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Sacrifice

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24 members have voted

  1. 1. Would you take a bullet, if it meant your immediate death, to ensure your lover's survival?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I need more context because I'm indecisive.


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Ayn Rand said, "If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is."

So she was saying, if I understand correctly, that trading a lesser value for a greater one is not sacrifice.

My question is, if you're still giving something up, isn't that still sacrifice?

Because I predict that at least one of you will answer that it is a trade, not a sacrifice, let me define sacrifice.

Sacrifice-losing something you value.

Trade-giving something you value less for something you value more.

I'm not saying trade and sacrifice are mutually exclusive, but how is a trade not sacrifice if you are still losing something you value?

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My question is, if you're still giving something up, isn't that still sacrifice?

I think it depends on whether the thing they alledgedly sacrified was in fact mutually exclusive with the thing they got or not.

For example if someone says they sacrificed their career to have kids, but they value kids more and the demands of their career were such that both would have been impossible, then it's not a correct use of "sacrifice." Because even though they got the best of all possible worlds they are still complaining by comparing what they got against an impossible world where they could have had both, which is not rational.

A rational use of the word "sacrifice" would be that you chose the lesser of 2 actually possible worlds.

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Part of the problem with the term is that the dictionary terms for sacrifice are in conflict with each other.

As a noun it refers to that which was traded for something of less value.

As a verb it refers to giving up something for the sake of something else - and ignores the value aspect.

O'ists include the value aspect from the noun when using the verb.

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Ayn Rand said, "If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is."

So she was saying, if I understand correctly, that trading a lesser value for a greater one is not sacrifice.

My question is, if you're still giving something up, isn't that still sacrifice?

Because I predict that at least one of you will answer that it is a trade, not a sacrifice, let me define sacrifice.

Sacrifice-losing something you value.

Trade-giving something you value less for something you value more.

I'm not saying trade and sacrifice are mutually exclusive, but how is a trade not sacrifice if you are still losing something you value?

Your qoute from Ayn Rand describes a Trade and you proceed to agree with that so what are you debating?

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Because I predict that at least one of you will answer that it is a trade, not a sacrifice, let me define sacrifice.

Sacrifice-losing something you value.

Your problem is with your definition of sacrifice. It is entirely unhelpful. According to this definition, every single action I take is a sacrifice, because every single action takes time and effort. In economics, the concept of the "opportunity cost" of an action refers to the next-best thing you could have done with the resources it took to take that action. The salient point here is, every single action or purchase has an opportunity cost. Thus, by your definition, every single action taken by everyone is a sacrifice. Can you see why this is an invalid and unhelpful definition?

Rand was very clear with her definition: giving up a greater value for a lesser one. This definition isolates a real and important phenomenon for study and discussion. I don't see why you'd want to redefine it in the way you have.

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I was arguing with someone about relationships and she said that one makes sacrifices for someone they love. I said that they're not sacrifices because you're getting something greater (a loving relationship) than what you trade for it. She maintained that it's still a sacrifice because something was given up. I suppose she actually values what she's trading more than she lets on, and is therefore in a truly sacrificial relationship, or she really does see most actions as sacrifices, like eating, because you have to "sacrifice" time. Another point to consider is how the term sacrifice has been stolen, as I see it, and refers to some heroic action although in most cases these actions are rational trades.

Anyway thanks for the answers.

By the way, we have three posters and only two votes besides mine in the poll. I'm surprised to find you all have no opinion.

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I was arguing with someone about relationships and she said that one makes sacrifices for someone they love. I said that they're not sacrifices because you're getting something greater (a loving relationship) than what you trade for it. She maintained that it's still a sacrifice because something was given up. I suppose she actually values what she's trading more than she lets on, and is therefore in a truly sacrificial relationship...

Not at all. I just argued for the correct definition for the word sacrifice. I did not argue that everyone implicitly understands and uses this definition. It sounds like your friend is in a non-sacrificial relationship, and she just hasn't thought clearly about what the word sacrifice should mean (most people haven't).

...or she really does see most actions as sacrifices, like eating, because you have to "sacrifice" time.

If she were to think deeply about her usage of the word, that is the conclusion she would probably come to. Most people have some nebulous understanding of sacrifice as only referring to some significant giving up of a value, regardless of the purpose for which you give it up, or whether or not you gain something greater by giving it up. What I'm saying is that this definition is not a rigorous one, and only serves to cause confusion when discussing moral philosophy.

By the way, we have three posters and only two votes besides mine in the poll. I'm surprised to find you all have no opinion.

The implication that the third option indicates indecisiveness rather than, say, needing more context is loaded, and is why I did not vote in the poll.

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I'm not saying trade and sacrifice are mutually exclusive, but how is a trade not sacrifice if you are still losing something you value?

Do you really not understand the operation of addition, and how positive and negative quantities can sum to yield a net positive value?

