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Ok, so here's another rigged, extreme, impossible hypothetical

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Ok, so here's the scenario presented.

A damaged submersible, with 2 people on board. Rescue is coming in 2 hours. There is enough air for 1.5 hours for both people.

One person proposes to draw lots, and the loser will die so the winner can live.

The second person refuses to draw lots.

The question is: #2 having refused the 50/50 chance of survival, would #1 then be justified in killing #2 to save his own life?

My answer is no, because #1, while rational, has no right to force reason on another person, even at the cost of his own life. #2 may have his reasons for refusing.

However, the counter argument, to which I see something of a point, is that rejecting the 50/50 chance means that both die, which constitutes a direct threat to #1, to which #1 is entitled to defend himself.

I know that this argument will be used to try and say, See? Its ok to sacrifice some for the sake of others (the overall topic was welfare), and I've already explained that this is an emergency situation, and normal, everyday ethics do not apply.

So I'm mainly just curious on other's takes on this hypothetical emergency.

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Like all contrived scenarios yours simply doesn't work. Any submersible would ahve air reserves (all submersibles carry divers and air reserves), but suppose they were dammaged in the accident. Well, all submersibles carry air scrubbers to remove CO2, but let's also suppose these are dammaged and unusuable. Finally, all people use up less oxygen when sleeping. So with the simple expedient of lying down and trying to sleep they could extend their air supply enough to be rescued alive.

I suggest you read a short by Arthur C. Clarke with a very similar, but no less credible, situation. I forget the title. it's about two astronauts caught with a dwindling oxygen supply enroute to Venus. One of them can kill himself to save the other, or one can comit murder to save himself. The story is mostly about character, though.

In any case, the rules for emergencies, and clearly a damaged submersible is an emergency, cannot be used to set up rules for normal, everyday life.

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Why would you even make up such a crazy scenario? I suppose if something like this happened it would be covered under the ethics of emergencies, not normal ethics. But what end does it serve to contemplate such an unlikely scenario? What does it have to do with real life?

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Why would you even make up such a crazy scenario? I suppose if something like this happened it would be covered under the ethics of emergencies, not normal ethics. But what end does it serve to contemplate such an unlikely scenario? What does it have to do with real life?

I didn't make it up. Someone's attempting to use it to disprove the idea of rational self-interest.

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I didn't make it up. Someone's attempting to use it to disprove the idea of rational self-interest.

Well tell them that since it's an arbitrary situation that is highly unlikely to happen that it has nothing to do with normal ethics and falls under the ethics of emergencies, with an emergency being a rare timebound crisis that doesn't apply to the normal state of living.

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Someone's attempting to use it to disprove the idea of rational self-interest.

If it really has to be one of them or the other, and they cannot agree on a way of choosing which one, then they'll fight it out between them. Which of course shows that the trader principle does not apply in such a lamentable situation, since the natural harmony of interest among rational men rests on their ability to use their minds, not their fists, for their survival--which makes me grateful that I am not in such a lamentable situation at the moment, and is all the more reason to keep arguing for Objectivist principles, so that whichever skunk they inaugurate next January does not put us into a situation of this sort.

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I know that this argument will be used to try and say, See? Its ok to sacrifice some for the sake of others (the overall topic was welfare), and I've already explained that this is an emergency situation, and normal, everyday ethics do not apply.

So I'm mainly just curious on other's takes on this hypothetical emergency.

I think you're falling trap to the same sort of thinking as your opponent. If you already explained and understand the relationship of emergency situations on ethics in general then you know that our personal take on the situation itself is irrelevant and useless. Why do you want it?

My personal take is the situation is contrived and artificially bounded against rational action. That is, the boundaries of the situaiton itself takes away every opportunity to use your mind to get out of it, or to not have gotten into it in the first place. If one uses it to prove that sacrificign someone is moral, well they have done it by negating anything that could be called rational man in the first place. It's useless, artificial and so obvioiusly wrong that you should not worry as much about our analysis but should figure out a way to put the first point more to get the person to see it.

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I didn't make it up. Someone's attempting to use it to disprove the idea of rational self-interest.

