Poll: What is the most ethical answer to each question?
1 - A, 2 - A (see below)
1 - A, 2 - B (see below)
1 - B, 2 - A (see below)
1 - B, 2 - B (see below)
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An Ethical Dilemma
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17-06-2012, 07:13 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
In my view, there's no right or wrong answer in either situation. Basically whatever you do is a shit option. Individuals will vary as to what they do.

In terms of what I'd do: A and B.
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17-06-2012, 07:58 AM (This post was last modified: 17-06-2012 08:10 AM by Starcrash.)
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
(16-06-2012 09:10 PM)earmuffs Wrote:  Well I think I'd like to know a bit about these people first please.
ie: If in the first question there were 5 rapists/murderers etc.. in the first room and Gandhi in the second, Gandhi's getting saved.

That's such a theistic viewpoint! "Do any of these people have faith in God? Let's save them but kill the others."

I think for the purposes of the hypothetical, the people are all generic strangers -- not related to you, not your friends, not any better or worse than each other.

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17-06-2012, 08:01 AM (This post was last modified: 17-06-2012 08:15 AM by Starcrash.)
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
(17-06-2012 01:35 AM)ahoy Wrote:  I think Q1 is a real dilemma while Q2 is not.

Q1. A, choosing the lesser of 2 evil.
Q2. B, illegal and immoral.

That's just an assertion. You are technically killing a person by flipping the switch in Question 1, even if it doesn't look like an act of murder... and if caught, it would probably get you arrested for murder. In my humble opinion, A is the lesser of two evils in either situation -- but to reiterate, neither choice is technically immoral/unethical, they are simply different interpretations of the two ethical criteria (utilitarianism and deontology).

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17-06-2012, 08:08 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
(17-06-2012 06:57 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  For the second question I go with Ahoy: Killing someone without their consent to harvest their organs for people who either by nature or accident ended up short an organ or two is unethical. That's not just because of the doctor's Hippocratic oath. I'm not going to interfere with the machinery of the universe to change that course. I'm not going to put that on my ledger.

I'm glad you're familiar with the argument. I could think about these various situations all day and go back and forth on them.

I can see the appeal of being hands-off in both situations, because you don't want to become a murderer, even if it means saving lives. However, I don't understand why it appears that Question 1 involves a consensual death. The guy may be in the room, but because he's at risk of being gassed, it's probably not by choice. It would seem to be a sadistic Saw-like scenario where the guy depends on you to live, but you could posit a god as the Jigsaw killer and see Question 2 as the same thing.

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17-06-2012, 08:14 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
(17-06-2012 07:13 AM)morondog Wrote:  In my view, there's no right or wrong answer in either situation. Basically whatever you do is a shit option. Individuals will vary as to what they do.

In terms of what I'd do: A and B.

There are only shit options, and while you say there's "no right or wrong answer", I'm inferring from your attitude that there are wrong answers, and that would include every answer. I'm inclined to agree. They are no-win scenarios, but based on game theory, we should at least minimize the loss.

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17-06-2012, 08:22 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
B - B

Although answer B implies that I would choose not to flip the switch. I don't think that I'm supposed to judge over life and death, which is why I simply wouldn't do anything, regardless of the options given to me. I'm not the one who's responsible for exposing these people to toxic gas in the first place. Choosing answer A in the second example would be illegal and I wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life in prison for murdering an innocent person to save five strangers.

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17-06-2012, 08:36 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
But there are two distinct life trajectories that lead to these scenarios:
1. The 5 and 1 have presumably equivalent pasts. They came to be in their dangerous situation separated only from deadly gas by a lever due to equal quantities of consent and under equivalent conditions. For example, they presumably all either chose or did not choose to be there. In this case there is no difference in consent between the two groups, so the numbers game can count as morality. None of them did anything wrong - or wronger than each other to be there. They're all on life trajectories such that in the absence of the immediate gas threat they would all go on to lead happy healthy and productive lives.

2. The 5 and 1 have very different pasts. Through age, illness, or injury 5 people are on a life trajectory that is leading them to death. Their level of consent is the same. They didn't choose to be as they are, but in the absence of the immediate treatment five would go on to die soon while the one would go on to lead a happy healthy and productive life.

To me this is a significant difference. When consent and life trajectory are equivalent between two groups in the absence of the immediate threat it's hard to fault someone who plays the numbers when forced to deal with an immediate threat. In my present frame of mind I would tend to fall on the side of not moving the lever, but couldn't fault someone who did.

When consent differs, then falling on the side of realising a risk that a person consented to to me tends to supersede or at the very least skew the numbers game. Send a train into five railway workers to save one passenger? Quite possibly.

