Do you save the masses or the few?

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Postby Alice » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:23 pm

Fortnox wrote: 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?

Probably random, unless their was a voulenteer.
Look, I don't know why you keep going for the "you'd feel guilty" thing. Their going to be shot anyway, and how I would feel shouldn't come into it since their are 12 other pepole who's lives outweigh that.

Fortnox wrote: 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.

I'm afraid that still doesn't cover all eventualities. Their are many cases in which the group would be determined by a factor beyond your control or is completley random.

Fortnox wrote:"as that would make me feel less of a hypocryte", interesting bit of rational self-interest there.

It seems I mentioned in my earlier post that the decision makers feelings are of little or no importance. Just because I would prefer something, you seem to think that would effect my judgment in choosing a logical path in an ethical dillema. I must admit that to a certain extent your right even for this problem, if I had to kill a child in order to save a number of pepole, my maternal instincts would certainly prevent me from doing so. However, I would hope in most situations, the majority of pepole would be able to act logicaly.

Fortnox wrote:All human motives are selfish..

And for a while their I thought you where just being naive. I apologise for that, but I'm afraid that aplies to your own argument too. All your points are based on the idea that a person has the right to look out for themselves at the expense of however many others. If everyone did that, as they are both entiteled and inclined to do, where would we be? As it happens humans are social animals, which means our motives have to be complex enough to allow us to tolerate and help each other. As a result, althought our motives are to do with the survival of ourselves and our own genes, they will often favour "selfless" actions which benefit other humans more than ourselves.

Fortnox wrote: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.

But here their is a third option, one of them can willingly die to save the others, so any given indevidual on that boat has the option to do so. That would be the moraly correct action. This is also true of your second example.

Fortnox wrote: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.
Really? remind me to get my dictionarys corected. The minature one says "selflessness" the full one says "willingness to do things which benefit other people, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself"

Fortnox wrote: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.
One point of data does not a correlation make. I think your underestemating pepoles abiltity to spot patterns.

Fortnox wrote: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."
But if the same pepole would make the same decision if they where in the minority, then that isn't selfish. At the end of the day it's down to balancing it as if you couldn't tell which group you where in.


Fortnox wrote:Other than recognising the phrase, I don't know much about Deontology but I almost agree with it..
In simple terms (and I'm afraid that I haven't learned about any ethical theories other than in simple terms) deontology is the idea of absoulout rules. If something is wrong, it's wrong. If lying is wrong, it's wrong to lie to an axe murderer about the location of your mother when he says he wants to kill her. If killing is wrong, it's wrong to kill a person too stop them blowing up a nursery. Basicaly.

By the way, my main issue with your argument is that you seem to think that doing something indirectly makes you less acountable for it. I for one find that kind of scary.

Oh, and we're getting very hypothetical here so lets put it in real world perspective. If you vaccinate a country against a desease then some pepole (a small minority but according to your argument a much more relevant group, being the ones directly killed by the vaccination programe) inevitably die from the vaccine.

I take it you wish to withdraw all vaccination programmes?
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Postby Fortnox » Tue Dec 30, 2008 10:23 pm

Alice wrote:
Fortnox wrote: 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?

Probably random, unless their was a voulenteer.
Look, I don't know why you keep going for the "you'd feel guilty" thing. Their going to be shot anyway, and how I would feel shouldn't come into it since their are 12 other pepole who's lives outweigh that.

Okay, two things; in that situation, it would be nearly impossible to choose randomly. From the moment your mind enters the world you are surrounded by groups, descriminations and judgements. Naturally, perhaps even subconciously, you are inclined to favour those you agree with. Martin Luther King or Ghandi, I'm sure in a position where they must kill one of 12 people and there are no other choices, they would kill the man with a big, pointy white hat and let the other ordinary citizens live. Obviously King/Ghandi would never make that choice in the situation any way though, as they were so opposed to violence.
Secondly, I think what we need to be absolute about here is whether or not you would rather kill one of these 12 men- or make a peaceful attempt to save all 12? In one case you save 11 and one would die- but in another you could risk their 11 lives for the last person's life and all theirs. Personally I'd take that risk, you can't put a price on a human life.

Alice wrote:
Fortnox wrote:All human motives are selfish..

