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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

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Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Thu Sep 08, 2016 11:15 am

Salvete omnes!

It seems that morality and its relativity is of interest, so with this, here is the next topic (or a series of moral dilemmas) that we can discuss.

Many have found themselves in a situation where one had to make a moral choice. However, most of us would have different reactions than the others around us. And of course, the basis of ethics revolves around the other and what your reaction is to that “other.”

The moral dilemma examined is the lifeboat example:

You are going on a cruise. Two days into the cruise your ship experiences technical difficulties and the captain says it needs to make an unscheduled stop. A couple of hours late, the captain makes another announcement that the ship’s hull has been breached and that you will all need to start heading to the life rafts and abandon ship. The life rafts are lowered as people begin to pile in and you get on board one of the life rafts. As it is lowered, however, it hits the side of the ship, putting a hole in the side of the raft, and when it hits the water, it begins to sink. There are ten people in the boat and to prevent it from sinking, you quickly work out that by having nine people working for ten minutes while one person rests, you can bail the water out with their hands, quick enough to keep the water at bay and preventing it from sinking, but you have to continually keep it up to ensure that the boat doesn’t sink. By being able to rest one person, you are greatly able to increase the length of time you can keep the boat afloat, however, if the rescue team doesn’t turn up, you calculate that within five hours, the boat will sink and you will all die.
While taking your break, you glace over to another boat and notice that a friend of yours who you met on the boat is there and has noticed your predicament. He is signaling for you to come over and join them on their boat so you don’t have to continue bailing water out. There is only just enough room for one more person. You also notice that their boat is moving away rapidly with the current, but your boat cannot keep up because the hole is affecting its buoyancy.
You estimate that if you jump ship, you will force all nine remaining crew members to bail water continuously, which will reduce the total time they can stay afloat to just two hours, but will ensure that you will be able to live long enough to be rescued.
If you stay aboard, you will not have another chance to jump ship, and there is no guarantee that the rescue will arrive in five hours, meaning you will drown, however, by staying you give everyone a better chance of survival.
As you watch the boat with your friend drift away, you realize you have about 30 seconds to make a decision:
a) Do you stay on your current boat and help keep it afloat as long as possible and hope that rescue will arrive in five hours.
b) Do you go to your friend’s boat, ensuring your rescue, but reducing the chances of the others on the boat being rescued?


Many would say that this is a tough dilemma, but most people would also ensure their own survival. For this essay, the interviewee was a friend who is also interested in philosophy and ethics. In her decision, she would also choose to join her friend. But the situation can be changed somewhat to increase the chance of joining the other boat or not. If the friend is someone who is not close and you had just met on the ship, it increases the chance to stay on your original boat, if only slightly.

If the emotional aspects of this situation were changed and the friend becomes a close friend that you have known for years and are very close with, or a member of your family, both of us agree that you would abandon your boat to go join them. This does not mean you willingly desert those in your boat and leave them to a certain fate without feeling for them, however, the emotional state that one would be in if it was – your own mother, for example, in the other boat – then almost assuredly, one would go to be with her. But since this is not a close friend, there is no strong emotional connection.

Yet, this situation would be left to another aspect, if not the emotional. It comes down to the fact that one would almost always opt to join your friend and ensure your own survival. It is not the want to save yourself and necessarily kill the others, but humans are designed to ensure their own survival. This instinct would override any other judgments when faced in a life or death situation – no matter how cruel it sounds, self-preservation would take the lead roll in a dilemma such as this, and one would abandon ship and go to the other boat.
Not all would have the heart to abandon those others, but if you do abandon them, and the rescue team finds the other boat, with you in it, first, you can warn them about the other boat, causing a search for their sinking boat while the others can wait because their boats are not sinking – which somewhat increases the other boat’s survival.

However, like most moral dilemmas, this situation is not black and white, instead it depends on the individual and what the fine details of the situation entail.

What are your thoughts? What would you do?
Gaia Cassia Longina
 

Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Fri Sep 09, 2016 12:12 pm

Salvete omnes!

Thank you, Cassia Longina for this nice example. This gives me the oportunity to test my theory that there is always only one rational solution to a problem.

