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Lifeboat Situation with a twist.

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simonsays
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Lets say there is a sinking ship. There is space left for one more person on a lifeboat, yet two people need the seat. In this emergency situation a fight ensues in which person A wins the seat and B is left on the sinking ship to die.

Twist: B then finds a small lifeboat that had been hidden behind a piece of wrecked decking and therefore also gets saved.

Later, A and B accidently bump into eachother at the mall. Before the ship incident A and B were strangers. If I have a correct understanding of Objectivism, B is not meant to feel pissed off at A in any way since morality did not apply in the emergency situation. Both of them are meant to laugh off the incident, perhaps campaigning to put more lifeboats on ships so that such a situation never happens again. Yet I contend that A and B would not even be able to look at eachother without extremely strong negative emotions between the two.

If emotions come from reason, how do we reconcile the negative emotions between A and B with the fact that noone did anything wrong? Or, would A and B not feel pissed off at eachother? If not, why not?

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Why is B not mad at any of the other passengers on the lifeboat? Why just A? or for that matter, why is he mad at all? That's your contention so you need to explain it.

Emotions do not come from reason, necessarily. Emotions are the output of cognitive processes.

As Chops said, a fight does not seem like a rational way to resolve the issue (not that there is), but if one thinks there is a "rational" way to resolve this issue then one might feel that A didn't "deserve" his seat.

I would contend the reason people get angry in this sort of case is that they feel there should be a rational explanation for who gets what seat, when in reality, I'm not sure if reason applies at all.

This is a lot like the irrational emotions people feel when someone is killed in a random accident. There is no reason why that particular event should have happened, but people feel more than just grief a their loss. Many people feel anger. Anger at what? There is nothing to be angry at. It is what it is.

Edited by KendallJ
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Chops: Not necessarily. The whole idea of a "lifeboat" scenario is that there is truly no way for both of the individuals in question to survive - i.e. due to the extraordinary circumstances there is a genuine conflict of interests between them. Such situations are extremely rare, something which probably 99.9999 percent of people will never face in their lifetimes, which is why hypotheticals like this aren't very useful. Also, as a side note, a great many of the lifeboat-style situations presented where there is supposedly a conflict between two individuals are in fact not the immediate emergency that is claimed. For example, in simonsays' scenario, if B had time to search out another lifeboat, this was most likely not a genuine emergency situation and A and B should have searched out the entire ship for said lifeboat or for something to use as a makeshift raft before turning on each other.

Leaving that fact aside, however, I don't think A and B would be irrational for still feeling strong negative emotions for each other after the scenario was over. For the brief period of the lifeboat situation, B was actively working to destroy A's life, and vice versa. Under the circumstances, they were not morally wrong for doing so, since "regular" ethics does not apply in such a situation, but our emotions are tuned for ordinary life, not for a lifeboat. Emotions (assuming one is mentally healthy) are an automatic judgment of something as either beneficial or harmful to one's life, and since A and B's sole (or at least most intense and important) past experience with each other is a situation in which they were basically trying to kill each other, their emotions would be malfunctioning if they didn't feel animosity.

EDIT: I should also say that since emotions are automatic and often very difficult to change, you can't consider someone irrational or worthy of condemnation solely for the content of his emotions. It's what a person does about his emotions, whether he acts on the incorrect ones or works to fix them that makes him moral or immoral, rational or irrational.

Edited by entripon
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EDIT: I should also say that since emotions are automatic and often very difficult to change, you can't consider someone irrational or worthy of condemnation solely for the content of his emotions. It's what a person does about his emotions, whether he acts on the incorrect ones or works to fix them that makes him moral or immoral, rational or irrational.

I think this a fairly important point. To understand the issues and then to actually automatically feel the right reponse take time and thought. I wouldn't blame anyone if they were angry, but I would if they didn't get over it.

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  • 2 months later...
Such situations are extremely rare, something which probably 99.9999 percent of people will never face in their lifetimes, which is why hypotheticals like this aren't very useful.

I actually disagree. Nobody should expect to be in an emergency situation--that wouldn't be the best way to serve your own happiness--and in fact you should actively make sure that you do not get into one. So considering these situations is not useful for figuring out what to do in your life, but they can be very useful in understanding philosophical claims. This is the essence of a thought experiment. For someone like Immanuel Kant you could ask about the lifeboat situation and he would tell you, "There is a greater good above all personal goods, and that is to sacrifice. Hence, neither A nor B should get on the boat, each in deference to the other!" For John Stuart Mill, he might say, "It is most useful to you that you get on the boat," or "There is a greater personal good in not experiencing the distasteful scene of murder, so neither should try to force his way on," or "They should try to determine which person would serve the greatest social good by surviving." Any of those answers would illuminate Mill's beliefs.

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  • 1 month later...
Yet I contend that A and B would not even be able to look at eachother without extremely strong negative emotions between the two.

I don't think the person who won the fight (over the lifeboat) would have negative emotions toward the other, if they later met at a mall. He would probably feel relieved that the other person managed to survive, because he might have been living with the thought that he killed a man.

Edited by MisterSwig
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a thought experiment. For someone like Immanuel Kant you could ask about the lifeboat situation and he would tell you, "There is a greater good above all personal goods, and that is to sacrifice. Hence, neither A nor B should get on the boat, each in deference to the other!"

Could you supply a quote from Kant to support the above assertion? Thank you.

