Do we owe each other anything?
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08-02-2012, 01:41 PM (This post was last modified: 08-02-2012 01:48 PM by Zat.)
Do we owe each other anything?
I used to like Ayn Rand when I was a lot younger and a lot more ignorant. Her insistence on basic principles appealed to me. She would say something like the following:

Quote: ‘Laissez Faire’ Capitalism is the only ethical social system imaginable. Who could argue with the basic ethical principle that no human being has the right to force another human being to do anything against his own (perceived) self interest. If we allow a human being to ‘initiate’ force against another, to force him act against his interests, then we have approved of dictatorships of the worst kind.

One of the many reasons I disagree with her now is the question of compassion.

For illustration purposes, think about the following ‘thought experiment’:

Quote:What if I were walking on the bank of a river and saw a child drowning, feet away from a healthy young man fishing in a boat? What if I saw that this young man ignored the child’s screams for help and kept on fishing? What if, when I asked him to save the kid, he refused?

I know that this young man is not blind, deaf, or otherwise handicapped, he is a good swimmer and able to rescue the child; he merely chooses to exercise his ‘right’ not to act on my pity.

If for some reason I couldn’t save the child (I couldn’t swim, or whatever), and if I carried a gun, would I threaten the man in the boat?

When I first thought of this scenario, I was shocked to find that my ‘gut reaction’ was: yes, without hesitation!

Would I actually have pulled the trigger if he refused? If I were sure I could get away with it? I am sure I would not. I was raised to recoil from killing. But I would wish I could. It would be my most basic instinct to destroy this traitor to humanity.

Before you all recoil in horror and yell : “Murderer!”, let me remind you that most of the heroes of your country were honored for the unquestioning murder of fellow human beings who were the ‘enemy’ at the time - as decreed by your government.

One more question for those who wouldn’t: what would you do if the child were your own? You still don’t think you would be tempted to use the gun?

Let me emphasize at this point that I most emphatically do not approve of violence of any kind to solve social problems - the example is only an illustration of a moral dilemma.

So, basically, I believe we do owe each other something (for those who disagree about saving the child, I “recommend suicide at their earliest convenience” to quote Konrad Lorenz. It would save us the trouble of putting them out of our misery).

The question is: how much do we owe each other?

Where to draw the line?

I have tried to find a basic principle that would make this line as ‘non-arbitrary’ as possible in the Proposal for a New Social Contract thread.

I am curious about what your reaction would be, should you find yourself in the scenario of the thought experiment I described above.

In the broader sense: do human beings ‘owe’ each other anything?
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08-02-2012, 01:47 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
(08-02-2012 01:41 PM)Zat Wrote:  I used to like Ayn Rand when I was a lot younger and a lot more ignorant. Her insistence on basic principles appealed to me. She would say something like the following:

Quote: ‘Laissez Faire’ Capitalism is the only ethical social system imaginable. Who could argue with the basic ethical principle that no human being has the right to force another human being to do anything against his own (perceived) self interest. If we allow a human being to ‘initiate’ force against another, to force him act against his interests, then we have approved of dictatorships of the worst kind.

One of the many reasons I disagree with her now is the question of compassion.

For illustration purposes, think about the following ‘thought experiment’:

Quote:What if I were walking on the bank of a river and saw a child drowning, feet away from a healthy young man fishing in a boat? What if I saw that this young man ignored the child’s screams for help and kept on fishing? What if, when I asked him to save the kid, he refused?

I know that this young man is not blind, deaf, or otherwise handicapped, he is a good swimmer and able to rescue the child; he merely chooses to exercise his ‘right’ not to act on my pity.

If for some reason I couldn’t save the child (I couldn’t swim, or whatever), and if I carried a gun, would I threaten the man in the boat?

When I first thought of this scenario, I was shocked to find that my ‘gut reaction’ was: yes, without hesitation!

Would I actually have pulled the trigger if he refused? If I were sure I could get away with it? I am sure I would not. I was raised to recoil from killing. But I would wish I could. It would be my most basic instinct to destroy this traitor to humanity.

Before you all recoil in horror and yell : “Murderer!”, let me remind you that most of the heroes of your country were honored for the unquestioning murder of fellow human beings who were the ‘enemy’ at the time - as decreed by your government.

One more question for those who wouldn’t: what would you do if the child were your own? You still don’t think you would be tempted to use the gun?

Let me emphasize at this point that I most emphatically do not approve of violence of any kind to solve social problems - the example is only an illustration of a moral dilemma.

So, basically, I believe we do owe each other something (for those who disagree about saving the child, I “recommend suicide at their earliest convenience” to quote Konrad Lorenz. It would save us the trouble of putting them out of our misery).

The question is: how much do we owe each other?

Where to draw the line?

I have tried to find a basic principle that would make this line as ‘non-arbitrary’ as possible in the Proposal for a new social contract thread.

I am curious about what your reaction would be, should you find yourself in the scenario of the thought experiment I described above.

In the broader sense: do human beings ‘owe’ each other anything?

Chas owes me 50 bucks but I don't think that's what you had in mind.

It was just a fucking apple man, we're sorry okay? Please stop the madness Laugh out load
~Izel
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08-02-2012, 01:51 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
Erxomai, I meant it as a serious question, to which the answer is not obvious.