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Do you really not understand the operation of addition, and how positive and negative quantities can sum to yield a net positive value?

I understand addition, but trade doesn't involve identical units like 1+1. It may be your favorite baseball card for a car. Say someone is trying to complete their collection and they need your card, while they also have this car they don't use. The baseball card may only be worth $1,000 dollars at auction and the car is worth $10,000 dollars, so monetarily the trade seems worthwhile, but on the other hand, you've owned the baseball card for twenty years and you don't really need another car. Do you make the trade?

I guess one of the underlying principles I'm trying to understand is how much are emotions were consideration? If I've had a car for a really long time, I'm probably emotionally attached to it and that's going to factor in any decision I make about possibly getting rid of it. How much should it factor?

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I understand addition, but trade doesn't involve identical units like 1+1. It may be your favorite baseball card for a car. Say someone is trying to complete their collection and they need your card, while they also have this car they don't use. The baseball card may only be worth $1,000 dollars at auction and the car is worth $10,000 dollars, so monetarily the trade seems worthwhile, but on the other hand, you've owned the baseball card for twenty years and you don't really need another car. Do you make the trade?

DancingBear I think I see the problem.

Please define "value".

In your dictionary, does "value" only equal "money"? Because if so - you have it backwards.

Money HAS value. Value is not money.

Money has value. My wife has value. My life has value. My dog has value. My computer gaming time has value. My work has value. My time watching TV has value. My rental properties have value.

How much value each has is a choice each person makes.

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I guess one of the underlying principles I'm trying to understand is how much are emotions were consideration? If I've had a car for a really long time, I'm probably emotionally attached to it and that's going to factor in any decision I make about possibly getting rid of it. How much should it factor?

Why should there be a single, definite answer to this question? The important thing is that once you figure out which route is best for you, you don't sacrifice yourself by doing something else.

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Money HAS value. Value is not money.

...

How much value each has is a choice each person makes.

Yeah I was just using money in my example to set a standard for value. I suppose you can put a price on anything with that in mind. Consider lawsuits involving emotional grief over the loss of a loved one, for example. A family gets millions of dollars because they won't see their father again due to some horrible accident. It makes sense that each person makes an individual choice as to how much he values something and in a rational hierarchy of values things like food would be valued more than time spent eating. And in the case of a lawsuit, it's the plaintiff's responsibility to argue that the loss deserves a remedy from the defendant equal to the value of the loss to the plaintiff.

Why should there be a single, definite answer to this question? The important thing is that once you figure out which route is best for you, you don't sacrifice yourself by doing something else.

There needs to be a single, definite answer to this question precisely so that I may figure out which route is best for me. I need to know how much my emotional attachment to an object is worth so that I can trade the object without sacrificing my emotions by giving up something that means more emotionally than I was paid for it, or by keeping something when the payment would compensate for the emotional loss.

It has certainly become obvious that the term sacrifice is badly misused by the general public (i.e. mainstream media).

Edited by DancingBear
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There needs to be a single, definite answer to this question precisely so that I may figure out which route is best for me. I need to know how much my emotional attachment to an object is worth so that I can trade the object without sacrificing my emotions by giving up something that means more emotionally than I was paid for it, or by keeping something when the payment would compensate for the emotional loss.

There needs to be a single definite answer to that question applied to any particular case. In order to make a decision and choose an action, you have to figure out how much to weigh your emotional attachments in this particular case. However, the general question "How much weight should I put on emotional attachments when making decisions?" is as useless a question as "How much should I pay for a car?" The answer in both cases is: you need more context.

No one can make your personal value-judgments for you, and no one can give you some hard-and-fast general rule about weighing different aspects of decisions. Hence the importance of thinking for yourself.

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Not without a heckuvalot more context than that!

Why would I be taking this bullet, exactly? What if my lover prefers to die so I can live, and will end up committing suicide if I die? In that case, my death would be wasted.

Without requisite context, the question boils down to this: can I live without my lover? If not, then I'd be the one committing suicide if I said "No", so I may as well say yes.

The more interesting case is when I can live without my lover. In that case, the question is whether I consider myself more valuable than my lover, according to my standard of value (my life). The usual answer would be "Yes", and is the direction I lean, but inconclusively. But if my lover were Ayn Rand, I might change my tune ...

Having said that, in the heat of the moment, I don't think I could stop myself doing everything in my power to protect my lover, up to and including placing my body as a shield between her body and a gunman's aim.

I have to say: need more context.

- ico

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I have to say, I think that there's a small but not inconsequential false dichotomy here. Taking the bullet or not are not, realistically, my only options.

Would I take a bullet for the one I love? Absolutely. Would I do anything I could to make sure it wouldn't come to that, up to and including killing the other dude first? Even more absolutely. Anyone doing the former but not the latter has, by their actions, shown that they do not value their loved one as much as they claim to, which makes the act of taking the bullet self-sacrificial.