And for a while their I thought you where just being naive. I apologise for that, but I'm afraid that aplies to your own argument too. All your points are based on the idea that a person has the right to look out for themselves at the expense of however many others. If everyone did that, as they are both entiteled and inclined to do, where would we be? As it happens humans are social animals, which means our motives have to be complex enough to allow us to tolerate and help each other. As a result, althought our motives are to do with the survival of ourselves and our own genes, they will often favour "selfless" actions which benefit other humans more than ourselves.

Bingo. People should be allowed the freedom to choose, then we would see what human nature really was; kind or cruel, selfish or selfless. In that paragraph I was explaining that altruism does not work for the individual- Altruism founded the principles of Communist Russia, and it's extremely important in Brave New World. It is not usually to do with what you can do to sacrafice yourself for others- although it can be used in such a way- it is built on the principle that others *must* sacrifice themselves for you.
All human motives have a certain amount of selfishness in them- helping an old lady across the street gives you a good reputation, giving your friend the extra choclate makes you feel good and makes them like you. The basic principle of altruism doesn't exist because human's are not totally selfless, but they can very well help each other for small gain, and I believe are more likely to help each other if they have the will to do so- as an example, I believe open charity or donations to government would be more effective than taxes. No-one likes taxes. Everyone likes charity.

Alice wrote:
Fortnox wrote: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.

But here their is a third option, one of them can willingly die to save the others, so any given indevidual on that boat has the option to do so. That would be the moraly correct action. This is also true of your second example.

Interesting, I'd never looked at it like that. However, I for one have never seen anything that would make me think anyone could or would do that; I suppose the most likely situation for this to happen would be if said sacraficial person is wounded and wants to enjoy their last moments feeling love in their heart. "The right to self survival is paramount", however, is painfully true here. This would nearly never happen, and to when it does- and there isn't an ulterior motive, such as if the person is wounded any way- that is the exception that proves the rule. Or more clearly "the fact that an exception is stated serves to establish the existence of a rule that applies to cases not covered by the exception.". An exception does exist, but by contrast it is clear that when the exception- which is rare and in extreme- is not present, the rule is correct.

Alice wrote:
Fortnox wrote: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.
Really? remind me to get my dictionarys corected. The minature one says "selflessness" the full one says "willingness to do things which benefit other people, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself"

The message of altruism cannot be defined so simply, and some accept that to be the meaning of the word, but the true meaning of the word is that it represents a philosophical belief which is simply this;
"Altruism is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. Auguste Comte's version of altruism calls for living for the sake of others..."
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism_(ethics)
Altruism doesn't simply mean that you must sacrafice yourself for others- it is an expectancy for others to sacrafice themselves for you. Which in itself, is not selfless.

Alice wrote:
Fortnox wrote: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.
One point of data does not a correlation make. I think your underestemating pepoles abiltity to spot patterns.

Here's a near perfect example/explanation:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v113/ ... 85899a.jpg



Alice wrote:
Fortnox wrote: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."
But if the same pepole would make the same decision if they where in the minority, then that isn't selfish. At the end of the day it's down to balancing it as if you couldn't tell which group you where in.

Unfortunately, altruism never exists in that situation. Just as in the example of the three men on the raft, it is easy to see they are abusing altruism for their benefit. To exist in this way, altruism depends on collectivism- on groups. Racial, economic or religious groups, usually. Hitler used race- I'm not comparing Hitler to altruism of course, just to collectivism.



Alice wrote:
Fortnox wrote:Other than recognising the phrase, I don't know much about Deontology but I almost agree with it..
In simple terms (and I'm afraid that I haven't learned about any ethical theories other than in simple terms) deontology is the idea of absoulout rules. If something is wrong, it's wrong. If lying is wrong, it's wrong to lie to an axe murderer about the location of your mother when he says he wants to kill her. If killing is wrong, it's wrong to kill a person too stop them blowing up a nursery. Basicaly.

I see what you mean now, I certainly don't believe in denotology then- I'm much closer to Pragmatism, the belief that there are no truths or absolutes, that everything is relative and truth is a concept, it doesn't actually exist. However that's more in relation to philosophy of reality, as opposed to social philosophy or forms of government.


Alice wrote:By the way, my main issue with your argument is that you seem to think that doing something indirectly makes you less acountable for it. I for one find that kind of scary.

I'm not really sure what you mean. Are you referring to choosing an alternative resolution to the 12 people scenario, when one could easily save 11, meaning that is the same as having indirectly condemned 11 people? I suppose so, but as I said before, saving 11 people and condeming one is not a solution to me- that person's life is just as valuable as any of those 11, and I would risk all 11 for that one, in that scenario.


