Do you save the masses or the few?

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Do you save the masses or the few?

Postby Dan » Wed Dec 17, 2008 1:12 am

If you had to make a decision that would save a lot of people but kill a few, would you do it or sit idle?

You can think up any circumstance you want.
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Postby intowiz » Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:15 am

Depends who the few are. What if it were good peaple for many bad.
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Postby Danni » Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:00 am

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." -Spock, in Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan.
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Postby fraser » Wed Dec 17, 2008 10:11 am

Danni wrote:"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." -Spock, in Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan.


"Because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many" - Kirk, in Star Trek III - The Search for Spock :D
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Postby Joss1991 » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:16 am

if they were complete strangers i would save alot
I have to say that age might make a difference for instance i would rather save 10 toddlers than 20 OAPs because the toddlers have a lot longer to live and i couldnt watch ltitle ones die.
If they were family or friends it might also make a difference like whether i would let my friends and family die for a bunch of strangers who knows depends on the situation
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Postby Danni » Wed Dec 17, 2008 5:04 pm

fraser wrote:
Danni wrote:"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." -Spock, in Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan.


"Because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many" - Kirk, in Star Trek III - The Search for Spock :D


Spock's more logical than Kirk :P
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Postby Dan » Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:38 pm

Lemme give you a scenario, millions would survive if you made a decision that directly killed 100,000.

There's absolutely no indication of these people being good or bad. Your decision would be known to have played a part in the deaths afterwards as well.
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Postby fraser » Wed Dec 17, 2008 7:42 pm

I think that on such a large scale, dealing with the general population and not individuals, the only logical conclusion would be to save the majority.
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Postby Dan » Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:51 pm

It's a tough choice because if you do it you will be slated by many people as being a menace, I'm not sure what I'd do.
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Postby Dork_Lord » Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:33 pm

Danni wrote:"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." -Spock, in Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan.


"KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!!!!"

Kirk - Star Trek 2 - The Wrath of Khan

Got nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I couldn't resist.
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Postby Danni » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:10 am

Dork_Lord wrote:
Danni wrote:"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." -Spock, in Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan.


"KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNN!!!!"

Kirk - Star Trek 2 - The Wrath of Khan

Got nothing to do with the topic at hand, but I couldn't resist.


:lol: (and someone in my class has just told me to shut up for laughing :P)
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Postby fraser » Thu Dec 18, 2008 12:32 pm

Danni wrote:
fraser wrote:
Danni wrote:"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." -Spock, in Star Trek II- The Wrath of Khan.


"Because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many" - Kirk, in Star Trek III - The Search for Spock :D


Spock's more logical than Kirk :P


"Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end" - Spock, in Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country.
Sorry, I'll stop now :D
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Postby Fortnox » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:28 pm

Hey look, collectivism sneaking in here! Interesting. Anyone that agreed just now they would sacrifice the minority for the majority has endorsed collectivism. However, I believe this is wrong for two clear reasons:

1) It's illogical. You cannot protect the group by murdering individuals- as these individuals are part of the group, you are already harming the group.

2) The underlying principle is deadly. One day it may be someone you don't know or simply don't know who is dieing or being extorted, the next day it may be yourself or someone you love.

Let's observe this situation from another perspective- those being sacrificed. If these people don't want to die, who are you to command that they die? You simply don't have the right. Someone else or some other force (the situation isn't specific, but it doesn't matter) is forcing the majority to die, will you lower yourself to the same level by forcing the minority to die instead? There is one fundamental part missing from this scenario:

Is the minority willing to sacrafice itself for the majority?

If it is, then by all means, allow them to do what the wish. If it is not, you have no right to make them do so, and forcing them to do so would make your the murderer, not the saviour. Situations like this should be judged by philosophy, not maths.
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Postby Alice » Sat Dec 20, 2008 2:35 pm

I think this is a variation on one my critical thinking teacher told me...

Your walking in the woods in a country you are visiting and you come across a clearing by 12 pepole lined up to be shot. You are spotted by one of the executioners and brought before the man in charge. After a nervous exchange you are told that the 12 pepole you see are being executed for rebeling against the government. However, as the country is rarely visited and so a celebration is called for, you have 3 options:
1) You can shoot one person, showing your sympathy for the authorities in the country, and the rest of them will be pardoned in honour of the occasion.
2) You refuse, so there is no special occasion and all 12 will be shot.
3) You use the gun to try and fight everyones way out of it, and all 13 of you will no doubt be executed.