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The scenario I'm envisioning is basically this: You, your lover, and a terrorist are in a desert. The terrorist has a gun and is going to kill one of you because he's mentally unstable and believes his god told him that one of you had to die. There is no reasoning with him because he's irrational. You can't take the gun from him because you're not close enough and he'll shoot you if you charge him. You can't run because he will shoot you. So would you rather die or let you lover die?

I suppose a lot of the decision-making will depend on the exact relationship between yourself and your lover, so you can take your current relationship and apply it to this scenario if you would like. Would you die so the person you are currently in a relationship with could live? Or you can imagine your ideal relationship. Also if you dislike violence you can imagine that your (ideal) lover needs life-saving medical attention, say, a blood-transfusion, and you have the only blood that can save her... I probably shouldn't introduce that because I'll have to think of a whole host of other contingencies but you see I'm trying to imagine an analogous scenario to the terrorist scenario.

My thinking is that I would rather die than know I let my (ideal) lover die. That would be too psychologically traumatizing and would make life beyond that choice unbearable.

Feel free to request more context. Maybe I'll turn it into short fiction.

Edit: I'm disappointed to calculate that seven members have cast blank votes just to see the results.

Edited by DancingBear
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The scenario I'm envisioning is basically this: You, your lover, and a terrorist are in a desert. The terrorist has a gun and is going to kill one of you because he's mentally unstable and believes his god told him that one of you had to die. There is no reasoning with him because he's irrational. You can't take the gun from him because you're not close enough and he'll shoot you if you charge him. You can't run because he will shoot you. So would you rather die or let you lover die?

Catch 22. Once I am dead, what's to prevent the unstable character from raping, torturing, and generally destroying my lover?

I guess, given this scenario, I'd have time to ASK my lover what she wants, yes? Maybe, we'd both decide to force the gunman to either lose control of the situation, or kill BOTH of us. Given no other context, I think that would be my response to the situation: "Maggie, this guy's going to kill us or worse if we let him; and we can't trust him AT ALL, so let's apprehend him or die trying." Maggie would say, "Yes, you are right."

- ico

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The scenario I'm envisioning is basically this: You, your lover, and a terrorist are in a desert. The terrorist has a gun and is going to kill one of you because he's mentally unstable and believes his god told him that one of you had to die. There is no reasoning with him because he's irrational. You can't take the gun from him because you're not close enough and he'll shoot you if you charge him. You can't run because he will shoot you.

The scenario I'm envisioning is basically this: You, your lover, and a Predator are in a sewer. The Predator has a . . . whatever extremely deadly weapon Predators use . . . and is going to kill on of you because, well, he's a Predator and therefore one of you has to die. There is no reasoning with him because he's a Predator. You can't take the weapon from him because he's a Predator (and even if you could, he'd still kill one of you with his bare hands). You can't run, because he's a Predator.

And that's as far as I'll go with that. You've constructed a "lifeboat scenario" which anyone is highly unlikely to encounter. Why am I in the desert/sewer with a terrorist/Predator? Why don't I have a gun/Predator-weapon myself? Why is the terrorist/Predator only going to kill one of us, but not necessarily the other?

Ethics are not for the fantastical situation, nor the highly unlikely one. The proper function of ethics is to direct one's action in pursuit of one's values in the context of reality.

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The scenario I'm envisioning is basically this: You, your lover, and a terrorist are in a desert....

...and this is getting ridiculous. All I'll say on the matter is this: my hope for my romantic future is that I will find a relationship where I would be willing to trade my life for hers, if I judged that those were the only two options.

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The fact is that we don't find ourselves everyday in a position where we have no choice but to protect that which we value the most by destroying ourselves because someone else is choosing to destroy it. Most people are benign and merely desire to live and let live. Criminals are the anomaly, not the norm. Or else there would more people inside jails than outside it and insurance companies won't make any money.

So there is very little need to derive ethics from such rare scenarios, precisely because they are rare.

e.g. How would you divide the only slice of bread between you and your partner on a lifeboat? Answer: We don't find ourselves everyday in lifeboat with a slice of bread. So normative behavior under such circumstances must not be subject matter of ethics.

Ethics should concern itself with behavioral norms that is conducive for the life of a rational man.

Having said that, it is not a sacrifice to die for something/someone/"some idea" you would value more than your own life. However it is sacrifice to die for something/someone/"some idea" which you hate or don't know or is irrational and therefore impossible.

Edited by Edwin
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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm surprised at how many people said yes to the poll. Maybe I just misread the question, but I can't ensure someone survival if I'm dead. Ensured survival isn't part of reality anyway--just better odds. I'm ok with my wife's survival not being ensured now, so I think I'll be ok with it later.

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