Alice wrote:Oh, and we're getting very hypothetical here so lets put it in real world perspective. If you vaccinate a country against a desease then some pepole (a small minority but according to your argument a much more relevant group, being the ones directly killed by the vaccination programe) inevitably die from the vaccine.

I take it you wish to withdraw all vaccination programmes?

Your example should still be more specific- can we determine who will die from the vaccine? It makes a huge difference. If we can, it would be worth pulling out the vaccine and finding a way to do so, before giving it to those people it can cure. Otherwise, we must withdraw the vaccine and research into how these deaths happened, even if people die of the disease in this precious time.
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Postby Alice » Sat Jan 10, 2009 9:10 pm

Fortnox wrote:Okay, two things; in that situation, it would be nearly impossible to choose randomly. From the moment your mind enters the world you are surrounded by groups, descriminations and judgements. Naturally, perhaps even subconciously, you are inclined to favour those you agree with. Martin Luther King or Ghandi, I'm sure in a position where they must kill one of 12 people and there are no other choices, they would kill the man with a big, pointy white hat and let the other ordinary citizens live. Obviously King/Ghandi would never make that choice in the situation any way though, as they were so opposed to violence.
Secondly, I think what we need to be absolute about here is whether or not you would rather kill one of these 12 men- or make a peaceful attempt to save all 12? In one case you save 11 and one would die- but in another you could risk their 11 lives for the last person's life and all theirs. Personally I'd take that risk, you can't put a price on a human life.

You are avoiding the dilema by introducing options which are likley to fail, all that would happen is that they would refuse to save all 12 and tell you to hurry up and make your decission. As for whether a person would be able to choose randomly, I think most pepoles selection from a group of pepole who they don't know and most likley look/dress pretty similar would be fairly randome. If not, the decission is still made, 11 pepole still live, one still dies, and so it probably doesn't make too much of a difference in this particular situation. I also beleive you can't put a price on a human life, so you have to assume all pepoles lives are equal in value. And by the simple logic of 12>1 we arive at a conclussion.
Fortnox wrote:Bingo. People should be allowed the freedom to choose, then we would see what human nature really was; kind or cruel, selfish or selfless. In that paragraph I was explaining that altruism does not work for the individual- Altruism founded the principles of Communist Russia, and it's extremely important in Brave New World. It is not usually to do with what you can do to sacrafice yourself for others- although it can be used in such a way- it is built on the principle that others *must* sacrifice themselves for you.

"then we would see" Great, turn the world into a giant social experiment, because those always turn out well :roll: .
I assume you are talking about Huxleys book Brave New World. I'm afraid I'm not sure what it has to do with your point, since John's presence wasn't really helping anyone, and Bernard wasn't made permenantley unhappy or killed he was just shipped off to a strange place which probably wasn't as different as he imagined. Alturism is an age old concept featured in the majority of religios codes. I'm not sure why you continue to confuse it with collectivism and comunism.
Fortnox wrote:All human motives have a certain amount of selfishness in them- helping an old lady across the street gives you a good reputation, giving your friend the extra choclate makes you feel good and makes them like you. The basic principle of altruism doesn't exist because human's are not totally selfless, but they can very well help each other for small gain, and I believe are more likely to help each other if they have the will to do so- as an example, I believe open charity or donations to government would be more effective than taxes. No-one likes taxes. Everyone likes charity.

You have just contradicted yourself. If it where an open charity and everyone where selfish no one would pay, it would be someone elses problem. Also, pepole can be selfless and selfless acts are not uncommon, being social animals we have a need to help those around us for a number of reasons much more complex then personal gain.
Fortnox wrote: Interesting, I'd never looked at it like that. However, I for one have never seen anything that would make me think anyone could or would do that; I suppose the most likely situation for this to happen would be if said sacraficial person is wounded and wants to enjoy their last moments feeling love in their heart. "The right to self survival is paramount", however, is painfully true here. This would nearly never happen, and to when it does- and there isn't an ulterior motive, such as if the person is wounded any way- that is the exception that proves the rule. Or more clearly "the fact that an exception is stated serves to establish the existence of a rule that applies to cases not covered by the exception.". An exception does exist, but by contrast it is clear that when the exception- which is rare and in extreme- is not present, the rule is correct.