Allot of my class chose 2, saying they could never shoot someone. I think in this case I would shoot a person. I would feel guilty, but I would be saving 11 pepole without shortening anyones life more than it was already.

Your problem, however is more difficult as you havent specified if the number killed are among the number saved. I assume not. With large numbers, it is probably not a good Idea to go on feelings (besides my emotions run away and hide from hard decisions and I go into cold logic mode.)

I think age makes a difference as even in purely numerical terms (setting asside the fact maternal instincts etc) I would have to say that a child of 5 is worth 15 pepole of 75 because thats roughly how much longer they have left to live.

To me, how "good" or "bad" a person is makes no difference. They are still a person, and anyway those jugments are subjective.

The nature, nearness, and enevitability of said deaths also has a large impact. If painfuly killing 10 pepole tomorow saved 100 pepole who would otherwise have a 50% chance of dieing in their sleep in 20 years, it doesn't seem like such a good idea. Doing something that has a 70% chance of killing 10 pepole relativley humanely within a year to save 100 pepole being brutally slaughtered around tea time today is something more pepole would agree with. Also, the chances the saved pepole have of survival. If 100 pepole are trapped somewhere they'll definatley die and all have injuries that usually have a 10% survival rate, it would not be logical for 20 pepole to definatley die rescuing them who would otherwise be completley safe.

The only situation in which gender would make a difference would be in a situation where it effected a large proportion of a population that can't easily be merged with other populations. If the population of an isolated comunity was 30% male and 70% female, it may be advisable not to kill all males to save 50% of the population where that group is mostly female. After all, that population would eventually be destroyed by that decision.

Assuming they are all the same age and the decission you make will decide their fates either way with 100% certainty, then killing the smaller group of pepole to save the others would be the logical choice. What pepole think of me for that decision wouldn't come into it as my value is only that of one 17 year old girl.


By the way Fortnox, I understand your point but...

1) It's illogical. You cannot protect the group by murdering individuals- as these individuals are part of the group, you are already harming the group.

It isn't illogical because if you are looking at the population as a group then the decission to sacrifice certain indeviduals you are causing a lesser harm to the group then you have prevented.

2) The underlying principle is deadly. One day it may be someone you don't know or simply don't know who is dieing or being extorted, the next day it may be yourself or someone you love
.
I'm not quite sure how this argument follows on. We are talking about a single deccision, not an emerging pattern, so there is no grounds for what is called the "slippery slope" argument. As for whether you know some of the pepole sacrificed or not, it should make no difference, if it wasn't your freind it would be someone elses. As for being one of them yourself, I for one would rather I was if it was my dicission, as that would make me feel less of a hypocryte.

Let's observe this situation from another perspective- those being sacrificed. If these people don't want to die, who are you to command that they die? You simply don't have the right. Someone else or some other force (the situation isn't specific, but it doesn't matter) is forcing the majority to die, will you lower yourself to the same level by forcing the minority to die instead?

Short answers, I am a person in the middle of an ethical dillema and yes. I think you are putting too much value on the feelings of the decission maker, who is one person. I would feel horribly guilty about the decission and probably end up killing myself or something, but that doesn't make it the wrong choice, It means it is a difficult decission. Put it this way: Does that mean you would kill 100,000 to save 1,000?

Situations like this should be judged by philosophy, not maths.

Philosophy is more to do with questions about the nature of things, and inevitably ends in "who cares, it's probably not real anyway" and is a predecessor to physics, not an ethical principle. As for not judging the situation numerically, I fail too see a better option. Do you propose to toss a coin?

If you would rather ethical principles where used as opposed to pure maths. Libetarianism protects the rights to Life, Liberty, and Property, so would favour the preservation of the life and liberty of more pepole. Utilitarianism is based on the idea of the greatest overall happiness/good, and so arives at the same conclusion as the numerical point.

Deontology is an ethical principle that supports your side of the argument, as the rule must be aplicable in all situations. Killing is wrong, full stop. The ends should not be considered when choosing the means.

I'm afraid I'm not familliar with any other ethical principles.
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Postby Fortnox » Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:00 pm

Alice wrote:Allot of my class chose 2, saying they could never shoot someone. I think in this case I would shoot a person. I would feel guilty, but I would be saving 11 pepole without shortening anyones life more than it was already.


I wouldn't go for any of those answers, I refuse to accept that any issue can't have a nonviolent solution. If forced to I within the theory I'd go for choice 2, but if realistically in that situation, I would try to convince the gunmen to allow me to take the prisoners and leave the country, or stand in the way and insist that they declare war on whatever country I'm from if they are to kill them.
A few questions about choosing to save 11 people:
Which one would you kill? (or rather, how would you choose which one to kill)
What if they beg for mercy?