Well, then I see two possible lines for such argument:

1) Since in an extreme, hypothetical situation one has to die so that the other might live, then self-sacrifice is the proper principle which to follow at all times. That is, since you may ahve to kill or be kileld in the scenario, then you should toil to feed poor people in Africa and Lousiana. And that's as bad as an argument can get without causing convulsive fits of laughter.

2) More subtly, since slegishness ethics don't work for all possible scenarios, they are therefore wrong and should be discarded in favor of altruism (never mind that altruism doesn't work well in any scenario). the asnwer her eis that ethics, and philosophy, are not scientific laws of anture. They do allow for exceptions depending on circumstances.

To use a fallacy meant to illustrate the relativity of values: if you were dying of thirst in the desert and someone offered you water for one thousand dollars, would you take it? Of course you would. The idea is this proves values are relative, but all it does is prove that prices are relative to supply and demand (low supply of water in the desert, plus an urgent demand on your part in order not to die, equals very high price for water).

Given the above example, it would be rational to pay $1,000 for some water if you're dying of thirst in the middle of a desert. But it would be irrational to pay that amount in a city if you're thirsty (not dying of thirst), since you can easily find a much better deal and you can afford to wait the few seconds it will take you to find it.

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I think the question is stupid for a different reason, that it's about someone else, and there is a lottery. You should ask "In this situation, what would I do?". Here's my answer. If I was morally certain that someone had to die for the other to live, that the death would not be pointless anyhow, and the other person weren't a loved one, I'd quickly kill him in order to survive. And hope he didn't come to that same realization earlier than I did. Would you not do the same thing? If not, why not?

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I think the question is stupid for a different reason, that it's about someone else, and there is a lottery. You should ask "In this situation, what would I do?". Here's my answer. If I was morally certain that someone had to die for the other to live, that the death would not be pointless anyhow, and the other person weren't a loved one, I'd quickly kill him in order to survive. And hope he didn't come to that same realization earlier than I did. Would you not do the same thing? If not, why not?

The lottery actually strikes me as rational. Drawing straws, in other words. If I'm rational, and you are rational, then we're two rational people in an impossible scenario. If I don't respect your right to life, you don't have to respect mine. If I respect it and propose the lottery, and you refuse...well, then you're not necessarily being rational. But if we both respect each others right to live as well as our own, what other rational solution is there than to draw straws?

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I think the question is stupid for a different reason, that it's about someone else, and there is a lottery. You should ask "In this situation, what would I do?". Here's my answer. If I was morally certain that someone had to die for the other to live, that the death would not be pointless anyhow, and the other person weren't a loved one, I'd quickly kill him in order to survive. And hope he didn't come to that same realization earlier than I did. Would you not do the same thing? If not, why not?

Thats pretty much nailed it on the head.

At the improbable scenario where this would be reality, and both parties knew 100% that only one could live, then obviously i would kill that other person as quickly as possible.

A lottery would be absolutely irrational for both persons, and the rational thing would be to just kill the other person as quickly as possible.

- Hoping for a miracle -> i die certainly

- Voluntarily letting the other person kill me -> i die certainly

- Taking part in a lottery - > i die with a 50% certainty

- I kill the other person -> i live certainly(as long as i am succesful)

How the hell wouldnt a rational person select killing the other person in this situation?

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But if we both respect each others right to live as well as our own, what other rational solution is there than to draw straws?

If you respect some random stranger's right to life higher than your own in a life or death situation I would like to know why for one and I pity you for the second.

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But if we both respect each others right to live as well as our own, what other rational solution is there than to draw straws?

But you have to understand that "respecting other peoples rights" has no value to you in this situation. The reason we respect other peoples rights in every day life, is that it is of value to us. It is of value to me that you are a rational productive man, and the reason i respect your rights is so i can live in peace and without fear of you not respecting my rights. Respecting someones rights is good, not by itself, but because it is of value to a rational man and promotes his life.

In the situation in the opening post, there exists no reason why i should respect the other persons life, quite the opposite. It is detrimental to my life, to put myself in a situation where im in 50% danger(actually more, as the other guy might just kill me despite the result of the lottery) of losing my life.

Respecting other peoples rights is good only because it is of value to your life. It is not valuable "in itself"

Higher? No. Equally.

Umm, so to you, my life(a complete stranger to you) is of equal value to you as your OWN life?

