicheep wrote:
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.


Honestly in this scenario I'd say the only viable option is the 3rd option. There is absolutely no way to ensure that the hostage taker keeps their word so you could very well end up with 101 deaths. Given that they're already taken hostages I wouldn't gamble 1 persons life on the assumption that the individual is mentally stable and going to keep their word.

Likewise inaction is also unacceptable because it ensures that 100 people die. The deaths don't result as an unintended consequence, when you make this choice you do so with the absolute certainty that your choice will result in 100 deaths. IMO of the two choices this is the greater of two evils.

Particularly relevant here I think is that you have two options where you know what the consequences will be:

with choice 1 you know at least 1 person will die. Realistically more will probably die but you are absolutely ensured 1 will die.

with choice 2 you know 1 person will not die by your own hand but you also know that your inaction will cost the lives of 100 people and their blood will indirectly be on your hands. The 100 death toll doesn't result as an unexpected consequence and what you're really choosing here is whether you comfortable knowing that you in essence made the choice to kill 100 people by refusing to take action.

So again from a moral standpoint I think finding a 3rd option is the only viable choice. Worst case scenario the 100 hostages die anyway, best case scenario they all live and the only death is the hostage taker (in which case I don't think their death presents a moral dilemma). While I recognize that the 3rd option might be something like "storm the building with SWAT" and some or all of the SWAT team may die I don't count those deaths as part of a moral dilemma since that would presumably come under the "noble sacrifice" category and not "murdering in cold blood."
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 PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:56 pm Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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I agree with you SV. It reminds me of the show The Following where the cultists are always taking hostages or making some demands and the good guys are always doing what they say and then of course everyone ends up dead. It's so frustrating. I want to yell at them: "You really believe that the murderer is not going to hurt innocent people after they get what they wanted, just because they said so?"

But I do think you are missing the point a little bit. In the real world we have many different scenarios that can play out and we can logically evaluate the best tactics. But the point of the thought experiment is to force a choice to make someone consider the basis of their value system.

Another example of this motif is in the Dark Knight film, where Batman employs an arguably Kantian view.
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 PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 7:03 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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Reepicheep wrote:

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.


Very true, and I wouldn't judge someone harshly, or believe them to be a bad person, if they don't kill their loved one. It's quite an understandable response - but even still, we can understand objectively which action does have the greater good impact.

Quote:

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."


I (hopefully) see my error, and I sort of agree, but it's difficult to pronounce someone good or bad based on that one selfish act. We need to look at the whole of a person, not just their selfishness, which means intentions, actions, and consequences.

Do you recall that scene in Firefly, where Mal has a sword fight, and afterwards stabs the guy in the gut and pronounces him just an okay guy. Do you base your thoughts on that one exchange, or on everything you know about Mal and the context of that exchange?

Now I have a personal question (personal to me). Please be as honest as possible. I'm fairly selfish, and rather unfeeling towards other people. But I try to do my best (often failing, in all honesty) by other people, and to benefit them. But even then, my selfishness does affect my choices, sometimes. Am I, on the whole, a good or bad person?

Reepicheep wrote:

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


Oh, okay. I disagree with that. Well, to a degree. We are social creatures, so we rely on being nice to each other to get along and to have a happy, cohesive environment. But this isn't a particular law, as quite often other thoughts, such as 'we must protect ourselves' overrides 'be nice to others', such as slavery. In ancient civilisations, it was often seen as okay to commit immoral acts to people from a different tribe. Just because they weren't of their own tribe.

Despite these 'social laws', for lack of a better phrase, I believe moral codes come from trial and error, and coming to greater understanding of other people, and the consequences of actions because of that.

Lastly: to clarify my previous point: I wasn't suggesting a law code. What is legal and what is morally correct are not always the same thing.
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 PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 8:05 am Reply with quote  
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  Taral-DLOS
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Reading this reminds me of that great scene in The Dark Knight, where the Joker tries to get the boat full of innocent people to blow up the boat full of criminals (or vice-versa) and if neither ship blows up the other one, the Joker would blow them both up.

Then the prisoners went all "noble sacrifice" and the innocents couldn't bring themselves to pull the trigger, and so each accepted their fate (and ultimate rescue by Batman).

There's the third option in Reep's original post! Rescue by Batman!
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 PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:13 pm Reply with quote  
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  Salaris Vorn
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Dog-Poop_Walker wrote:
But I do think you are missing the point a little bit. In the real world we have many different scenarios that can play out and we can logically evaluate the best tactics. But the point of the thought experiment is to force a choice to make someone consider the basis of their value system.