Just because you have not seen anything with your own eyes that you beleive would prove that doesn't mean that it is neccesarily false. I have never seen with my own eyes that a clock runs faster the lower it's potential in a gravitational feild. Does this mean that I must assume relitivity to be false? As it happens their are countless accounts of pepole sacrificing themselves for the benefit of others and "Rather, you should go in yourself and see who follows your example" should sound familiar to, so clearly you think it is possible or you wouldn't have sugested it yourself. Also, an acception disproves a rule no matter how rare you beleive it to be. If tomorow someone found one object unaffected by gravity, and it was beleived to be the only one in the universe, the world would have to go back to the drawing board on gravity.

Fortnox wrote:The message of altruism cannot be defined so simply, and some accept that to be the meaning of the word, but the true meaning of the word is that it represents a philosophical belief which is simply this;
"Altruism is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. Auguste Comte's version of altruism calls for living for the sake of others..."
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism_(ethics)
Altruism doesn't simply mean that you must sacrafice yourself for others- it is an expectancy for others to sacrafice themselves for you. Which in itself, is not selfless.

Even the source you directed me to (and for future reference, due to the nature of how the information is contributed, wikipedea is widley considered to be an unreliable source of when veiwed in issolation) alturism, even as an ethical princaple wasn't stated to be the duty of the minority to sacrifice itself for the majority, but the responsibility of anyone to put another person before themselves. This means that while in the raft example it is the duty of any given person to jump off to save the others, the other two don't have the right to force him, that would be the opposite of aturism, even when stretching to the very limits of the word. Alturism is alturism, even if it would suit your argument for it to be something else.
Fortnox wrote: Here's a near perfect example/explanation:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v113/ ... 85899a.jpg

But that example is different to sacrificing a small group of randome pepole to save many. If pepole don't consider themselves as different to the pepole who die, then they won't deny the emerging pattern. That particular only becomes an issue when pepole go into denile because they don't think it will effect them.
Fortnox wrote:Unfortunately, altruism never exists in that situation. Just as in the example of the three men on the raft, it is easy to see they are abusing altruism for their benefit. To exist in this way, altruism depends on collectivism- on groups. Racial, economic or religious groups, usually. Hitler used race- I'm not comparing Hitler to altruism of course, just to collectivism.

I'm afraid here I don't follow what your trying to say. Please clarify.
Fortnox wrote: I'm not really sure what you mean. Are you referring to choosing an alternative resolution to the 12 people scenario, when one could easily save 11, meaning that is the same as having indirectly condemned 11 people? I suppose so, but as I said before, saving 11 people and condeming one is not a solution to me- that person's life is just as valuable as any of those 11, and I would risk all 11 for that one, in that scenario.
Exactly. As valubale as any one of those. Just because a person can be considered as part of a group of 11 does not make them 1/11th of a person. Also, when you say risk, you make it sound as if their is a chance all 12 will be let off. Unfortunatley, their is not always an option where their is a chance for 100% survival.
Fortnox wrote:Your example should still be more specific- can we determine who will die from the vaccine? It makes a huge difference. If we can, it would be worth pulling out the vaccine and finding a way to do so, before giving it to those people it can cure. Otherwise, we must withdraw the vaccine and research into how these deaths happened, even if people die of the disease in this precious time.
Apparently their is no way of determining who will die from the vaccine. If you really do mean that you would suspend a vaccination programme and let pepole die of a preventable disease, for the one too five pepole that may die in every million vaccinated, then I think we've found our point of disagreement.
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Postby Hermionefan5 » Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:17 am

If any of you guys have seen "The Dark Knight," it's kind of like the dilemma on the boats. Who do you save? Is a group of criminals not as good to save as a group of regular people who don't care? If you've seen the movie, you know what happens in that part and why. The point is, you can't tell who is good and bad just from looking at them or their past.

If the few were just a couple of very ungrateful people or something, I don't think it would be hard to choose to save the masses, but if both were seemingly good people who might've made some bad choices (like the criminals and regular citizens in the movie), then who do you save?

I'd have to try and go through all their good qualities and then decide, I guess. Either way it's a terrible decision though. On the Titanic they saved the women and children first, but who knows if some of those women and children turned out to be bad people? Who knows if some of the men who died would've turned out to be wonderful people? But you have to make a choice sometimes. I'd just want to have a little time to think it over. If I couldn't though, I'd probably try to save the masses.
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Re: Do you save the masses or the few?

Postby C » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:23 pm

See here for a list of moral dilemmas, including some that involve killing some (or one) to save many (e.g. the 'trolley problem'.)

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=5704
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