Alice wrote:
1) It's illogical. You cannot protect the group by murdering individuals- as these individuals are part of the group, you are already harming the group.

It isn't illogical because if you are looking at the population as a group then the decission to sacrifice certain indeviduals you are causing a lesser harm to the group then you have prevented.


I don't agree with this, a solution that causes pain is not a solution. Or as Ghandi put it, "A victory through use of violence is tantamount to defeat, for it is momentary.". Perhaps the best solution- which fits in with B) Don't sacrafice the minoritty, the majority may have to die- is to show the way through example. Show your enemy the way of peace and attempt to educate them on how they could live without murder.
If we were referring to a natural disaster, against which the minority who may move to save the majority will most likely die, the best thing to do would not be to demand that the minority goes in and helpds the majority- Rather, you should go in yourself and see who follows your example.

Alice wrote:As for whether you know some of the pepole sacrificed or not, it should make no difference, if it wasn't your freind it would be someone elses. As for being one of them yourself, I for one would rather I was if it was my dicission, as that would make me feel less of a hypocryte.

"as that would make me feel less of a hypocryte", interesting bit of rational self-interest there. I suppose that quote makes much more sense about a situation in which you're supporting a government sacraficing some "for the greater good", but it still has an important message. Allow me to try and explain why sacrificing the minority for the majority cannot work, and why this is important:

The "for the greater good" ideology is created from altruism. Altruism is the idea that all people belong to each other, and that any members within a group MUST by association help other members of that group, or further than that the minority MUST sacrafice itself for the majority. The idea behind this is that all humans are willing to sacrafice themselves for their group in any situation, but this is not true. All human motives are selfish..

This is getting long, I'll try to make the analogy short: Three men are floating out at sea, on a floatation device that can only support two of them. Naturally, two of them are justified in over powering the third for their own survival- Mathematically, more people survived than would have if they didn't.
However, if we simplify the analogy so there's only two people and the device can only support one, it's clear to see that overpowering the other is still justified- because "The right to survival is paramount". And again, mathematically, one person survived as opposed to zerp people surviving.
Now if we return to the three-people analogy, it's clear to see that the two people do NOT over power the third for each other- they do it for their own interests. They do it because THEY wish to survive.

Altruism, the "greater good", the very idea of sacraficing the minority for the majority is based on protecting the interests of the majority, and forcing the minority to comply to their selfish will. In this way, it is easy to predict that if another crisis appears the group could yet again split into thirds and two of the thirds would kill the last, to protect themselves. The "greater good" and altruism are nothing but excuses, masks to hide the fact that the majority WANT to save themselves by sacrificing the minority- for their own selfish interests, no-one elses. If the minority were in trouble, they would simply say "If we helped them, we might suffer. This way, the majority of people do not suffer.". The very idea is founded on altruism, a belief that the minority must not even be forced to sacrafice themselves, simply that they MUST because they are the minority, no matter what their opinion is.

Alice wrote:It means it is a difficult decission. Put it this way: Does that mean you would kill 100,000 to save 1,000?

Of course not, I would never condone killing in the slightest- if it meant leaving the 1,000 to die, then that is so. If the 100,000 sacrafice themselves of their own accord, they may do so freely. It's not that I support sitting around and doing nothing, it's just that I strongly object to forcing any group to sacrafice themselves for another- no matter what the math says.
Looking back to your 13 people firing line analogy, I suppose the only situation in which I would kill anyone in that case would be if one of the 13 people volunteered or surrendered their life to me, asked that I kill them to save the others.

Philosophy is more to do with questions about the nature of things, and inevitably ends in "who cares, it's probably not real anyway"


The reason I mentioned philosophy is that it is the study of the nature of what we accept to be normal- and I find the nature of murder is the most confusing. It destroys the amount of time one person has in the world, but in a one-sided situation there is nothing to justify it as you can't gain any time from destroying the time this person has.
Also, while I accept that Physics evolved from Philosophy, I disagree that Physics is a replacement. Philosophy has been used to create forms of government and make decisions, physics is purely the study of our senses and the true world, dimensions and forces around us.

Other than recognising the phrase, I don't know much about Deontology but I almost agree with it.. Almost. Like I said earlier, if someone within the group of 13 gave his life to me to save his friends, I would agree to follow his wish. But I would certainly never, ever murder, sacrafice or to put it simply END someone against their will or for overly selfish purposes.
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