To me life trajectory is similar to consent. While consent deals with the risks that the individual has accepted, this life trajectory implies that these risks have transformed themselves into issues that they have also by necessity have had to accept. To kill even a single person who does not consent and who has no underlying issues to save five people who either have consented or have underlying issues seems difficult to justify.

Again to me the kind of ethics that govern these situations comes down to "can I trust my fellow man?". If we can't then we lose more than five lives to the one saved. We lose our whole society. If I am non-consenting and have an excellent life trajectory in front of me then I want to be able to trust that that won't be taken away from me even if it does save other people. If I do consent that changes everything. If I have underlying issues that also changes the situation. When I put myself in a situation where I accept particular risks I can't fault someone who allows that risk to materialise. If I know I'm going to die I can't fault someone who chooses not to die or not to kill just to save my life. In fact, I'd prefer that noone die just to save my life when I'm on a trajectory towards death.

At least, that's what I say as someone who on the whole has a low risk life and no major health issues. Ask me again in 30 years.

Give me your argument in the form of a published paper, and then we can start to talk.
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17-06-2012, 08:56 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
(17-06-2012 08:36 AM)Hafnof Wrote:  To me this is a significant difference. When consent and life trajectory are equivalent between two groups in the absence of the immediate threat it's hard to fault someone who plays the numbers when forced to deal with an immediate threat. In my present frame of mind I would tend to fall on the side of not moving the lever, but couldn't fault someone who did.

I see where you're coming from. After all, the researchers came to the same hypothesis -- consent and life trajectory are important factors. But I see these things as bias -- the status quo bias, specifically loss aversion.

The assumption here is that the dying patients are "meant to be" dying, as if it were a totally natural state, whereas the people in the gas chamber are put there artificially. That way it looks like saving people from one event is acting against some twisted madman's design, where the other way looks like acting against nature. This isn't a false assumption -- I don't believe that there's a god, so I don't see design in the sick people being put into their situation -- but I think it's irrelevant. The agents causing the patients to be sick are germs, viruses, accidents, etc. but nonetheless these people didn't choose to be dying. They're stuck in a trap, even if it isn't one designed by an entity. In both cases the victim that can save these people is also stuck in the trap with them by situation, even if it wasn't an entity that placed them there.

Our moral intuition is likely to drive most of us to agree with you. But I think our moral intuition is driven by cognitive bias.

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17-06-2012, 09:55 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
Since I decided both answers to be a somewhat distressing no, I wonder about ethical dilemma scenarios. Do they really prove something or are they as loaded as they feel? Perhaps ethical issues present us with a visual of our human desire to not take responsibility for every thing damn thing that happens on the planet. Therefore, we must have an innate desire for someone else to do the dirty work and take the rap. Really? Is that it? Undecided

To me it seems a bit of a local concern. What might be easier for me to handle in my own head, might be completely unconscionable for someone else. I decide to do what I can, or what I am willing to be responsible for. The same responsibility would include, being willing to do nothing. Since this dilemma will surely make me feel quite isolated, it becomes greatly apparent that human beings need each other; possibly to help decide and reassure, but also for no other reason than to keep from being so lonely. Shy

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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17-06-2012, 10:23 AM
RE: An Ethical Dilemma
(17-06-2012 08:01 AM)Starcrash Wrote:  
(17-06-2012 01:35 AM)ahoy Wrote:  I think Q1 is a real dilemma while Q2 is not.

Q1. A, choosing the lesser of 2 evil.
Q2. B, illegal and immoral.


That's just an assertion. You are technically killing a person by flipping the switch in Question 1, even if it doesn't look like an act of murder... and if caught, it would probably get you arrested for murder. In my humble opinion, A is the lesser of two evils in either situation -- but to reiterate, neither choice is technically immoral/unethical, they are simply different interpretations of the two ethical criteria (utilitarianism and deontology).


Q1
An act of omission can also be a crime.
Better to face 1 homicide than 5 homicides : )

Q2
Yes, I erased immoral as it can be confusing.
Since you mentioned they are “not any better or worse than each other”…
…. even in a Utilitarian society, i think it is highly unlikely they will make it an acceptable practice.
Also, as I understand on Utilitarianism: not all men are equal: 5 person can be dispensed with if it will extend the life of a very important person in that society.



I try to separate my answer in Q1 and Q2.
Because contrary to that they are the same: i think they are different situation.

I think this was discussed similarly in Contemporary deontology.
they call it: "Principle of Permissible Harm"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontologic...deontology
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