Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Do you HAVE to save someone who's dying?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

had a debate just recently that started on the topic of FDA and ended up on the issue whether you must legaly help someone who's dieing.

In the case of someone drowning I argued that you don't HAVE to save them since making that a must would mean enslaving yourself to him.

That was the first example he brought up...

After that he asked if you have to avoide an accident (in the case of driveing a vehicle that would not be harmed in the case of the crash not being prevented) when the other driver was driving on the wrong lane.

It's not really an exact match since in one of the cases you're involved in the accident and in the other you are not. (Well to that he said "If you made the pool of water in which he was drowned you are involved")

Any thoughts? And sorry for the rambling.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could you clarify the question a bit? Are you asking whether it is currently legal to not save a dying person, whether it should be legal, or whether it's moral? Or something else?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What Rand would say in these situations is: “You ain't gotta do nothing but die.” If you want to live however, then you need a hierarchy of values and you need to relate them to your rational self-interest. Thus the matter of helping another person is in reference to that hierarchy and to your self-interest. Do you then, as a “hypothetical imperative” conditioned on your life's needs, “have to” help someone that means something to you? Yes, for it then becomes a part of advancing your own values. But that depends on your choice to live. Whether or not you ought to help someone always depends on your choices and the contexts in which those choices arise. If you've made choices that got the person into the situation where he's dying, them you might morally have to help him and should be legally required to do so as just compensation. If you've chosen to be an ambulance driver, then you should help people who are dying. Etc.

It can't be separated from choice, which is what the absolute and unconditional “have to” would require. Another person's out of context need is not an unchosen claim on you, so you were right to argue that it would (as a “categorical imperative”) require your enslavement to everyone else.

What egoism rules out is action that harms you, action that results in a net loss, detracts from your values, or has some bad consequence for you. That doesn't mean that action that benefits someone else and does not benefit you is necessarily sacrifice (this is the kind of action that is aimed at preventing a loss.) As far as a stranger goes, certainly you should treat another human being with a general respect and good will that you would want to be normal in society. Rand argues that a stranger represents a potential value and helps to perpetuate mutual good will, which is in your own interest. It would take an incredibly callous and probably mentally ill person to just pass by someone suffering who could be saved with little or no effort for no reason at all. In that case, not helping would be self-sacrifice and placing your psychological health at risk.

I'm not sure what the example is about. Should you cause someone to crash their car? I would think not (unless you're in a destruction derby or something, but that's obviously not the question.) But if you get the general point of the Objectivist ethics that you should do that which will make your life as fulfilling as possible long-term, then you see that this is really a side question for the average person. Really, a hypothetical question or thought experiment, since one rarely encounters some situation in which you have to save a person hanging off of a cliff or drowning or something, and since doing so means getting the person back to normal as quickly as possible in order to return them to regular value pursuit. Things that are certain conditions of life, such as poverty, don't really even qualify as this. Charity isn't even an effective way of eradicating poverty, and a welfare state is a way to perpetuate poverty, so should be seen as a dis-value in helping others.

There's some good stuff to be found in “Causality versus Duty,” “The Ethics of Emergencies,” and “Benevolence versus Altruism,” “The Individual as the Proper Beneficiary of His Own Moral Action” in OPAR, Bernstein's “Egoism as the Necessary Foundation of Good Will,” and Chapter 10 in Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am new here. There are many who are better equipped to answer this in an accurately Objectivist manner. However, in lieu of that, I shall take the opportunity to reason this through as far as I am currently able.

Starting with Existence leads to Value leads to Virtue.

You exist and are able to reason. Value is that which you require for your existence (including any emotional needs) - moving up the chain, you ultimately find all Values are 'Life'. Virtue is acting in a manner designed to gain your Value by reason.

As long as you are not depriving another of their Value (ultimately their life) by force, or denying your own right to pursue your own Values (thus denying the value of Life) then you are acting 'morally'. As such, I would conclude that an Objectivist view would be that allowing someone to die or not die is a matter of personal choice. That may sound callous, but consider:

If a man has a heart attack, not all onlookers will immediately leap to give him CPR; are those who do not immoral? No. They will make individual decisions based upon their expertise, and - ultimately - their personal view.

What if the victim is the man who murdered your spouse?

What if he is a thief?

What if he is an expert surgeon?

What if he is your favourite composer?

More interestingly, what if he is known to be a bomber who will detonate immediately on his revival?

A single rule on morality fails here.

In my own case I would think:

- If I believed I had a good chance of saving the person's life my self-esteem might be enhanced by doing so. This is not the same as a sense of duty or social conscience - merely one of Value and utility.

