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Argument at the point of the gun

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samr
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Suppose you are a wealthy person, and people are starving near you. Their representative comes to you and _demands_ that you buy food and give.

And, to fulfil objectivist scenarios, let's assume you earned your money, while they were reckless with theirs.

So, the demand is infuriating. I agree. You have every political right to slam the door on that person's face. And, I would agree that a political system that would _force_ you to give them your money is evil, in some sense.

BUT, while you have every political right, do you really have a _moral_ right not to save other people from death, if you can afford it?

Despite the fact that it is "their own fault".

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To make the example extreme - suppose, that somehow, by moving your finger, you could have saved millions of people from dying.

Do you have a moral obligation to do it?

If yes - then it is exactly the morality of obligatory altruism. Only to a very small extent, but the extent does not matter.

How can you defend the alternative position?

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To make the example extreme - suppose, that somehow, by moving your finger, you could have saved millions of people from dying.

Do you have a moral obligation to do it?

Why would you have a moral obligation to move your finger? Could you please explain the reasoning?
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In your second situation I don't see why anyone wouldn't move their finger as there is no cost whatsoever to them (it would be a simple act of benevolence), but I don't think there is a moral obligation to do so, either.

To say there IS a moral obligation means you first have to accept that someone is required to help another human being no matter the circumstances. You can't use a scenario like this to establish the principle of moral obligation (or absence of it) in the first place.

It's like softwareNerd asks about, above. Questions like this kind of sneak in a moral obligation through an emotional appeal (that is usually not explicitly mentioned). The better question is more simple: why would there be a moral obligation to help someone else in ANY situation? Where does that come from?

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Morality ends where a gun begins. There is no moral obligation to act.

Regarding your second scenario - I assume that this is some situation constructed by a madman. Why should I believe that moving my finger will save those people, and not actually kill them? I cannot possibly trust the statements of the lunatic who constructed the scenario. Why would he go to all of that trouble of creating the scenario, and then give me such a simple way to save all those people? It just does not make sense. I would just try to get out of the situation and alert the authorities.

Edited by brian0918
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The better question is more simple: why would there be a moral obligation to help someone else in ANY situation? Where does that come from?

There's a great quote from the Fountainhead on that.  "I would die for you, but I would never live for you."

There's nothing wrong with saving another person, as saving them may very well be worth a value to you. In fact, for that reason it is irrational not to save them. But when you save them at a net loss of value (living for them, ie slavery), then you have a problem.

Edited by emorris1000
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  • 3 weeks later...

Alturism requres self sacrifice. If you could ave people buy moving your finger then there would be no sacrifice on your part so it would be foolish not to.

As for the first scenario. If you pay for there food you are saying that they are free to waste there money till they have nothing left, while you are forced to work for them because of their incompetence. The wealth of the person does not matter the same principle applies.

"I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." - John Galt

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To make the example extreme - suppose, that somehow, by moving your finger, you could have saved millions of people from dying.

Do you have a moral obligation to do it?

If yes - then it is exactly the morality of obligatory altruism. Only to a very small extent, but the extent does not matter.

How can you defend the alternative position?

How is this altruism to any extent? How is moving a finger indicative of placing the welfare of others over your own well being?

Edited by freestyle
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The second scenario is just arbitrary and not worth discussion. In the first scenario, the part about whether or not you don't have a moral right to help to help random starving people is more appropriate. If you didn't have the moral right to decline you would essentially be their slave because you were able to produce wealth while for whatever reason they were not able to do so. You may choose help them for whatever reason but you are not under any sort of moral imperative to dispose of the product of your ability in any way that you don't choose for whatever reason (not in your self interest, etc.).

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