Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

If you had to choose between your life and the life of a stranger

Rate this topic


Summer
 Share

Recommended Posts

Basically it is being said that a response to this situation is irrelevant to morality the moment force is implicated.

Honestly, I was just curious. You guys are seriously uptight. I wanted to better understand a subject and practically everyone jumped down my throat. I did get my answer, though and am appreciative to those who explained.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 53
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Basically it is being said that a response to this situation is irrelevant to morality the moment force is implicated.

Honestly, I was just curious. You guys are seriously uptight. I wanted to better understand a subject and practically everyone jumped down my throat. I did get my answer, though and am appreciative to those who explained.

Understand that this forum attracts people who are reasonably serious about Objectivism.

Your question was a bit mystifying to some; my response might explain why others - while not holding that same thought - responded as they did.

You are up surprisingly late for a 16 year old; I'll assume you have a strong thirst for knowledge. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I meant no attack. I was curious, though slightly suspicious, hence that last question I asked. I meant to be as open as possible about what I was thinking about you, and you have comforted my suspicions. I believe now that you were truly just curious.

To be honest with you, this is the first time I've been presented with a lifeboat situation that wasn't an attack against Objectivism.

Edited by Amaroq
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you were kidnapped and given the options to either (one) kill a stranger who is also being held hostage....

If this EVER happens to me in my entire lifetime, I promise I will come back here and tell you how I resolved it... if I live to tell. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I enjoy knowledge. I like knowing these things. I prefer to have an understanding of various scenarios and the individual responses are helpful in psychological evaluation.

And my answer didn't allow you to "know things"? You were purposefully avoiding the answer, which was explained in three posts. You just rudely ignored my answer--that the situation is not relevant to morality--and then continued on with your illegitimate and ignorant question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And my answer didn't allow you to "know things"? You were purposefully avoiding the answer, which was explained in three posts. You just rudely ignored my answer--that the situation is not relevant to morality--and then continued on with your illegitimate and ignorant question.

Your answer was a combination of "that situation is an impossible one" (you said you'd just kill the hostage), and "who cares?". In fact, both are wrong. The situation is conceivable, and plenty of people care about the morality of emergencies.

The question is deeply relevant to morality, it warrants a serious explanation as to how and why those scenarios were classified by Ayn Rand as "life boat scenarios", and their relationship to morality discussed in length in her writing and speeches. In fact, as it turns out, AynRand was asked a similar question, and took quite a while to politely answer it, so she definitely didn't share your opinion that people shouldn't care. And since this is a forum where people enquire about Ayn Rand's ideas, not the personal take of other people, your answer is wrong, and Summer is right to insist on getting a better answer than yours. Here's the better answer:

Radio interview, given by Ayn Rand, in the early 1960s at Columbia University

Also, here's a short quote on what Rand has to say about emergency situations. Note that she is talking about the rules of conduct in emergency situations, so they do exist:

It is important to differentiate between the rules of conduct in an emergency situation and the rules of conduct in the normal conditions of human existence. This does not mean a double standard of morality: the standard and the basic principles remain the same, but their application to either case requires precise definitions.

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible—such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men’s primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.).

To Summer, the most important part of that quote is this: the standard and the basic principles remain the same, but their application to either case requires precise definitions.

That means that the standard remains your own life as your ultimate value, and the basic principle of acting in your rational self interest. (in other words, you and the stranger are not equals, nor is he more important, it is you, your life, your values, that must be considered when making this choice) I can't tell you what the right choice is with certainty, since I don't fully understand the situation, having never been in anything like it. (on the one hand, your survival is an important consideration, on the other hand, helping the agressor commit murder is not something you necessarily want to live with)

I would probably choose to save myself though. I'm a young guy, my life's ahead of me, and I believe I have the strength to get past even something that horrible. But, if I was 80 years old, with most of my life behind me, maybe I would make a different choice.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<MOD HAT ON>Folks, Please understand that people who come here often have not integrated things as much as you might have done. So, unless there is some other reason to think they're being purposely difficult or obtuse, please be patient. This type of dilemma is very often posed by so called philosophers; so, it ought not to be a surprise that someone poses the question about a new philosophy they're trying to learn. Even without that contemporary influence, people often tackle problems by setting themselves some extreme-type situations as a mental exercise. It is no different from an engineer asking himself: if we had zero friction what would happen... Therefore, the mere asking of a question about a life-boat situation should not be evidence of anything further about the questioner. <MOD HAT OFF>

Summer, I guess you've got the answers you were seeking. In addition, check out this thread to get some Ayn Rand quotes on the topic.

Edited by softwareNerd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was thinking about it last night after I got off and realized that I could not be sure any of you actually intended to be rude. It is simply difficult to determine online.

Furthermore, as SoftwareNerd said, I eventually found the answer.

Edited by Summer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you actually want to understand a "bit" of Objectivism, then the responses above have already shown you. When someone, out of the blue, posits a non-win lifeboat situation and 'wants to know the Objectivist position,' you are highly likely to not receive an answer.