This is entirely possible. I've been studying for my doctoral exams and that can leave me somewhat braindead afterwards.
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 PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2014 1:43 pm Reply with quote  
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  Darth Skuldren
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I think Taral is correct. The answer is always Batman.
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:45 am Reply with quote  
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  Hogy
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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2014 10:30 pm Reply with quote  
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  Reepicheep
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Life Is The Path wrote:
Now I have a personal question (personal to me). Please be as honest as possible. I'm fairly selfish, and rather unfeeling towards other people. But I try to do my best (often failing, in all honesty) by other people, and to benefit them. But even then, my selfishness does affect my choices, sometimes. Am I, on the whole, a good or bad person?

Yeah, I can relate. I have a cold temperament usually and, while I certainly have my soft spots, I'm not what you would call a great lover of humanity. I'm not going to say if you're a good or bad person because I don't have the wisdom to do so (I don't think any human being does; I stand by the "judge not" rule), but I will say that I think you are a better person than another person who does the same amount of good (or bad), but is naturally altruistic. To whom much is given, much is required.

Life Is The Path wrote:
Oh, okay. I disagree with that. Well, to a degree. We are social creatures, so we rely on being nice to each other to get along and to have a happy, cohesive environment. But this isn't a particular law, as quite often other thoughts, such as 'we must protect ourselves' overrides 'be nice to others', such as slavery. In ancient civilisations, it was often seen as okay to commit immoral acts to people from a different tribe. Just because they weren't of their own tribe.

Despite these 'social laws', for lack of a better phrase, I believe moral codes come from trial and error, and coming to greater understanding of other people, and the consequences of actions because of that.

Interesting. Out of curiosity, I have a couple of questions for you: 1) Where do you think our sense of morality originates from? 2) Do you think a statement like "murder is wrong" is actually true? Or would "murder is something we don't happen to like" be a better fit?
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 PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2014 3:42 am Reply with quote  
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  Life Is The Path
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I'd like to take some time to collect my thoughts with the first question, because I feel there are degrees, or steps, in how our morality developed, and it's difficult for me to determine the start of that.

As for the second: murder is quite a charged word. I don't believe that killing someone else is inherently wrong (nor particularly right). There's the euthanasia process, which I think is morally acceptable. And then there's the death penalty, or punishment murder, which I'm not so fond of (though others are, so I include it here), as there's no real, tangible gain for society, or even just the wronged party, by the act. There's murder by self defence, which I think is acceptable. There's suicide, which can be thought of as murder of the self - I believe that's a morally neutral action, as well. It can only be accepted or rejected when one knows the context. There's murder in armed conflict, which is a socially acceptable act of murder. The acceptance of this varies from person to person: for my part, I believe if the war is unavoidable but also necessary, I think this type of murder is acceptable. Then there's Standard Murder, the act of murdering for sole personal gain and with malice. This is what we'd normally understand by the word murder, as a legally criminal activity. This is certainly a morally reprehensible act, for obvious reasons I won't go into.

So as such, neither of your statements really sit well. The first being an absolute allows for no exceptions, it is all wrong no matter the context. The second is literally true. None of us, save for some mentally unstable people, would like being murdered. But it also carries the implication that Standard Murder should be deemed acceptable. I can think of no school of thought (save perhaps anarchism (that's just an assumption, really) that believes Standard Murder to be acceptable. Okay that doesn't really prove my point; just because no school of thought agrees with it, doesn't mean it's bad. But I think you'd understand my point.

So in that sense, Standard Murder is wrong. But killing another person can be thought of as a neutral act.

I hope this answers your question.
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 PostPosted: Wed Apr 02, 2014 11:56 pm Reply with quote  
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  Dog-Poop_Walker
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Perhaps not all morals, but the morality of killing derives from the social contract. That is why murder is taboo to all societies: Murder means killing that is against the rules.

It would seem that ancient people took it for granted that people were inherently moral and that there is a distinction between law and morality, since as far as I can see there was no ancient society that made a definitive statement about moral value. That tends to be a more modern invention.

For instance in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi it details many specific crimes that are punishable by death, but it never elaborates on the position of why execution was morally correct. It takes it for granted that law should be based on equivalency and that a person who harms another or harms society forfeits the right to exist. I would assume this derives from the earliest establishment of human society where ones survival was dependent on group cooperation so there was no moral distinction between exiling someone from society to a death sentence in the wilderness or killing them in judgement.
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