Bob Kolker

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Leaving that fact aside, however, I don't think A and B would be irrational for still feeling strong negative emotions for each other after the scenario was over. For the brief period of the lifeboat situation, B was actively working to destroy A's life, and vice versa. Under the circumstances, they were not morally wrong for doing so, since "regular" ethics does not apply in such a situation, but our emotions are tuned for ordinary life, not for a lifeboat. Emotions (assuming one is mentally healthy) are an automatic judgment of something as either beneficial or harmful to one's life, and since A and B's sole (or at least most intense and important) past experience with each other is a situation in which they were basically trying to kill each other, their emotions would be malfunctioning if they didn't feel animosity.

I disagree. They were not working to murder each other, and I asume that if there was room for 2 people on the raft that A and B would have agreed to share the raft. They were fighting to maintain their own lives.

Here is a similar real life example: An american veteran of WW2 meeting a japanese veteran of WW2. Lets say that the japanese person was drafted and believed in freedom and not the emperor (so our 2 vets are of the same morale beliefs). Is the American justified in hating the Japanese person because at one point that Japanese person tried to end his life? I don't believe so. I think that a rational person would say that the two should respect each other (and I'm pretty sure that meetings of the veterans from both countries has occured).

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I disagree. They were not working to murder each other, and I asume that if there was room for 2 people on the raft that A and B would have agreed to share the raft. They were fighting to maintain their own lives.

Here is a similar real life example: An american veteran of WW2 meeting a japanese veteran of WW2. Lets say that the japanese person was drafted and believed in freedom and not the emperor (so our 2 vets are of the same morale beliefs). Is the American justified in hating the Japanese person because at one point that Japanese person tried to end his life? I don't believe so. I think that a rational person would say that the two should respect each other (and I'm pretty sure that meetings of the veterans from both countries has occured).

What another person -believes is -irrelevant-. It is what he -does- that matters. You probably know the Old Saying about Good Intentions.

When another person is an objective danger to your life or that of your family you should not waste time hating. Focus your thinking and figure out ways of killing, removing or disabling him. And if that does not avail, figure out ways of escaping him. The goal is to remove the danger and hazard to you and yours. Getting emotionally steamed up is a waste of time and spoils the intellectual focus. If one has to be a killer he should be a "stone killer", one who kills in freezing cold blood. Show no emotion. No pity, no kindness, no empathy and above all no compassion. Pity and compassion rot. Kindness will generally backfire. Since no act of violence in the modern world goes without collateral damage, you must suppress any genetically wired in empathy for children. That kind of soft heartedness can be fatal. Your enemies don't care about your children, why should you care about theirs?

Bob Kolker

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I disagree. They were not working to murder each other, and I asume that if there was room for 2 people on the raft that A and B would have agreed to share the raft. They were fighting to maintain their own lives.

Here is a similar real life example: An american veteran of WW2 meeting a japanese veteran of WW2. Lets say that the japanese person was drafted and believed in freedom and not the emperor (so our 2 vets are of the same morale beliefs). Is the American justified in hating the Japanese person because at one point that Japanese person tried to end his life? I don't believe so. I think that a rational person would say that the two should respect each other (and I'm pretty sure that meetings of the veterans from both countries has occured).

What another person -believes is -irrelevant-. It is what he -does- that matters. You probably know the Old Saying about Good Intentions.

When another person is an objective danger to your life or that of your family you should not waste time hating. Focus your thinking and figure out ways of killing, removing or disabling him. And if that does not avail, figure out ways of escaping him. The goal is to remove the danger and hazard to you and yours. Getting emotionally steamed up is a waste of time and spoils the intellectual focus. If one has to be a killer he should be a "stone killer", one who kills in freezing cold blood. Show no emotion. No pity, no kindness, no empathy and above all no compassion. Pity and compassion rot. Kindness will generally backfire. Since no act of violence in the modern world goes without collateral damage, you must suppress any genetically wired in empathy for children. That kind of soft heartedness can be fatal. Your enemies don't care about your children, why should you care about theirs?

Bob Kolker

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What another person -believes is -irrelevant-. It is what he -does- that matters. You probably know the Old Saying about Good Intentions.

When another person is an objective danger to your life or that of your family you should not waste time hating. Focus your thinking and figure out ways of killing, removing or disabling him. And if that does not avail, figure out ways of escaping him. The goal is to remove the danger and hazard to you and yours. Getting emotionally steamed up is a waste of time and spoils the intellectual focus. If one has to be a killer he should be a "stone killer", one who kills in freezing cold blood. Show no emotion. No pity, no kindness, no empathy and above all no compassion. Pity and compassion rot. Kindness will generally backfire. Since no act of violence in the modern world goes without collateral damage, you must suppress any genetically wired in empathy for children. That kind of soft heartedness can be fatal. Your enemies don't care about your children, why should you care about theirs?

Bob Kolker

The point about beliefs was to complete the anology. Just like person A no longer is acting to end B's life, the Japanese person is no longer actin to end the Americans life. The point of this post is not "Should A act to end B's life," it was assumed by the author that it was right for A to save himself. The question is "How should B feel towards A if they meet later in life?"

Yet I contend that A and B would not even be able to look at eachother without extremely strong negative emotions between the two.

The example of the war veterans show how it might be possible for two people, who once where acting to take the others life, to be friends later on in life, after the conflic has been resolved.

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