Instead, we challenge the asker on why he is asking. Speaking for myself, I consider the attempt to press home the response a signal you either 'didn't get it' when you studied the Objectivist Ethics, or else you simply want a "murderous Objectivist soundbite."

I suggest you go back to the beginning and respond to Rand's fundamental question "Why does man need a code of ethics."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...Instead, we challenge the asker on why he is asking. Speaking for myself, I consider the attempt to press home the response a signal you either 'didn't get it' when you studied the Objectivist Ethics...

These sort of remarks aren't called for. I asked a question in an effort to better understand something and did recieve an answer, as I already said above (therefore, this thread is over and your attempt to throw in a last harsh word is entirely unneeded), that does not imply I "didn't get" the entire Objectivist ethics. I understand very much of them. I wanted to know the stand point in an extreme situation like the one provided. I recieved an answer. This post is done with.

I would much prefer to have asked and then understood rather than to have kept silent about it and not been able to develop the understanding that I did with the assistance of answers recieved. By responding in such a troll-like manner (and I am not accusing everyone here, there were quite a few decent posts, I am calling attention to two particular members) is discouraging questions and thus, discouraging progress for new users on this site. I have not been familar with Objectivism for a very long time and it is only natural that I would not know all of the things that more experienced individuals do... That's why I asked, because I am acknowleding others here are more acquainted with these sorts of ordeals and was willing to learn. The fact that I may not be as educated as you are right now is no reason to be so insulting. At least I am putting forth the effort.

Now on my part, I've tried very hard to be poliet. I'd appreciate it if you did as well.

Edited by Summer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Instead, we challenge the asker on why he is asking. Speaking for myself, I consider the attempt to press home the response a signal you either 'didn't get it' when you studied the Objectivist Ethics, or else you simply want a "murderous Objectivist soundbite."

Why would you post something like this AFTER a moderator (an admin no less) has already warned against such assumptions? Leave your personal psychologizing out of this thread.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you were kidnapped and given the options to either (one) kill a stranger who is also being held hostage, one who has done absolutely nothing to you, who has not first initiated violence, etc. by which case, you will be released... or (two) kill yourself so that the stranger may be released... or (three) refuse to act and the kidnapper will finish you both rather brutally... how would you respond? Explain why.
I'd kill the other guy. Selfishness is the highest ideal.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The answer is easy. I wrote and posted an appropriate reply, but it was in response to the thread near the top, which I opened in a browser and left open for quite a while. When I responded I had not refreshed and noted anything of the bulk of this thread, including the moderator's messge.

So my apolgies. If I had seen the interveneing posts I would not have said anything. It was my error not to refresh.

In fact, I also withhold any response to the objections to my post and the actual content of the moderator's post.

John Donohue

Link to comment
Share on other sites

<MOD HAT ON>Folks, Please understand that people who come here often have not integrated things as much as you might have done. So, unless there is some other reason to think they're being purposely difficult or obtuse, please be patient. This type of dilemma is very often posed by so called philosophers; so, it ought not to be a surprise that someone poses the question about a new philosophy they're trying to learn. Even without that contemporary influence, people often tackle problems by setting themselves some extreme-type situations as a mental exercise. It is no different from an engineer asking himself: if we had zero friction what would happen... Therefore, the mere asking of a question about a life-boat situation should not be evidence of anything further about the questioner. <MOD HAT OFF>

Indeed.

I saw Onkar Ghate and Yaron Brook in a Q&A after a conference a while back. In response to the questions of some, they scoffed and at times even chuckled before saying "that's a stupid question". (I'm paraphrasing, of course)

I was amazed and very disappointed. I am equally amazed and disappointed that some in this forum would treat an inquisitive young mind as they have.

I would think that everyone here would like to see more people show an interest in O'ism. Especially teenagers.

Summer- Keep thinking, keep reading, keep posting...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you were kidnapped and given the options to either (one) kill a stranger who is also being held hostage, one who has done absolutely nothing to you, who has not first initiated violence, etc. by which case, you will be released... or (two) kill yourself so that the stranger may be released... or (three) refuse to act and the kidnapper will finish you both rather brutally... how would you respond? Explain why.

I have heard it said that "morality ends where the gun begins". Under threat of your life, what do you do?

Note: for whatever reason you know indefinitely that you will be released should you kill him and the same for him if you kill yourself. Of course, in this sort of situation the kidnapper is likely to go against his word... But let's just pretend that these are absolutes. Also, try not to pick a fourth option, ie: "I would fight back". Act as though the above three are your only choices.

I kill the other hostage. If I am freed, I find a way to destroy the kidnapper - preferably via legal means.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you were kidnapped and given the options to either (one) kill a stranger who is also being held hostage, one who has done absolutely nothing to you, who has not first initiated violence, etc. by which case, you will be released... or (two) kill yourself so that the stranger may be released... or (three) refuse to act and the kidnapper will finish you both rather brutally... how would you respond? Explain why.