(Before you object and mention healthcare workers: even ambulance drivers and nurses are driven by Values; most would give up their jobs if they won the Lottery. Those who would not consider their self-esteem and Values implicitly linked to saving lives. I am grateful they exist, as they are grateful that I exist and can produce entertainment.)

- If I considered the victim part of my Value structure (say, my spouse), I would be compelled to act as surely as if I were starving and sought food.

If one implicitly believes inaction Immoral, then the victim would implicitly control my volition; unthinkable to an Objectivist view as it goes against the principle of Virtue (pursuit of ones Life/Value).

Adding a state compulsion would merely compound the problem.

If, however, I had instigated the situation leading to the unfortunate's demise, or led directly to it through negligence, I would conclude that it was an act of force against the fundamental rights of the victim. As such it would be a matter for the state, for law and the penal system.

Some believe the right to Life always trumps the right to Comfort. A man banging on my door demanding my food because he is starving does not have a right to it. Need is not right.

More interesting to me is whether Objectivists would consider my feeding this man actively Immoral (as I am giving away my Value for another, denying his right to stand on his own two feet... etc).

Now for the caveats: I am very new to this way of thinking - I am certain I am guilty of faulty reasoning somewhere in this argument. I thank you for the opportunity to use your case to learn more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...

More interesting to me is whether Objectivists would consider my feeding this man actively Immoral (as I am giving away my Value for another, denying his right to stand on his own two feet... etc).

I find nothing wrong with your reasoning.

And if you choose to feed the man as another human being and valuing life, as opposed to acting out of duty, then you are acting morally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you all for the answers thus far!

And just to be clear, I probably would help someone drowning I am merely debating if you must help him and if it should be enforced by law.

I'm not sure what the example is about. Should you cause someone to crash their car? I would think not (unless you're in a destruction derby or something, but that's obviously not the question.)

I've cleared that up with him already so that now he understands (I think) the difference between helping someone who's drowning and not crashing in to someone.

He then hastened to give me a comprehensive example where you have to pull up your car to prevent two other cars from crashing and asked me if that would be slavery. I could be wrong here but I said that you don't HAVE to stop and that it shouldn't be enforced if you're not at fault.

If you've chosen to be an ambulance driver, then you should help people who are dying. Etc.

I don't quite agree...

If ambulances were private the company wouldn't HAVE to save everyone they could... it would probably be in their interest but they wouldn't be forced to.

If a man has a heart attack, not all onlookers will immediately leap to give him CPR; are those who do not immoral? No. They will make individual decisions based upon their expertise, and - ultimately - their

Yes that's what I told him...

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The debate was continued today...

He stated that he thinks it's ones duty to help someone who's about to die and that he has no problem enslaving people for those rare cases.

When I asked him to explain why he thinks it's ones duty he merely said that those are his "arbitrary axioms" ( :lol: )

He continued to state that we all only have arbitrary "axioms" (I think he doesn't understand the term) and that they should be tested pragmatically.

So he's basically saying that there's no harm in enslaving people for "just a little" and I have a hard time providing an argument against it. Well I do say that man can only survive by reason therefore he needs the freedom to choose... but he just keeps pushing the statement that there's no harm minimal enslavement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't quite agree...

If ambulances were private the company wouldn't HAVE to save everyone they could... it would probably be in their interest but they wouldn't be forced to.

That wasn't my point. The individuals involved have presumably signed up for either financial or other personal Value reasons. That is why they 'should' help people. Not because of any concept of force. This is regardless of who owns the company. Objectivism is staying true to those things that are essential to your Values and never giving them up.

If you find yourself in a situation where it seems you're giving up a Value, it is going to be:

1) Due to the imposition of force

2) Because you are pursuing another Value

3) Because you have failed to correctly identify your Values

As for the statement: "There is no harm in minimal enslavement": as you'll see here quite often you have to ask:

Who?

Who enforces this?

Who decides when this is necessary?

Once you drill down into these, you'll quickly see that there are too many cases where it makes no sense.

Taking one: can I be impelled to do something to the detriment to my own wellbeing?

The argument is untenable - unless your friend refuses to argue with logic. At this point, you can remember my personal favourite quote:

"Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So he's basically saying that there's no harm in enslaving people for "just a little" and I have a hard time providing an argument against it. Well I do say that man can only survive by reason therefore he needs the freedom to choose... but he just keeps pushing the statement that there's no harm minimal enslavement.

There is no such thing as "minimal" enslavement.

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...