I hope I will get some serious answers too?
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08-02-2012, 01:58 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
The term "owe" throws me off. Maybe because of a lifetime of believing I owed god for saving a sinful wretch such as me.

But as a human being, do I have any obligations?
As a member of society I'm obligated to behave in a way that does no harm to others, but I do not feel obligated to help others just to be a nice helper guy.

I do feel a sense of owing to my mother. Even as an adult she has continued to be supportive of me in good times and bad, both emotionally and even occasionally financially. But what I owe her is not money, but my loving presence in her life.

I'm sorry if these comments don't address your intent, but these are the thoughts that were provoked by the op.

It was just a fucking apple man, we're sorry okay? Please stop the madness Laugh out load
~Izel
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08-02-2012, 01:59 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
Interesting question.
I don't think I would pull a gun if I knew I wouldn't use it. But I think I would do some guilt talk to the guy in the boat.

As for oweing each other. Not directly I guess but as a species we want to grow and multiply. So the natural reaction should be to save the small ones and make them grow to carry on multiplying. Just staying at the most basic level here.
So our parents rescued us, cured us, fed us, taught us how to stay alive, and now it is our time to do the same for the next generation.
On the other hand the weakest die and make the whole race "faster" and "better". Though the young ones do not count for that, the sick, the old, the diseased count for that, those with genetic defects count, etc.
I might sound sick, cold, and immoral at this point but I guess that if you only go for this basic principle of "multiply and grow" those that hold us back should be left over.
Of course I am happy that this is not the case in real life. I don't want to be dead, which I would be in such a scenario because it would bring that certain things would not be healed for the good of the race.

"Freedom is the freedom to say that 2+2=4" - George Orwell (in 1984)
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08-02-2012, 02:01 PM (This post was last modified: 08-02-2012 02:09 PM by Erxomai.)
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
Ok, back to where I was before being interrupted. Wink

The scenario with the gun does not fit me. As I said, my role as a responsible member of society is not to harm others (I guess I should add, as a general sort of guideline). Shooting the man serves absolutely no purpose that I can see. And if shooting him serves no purpose, neither does pulling a gun, as that is the only reason to aim a gun at someone: with the intention to kill.

If I am able bodied enough to pull a gun whilst walking on the water's edge, then I'm able bodied enough to ignore the man's passivity and do what I can personally to save the child: IF I believe it can be done without causing more harm.

It was just a fucking apple man, we're sorry okay? Please stop the madness Laugh out load
~Izel
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08-02-2012, 02:28 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
The question, again, was: "If for some reason I couldn’t save the child (I couldn’t swim, or whatever), and if I carried a gun, would I threaten the man in the boat? "

Killing is optional and pointless.

On the other hand, if it was your own child, wouldn't the temptation be greater?

And, if your child drowned because he refused to help?....
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08-02-2012, 02:52 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
(08-02-2012 02:28 PM)Zat Wrote:  The question, again, was: "If for some reason I couldn’t save the child (I couldn’t swim, or whatever), and if I carried a gun, would I threaten the man in the boat? "

Killing is optional and pointless.

On the other hand, if it was your own child, wouldn't the temptation be greater?

And, if your child drowned because he refused to help?....

Fair enough. I guess I can't play because I can't relate to the "own child" situation.
Still don't see what the gun does to the story. If I shoot the man, the child drowns. Again, no other reason to pull the gun if I'm not willing to shoot.

It was just a fucking apple man, we're sorry okay? Please stop the madness Laugh out load
~Izel
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08-02-2012, 03:17 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
Owe and worth... almost feels as if our lives are monetarily based, huh?

I owe only to myself what I hope to fine in another. But that's only me... and no one else. Whatever I might find of worth in myself, I would try to find in another, but not expect it. I think we current human beings, do not owe anything to each other, but owe only to ourselves.
Again, I can not speak for anyone but myself when making a decision for action.

If I felt someone needed help, then I would not expect another to help.
If I felt so strongly, then I should do this helping thing myself and not judge another for not helping -they have their reasons.
I could get pissed off, but that's not going to help the matter at hand.
I'm only responsible for myself and my actions, nothing more.
I can't expect anyone else to be responsible for my desires or supposed needs.

About the drowning child, the man in the boat, and me with the gun but unable to swim. To decide, I would put myself in each place and examine the desire of each individual in the situation.

I could be the man in the boat.
I could be the child.
I could me.

I would:
1st -If the man in the boat is not involved in humanity, I need nothing to do with him.
2nd -fire several shots in the air to attract attention.
3rd -jump into the water to try to save the child.
4th -If I can't swim and can't make it to the child before the water is too deep, I could drown.
The child and I are in the same situation -both with 50/50 chance of drowning.
If we drown, the only person left will be the man and that's not my business -I'll be dead.

Before jumping in, I could have shot a hole into the man's boat. But nah, waste of time and not my business.

I'm good with my decision, but can not expect it of anyone else.

A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels. ~ Albert Einstein
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08-02-2012, 03:39 PM
RE: Do we owe each other anything?
Threatening the man in the boat with a gun might save the child's life.

My personal belief: I would do it without hesitation in the circumstances I described.

It would be an instinctive reaction.

I would think about it after the emergency was over.
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