I have heard it said that "morality ends where the gun begins". Under threat of your life, what do you do?

Note: for whatever reason you know indefinitely that you will be released should you kill him and the same for him if you kill yourself. Of course, in this sort of situation the kidnapper is likely to go against his word... But let's just pretend that these are absolutes. Also, try not to pick a fourth option, ie: "I would fight back". Act as though the above three are your only choices.

These examples are just another way of expressing a code of ethics, or more like trapping you in an impossible world where the ethics of egoism are thought to apply and are considered bad.

I assume that the altruist would take his own life, since that is the ultimate self sacrifice, and therefore he would be praised as a good man. The man who kills the stranger must be the egoist and since he considers his life more important than the stranger, he's a monster and must be condemned as bad. As for the man who allows the kidnapper to kill the stranger and himself then he must be considered as bad since he refused to save a life by extinguishing his own.

My response would be to kill the stranger, since I have a choice, I choose to save my own life since that is what is most important. But my choice is not free because I am being forced to choose. If there was no force, then I would not kill the stranger, or myself...well, the scenario would never exist would it.

I think this example allows you to make choices and judges you morally based upon them. But this is a mistake since morality only applies to a choice that is free and not forced. And all these examples are from the altruist perspective that rely on force and result in death. Isn't it funny how people express how great altruism is, by relying on force and death.

What would your response be Summer and why?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you were kidnapped and given the options to either (one) kill a stranger who is also being held hostage, one who has done absolutely nothing to you, who has not first initiated violence, etc. by which case, you will be released... or (two) kill yourself so that the stranger may be released... or (three) refuse to act and the kidnapper will finish you both rather brutally... how would you respond? Explain why.

I have heard it said that "morality ends where the gun begins". Under threat of your life, what do you do?

Note: for whatever reason you know indefinitely that you will be released should you kill him and the same for him if you kill yourself. Of course, in this sort of situation the kidnapper is likely to go against his word... But let's just pretend that these are absolutes. Also, try not to pick a fourth option, ie: "I would fight back". Act as though the above three are your only choices.

Ayn Rand referred to this as the "life boat" situation. She pretty much rejected this as a test of ethics. It is like the real situation that ocurred in Germany when the SS required mothers to choose which of her children would live or die. You are not responsible for your choice. Neither is good or bad. All moral responsibility rests with the agency forcing you into it. You may need psychological help, but morally you are not responsible. There is no right, rational answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To the person who asked: I think I would have to be in that situation to know for sure. I could not kill myself to save them... But I would not wish to kill the hostage either. Chances are I would be extremely angry at being placed within such a scenario as it is the kidnapper's wish to maneuver me into doing something by using mine (and the other's) lives to force result.

I absolutely hate when people attempt to coerce me via threat... Normally I will purposely destroy their ability to do so. Under these circumstances, however, such would require killing myself, which – if anything – would be the equivalent to accepting defeat.

.

In the end, I'd probably choose to save myself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To the person who asked: I think I would have to be in that situation to know for sure. I could not kill myself to save them... But I would not wish to kill the hostage either. Chances are I would be extremely angry at being placed within such a scenario as it is the kidnapper's wish to maneuver me into doing something by using mine (and the other's) lives to force result.

I absolutely hate when people attempt to coerce me via threat... Normally I will purposely destroy their ability to do so. Under these circumstances, however, such would require killing myself, which – if anything – would be the equivalent to accepting defeat.

.

In the end, I'd probably choose to save myself.

Nothing wrong with that, in that situation

Hate the bad guy.

Today, we're offered the same set of alternatives. Pay your taxes, abide by impossible rules, give so that others are better orr, self-sacrifice, self-distruct, same lifeboat.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The arm chair quarterback in me wants to say that I would unequivocally choose to save my own life, but I can't deny the possibility that when faced with the horror of killing an innocent person I might come to the conclusion that the act itself might have such a damaging effect on me that I would rather die than live with my actions. Option three is right out and might even be immoral.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

When where discussing lifeboat ethics, it would appear to be a question of degrees in this scenario.

Under the alternatives you have written up, the answer is obvious and you presummably knew it prior to asking.

Lets take the other extreme, either you shot the stranger or you scratch your arm to the point where it is slightly uncomfortable.

In that scenario, it would seem quite cruel and immoral to kill the stranger rather then applying a smaller amount of insignificant damage to yourself.

Whats interesting (I agree that the subject as such is not, since its got nothing to do with real life, and is basically a debate for the sake of debating. But still, thats fun sometimes to ;) ) is if you put up scenarios beetween the two.

Lets say you either choose your arm/leg or the strangers life, for example.

At what point from small insignificant injurie to life-disrupting injury/death would you chose to kill the stranger is in my oppinion a much more interesting, and quite tough, question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...