I'll be calling you when im in need of a kidney.....

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But you have to understand that "respecting other peoples rights" has no value to you in this situation. The reason we respect other peoples rights in every day life, is that it is of value to us. It is of value to me that you are a rational productive man, and the reason i respect your rights is so i can live in peace and without fear of you not respecting my rights. Respecting someones rights is good, not by itself, but because it is of value to a rational man and promotes his life.

I guess that begs the question - which comes first? Values, or reason?

Umm, so to you, my life(a complete stranger to you) is of equal value to you as your OWN life?

I'll be calling you when im in need of a kidney.....

Your lack of a kidney is not my emergency. :P

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I guess that begs the question - which comes first? Values, or reason?

No it doesnt. Reason is a "tool" to achieve values, of which your own life is the highest. You should always act in a way that promotes your own life, and to sacrifice your own life when you have the option not to, is irrational and stupid.

Tell me, why should you care about this stranger, if this strangers existence, and your killing him, does not harm your life one bit.

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I think you all just punched the tarbaby and as a result are getting all wound up in it.

This senario as stated, is BUNK. It is useless! It shows nothing! When you say, "if you're 100% certain that one of you must die" is to say, when you're certain that nobody can continue to live qua man then what is the moral thing to do? Doing that blasts away morality. There is what you would do, but it has nothing to do with ethics or morality.

Morality comes before being certain of such a thing. This is the reason why emergencies are NOT ethical guides or standards. The only answer that actually involves ethics is twofold:

a. rational men avoid situations where they cannot use reason to survive.

b. when in such situations through no fault of their own, they try to use reason to change one of the boundary conditions, so that they can survive.

The ethical discussion is outside of the boundary conditions that are bieng imposed, and they consist of asking "What the hell sort of decisions made by these two men resulted in them winding u pin this situation?" and challenging every single one of the hypothetical boundarys that prevent man from using his reason to survive. When those issues are exhausted, it ain't ethics anymore folks. Stop treating it like it is.

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No it doesnt. Reason is a "tool" to achieve values, of which your own life is the highest.

I have a real problem with this line of thinking as it perpetuates the idea that value, and ethics still exists in situations where the meta-ethical basis, i.e. the founding need for ethics has been removed. If the problem is so impossibly constrained that reason is out the window, then so is ethics. There is no "should" in these situations. Anything goes.

Your line of thinking plays right into trap of such senarios.

Edited by KendallJ
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I guess that begs the question - which comes first? Values, or reason?

It does not "beg" the question. It raises the question. Begging the question is something else.

The answer is contained in a meta-ethical basis, and the answer is "Yes" or "both". Both must exists for a situation to have any ethical bearing. Reason is not just a tool, it is the basis of man's survival. Man can have values, as can animals, but the difference between the two is that man must use reason to survive. He must choose it. If he is in a situation where he cannot, he is no more than an animal and ethical discussion is superfluous.

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I have a real problem with this line of thinking as it perpetuates the idea that value, and ethics still exists in situations where the meta-ethical basis, i.e. the founding need for ethics has been removed. If the problem is so impossibly constrained that reason is out the window, then so is ethics. There is no "should" in these situations. Anything goes.

Your line of thinking plays right into trap of such senarios.

Now THIS strikes home as to something I was missing!

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But if we both respect each others right to live as well as our own, what other rational solution is there than to draw straws?
To live, without straws attached. I don't understand what reasoning leads one to embrace a 50% chance of death over a closer to 100% chance of life.
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Here's my answer. If I was morally certain that someone had to die for the other to live, that the death would not be pointless anyhow, and the other person weren't a loved one, I'd quickly kill him in order to survive. And hope he didn't come to that same realization earlier than I did. Would you not do the same thing? If not, why not?

What a disturbing thing to say. Would I do the same thing? No. Why not? Because that would be murder. I will not choke the life out of someone whose only crime is having the misfortune of being trapped with me in a disabled sub. I value my own survival, but not at any cost.

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What a disturbing thing to say. Would I do the same thing? No. Why not? Because that would be murder.
What a disturbing thing to say. You have that little interest in your own life? You are willing to sacrifice your life for that of a stranger? Why would you do that?
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