First of all we need to know that "right or wrong" depends on the reference group, i.e. "right or wrong for whom?".
A solution must be agreeable. If the decision needs to be discussed with the other people on board of the lifeboat, I could hardly suggest that I should abandon the boat to save my life. It would not be agreeable.
If the reference point of the decision is just me, then abandoning the damaged lifeboat would be the right thing to do.
So what reference group is to choose - me or the crew of the boat?
The smaller group is always to give the preference, if the larger group has no mechanisms in place to sanction wrongdoings effectively. This is why any community has always to make sure that is has such mechanisms in place.
In our case the people in the lifeboat would probably have no way to punish me, if I abandoned the boat. Perhaps they could file a lawsuit afterwards in case they were found in time and rescued, but it is doubtful that there is a law for such a case. Therefore we can assume that the community of the lifeboat is unable to sanction me. The "expected utility" of abandoning the boat is higher than remaining in it.
Therefore the decision is clear. The rational solution to the problem is leaving the sinking boat and joining the friend on the other boat.

Vale!
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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Appius Claudius Tuscus » Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:16 am

Salvete omnes -

Before I read Lupus's response, I want to put mine down.

Realistic response: Heaven only knows what I'd do. Especially if the person in the other boat were indeed someone close.

Note: This assumes also I'm alone - that no people close to me are on the leaking lifeboat.

Logical response: I would stay to help bail. Assuming all these (rather fantastic!) mental calculations seemed accurate, I don't see how I could leave: My presence would promise hours more of life and the chance for life for my boat-companions.

Now, to backtrack and see what Lupus put.

Valete!
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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Appius Claudius Tuscus » Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:18 am

Hah! What do you know? Opposite conclusions.
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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:51 am

Salve Tusce!
Staying in the leaking boat is not the logical conclusion. It diminishes your own chances of survival. The other people on the boat should not be your primary concern from a rational point of view. Your primary concern should be your own survival.
The urge to help the others is motivated by the implicit premise that you would somehow be rewarded for your compassion in the afterlife. This way of thinking was introduced by Christianity and subconsciously even remains among atheists. In Asia it is based on the belief in karma.
But neither of it is rational. There is no logical justification for the assumption that good deeds somehow get rewarded and bad deeds get punished by some supernatural force.
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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:48 pm

I tend to agree with Master Lupus, in that the logical tactic, is to save yourself. There is, of course, the task of getting yourself out of one boat, crossing probably frigid waters, and into the other boat, without succumbing to the cold and exhaustion yourself. However, those applications are not a part of the problem. Since my childhood Christian upbringing is rapidly erroding in the more modern views of what history tells us, in the archaelogcal findings, I believe very strongly that self preservation is the logical course and in the actual situation, I would try to leave one boat to reach the other. I have been in three situations similar to this, and the desire for self preservation overtakes other considerations in most people. I do not deny that a desire to help others is a strong one, but faced with a sure death situation, I do believe, if no other factors entered into the problem, that both the logical and the best idea would be self preservation.

Respectfully Submitted;
Marcus Audens
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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Spurius Iuventius Catulus » Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:43 pm

My first impulse is to say that this may be a false dilemma and to ask a lot of questions.

Why can't my friend's lifeboat remain nearby? Doing so could save more than just one life: larger target for rescue to see, company for people who are afraid, possibility of towing the damaged craft and/or being a buoyant thing for people in the water to hold on to while awaiting rescue, etc. Also, is there no hope of repair or slowing down the leak, or should I assume that this avenue has already been explored?

My ideal solution is one between the two extremes: mutual aid between the ships to maximize everyone's chances of survival. It's possible that, for example, slowing down the working craft by hitching the damaged one to it might slightly reduce that craft's chances -- rescuers will likely find a large mass of lifeboats more quickly than two -- but even so, it may add hours to the second craft's chances.

Assuming that none of the above is an option because of other factors...I think I would want to choose to remain in the damaged craft. My presence there is meaningful -- my efforts may preserve my life and the lives of others -- and my friend has seen us, and can be trusted to tell rescuers where to search for us. The five hour estimate may prove true, or something unexpected might happen.

(Then again, in the moment I might not have that courage, and might justify my actions by saying I can trust myself to tell rescuers about the other craft...)
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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Appius Claudius Tuscus » Thu Sep 15, 2016 2:10 am

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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Thu Sep 15, 2016 5:03 pm

Salve, My Friends;
In response to the two very applicable comments about the Moral Dilemma under consideration, as I mentioned previously, none of these posibilities that you mention were part of the original question. Now, of course, if the situation were a real problem, rather than a simple question for determination, all of these additional factors would have to be considered, tying the two boats together, responsibilities of the individual outside of the immediate problem, perhaps a consideration of diving under the leaking boat to attempt patch or plug the leak with torn strips of clothing, the hope of a quick rescue, using facilities of the two boats to move them ahead more rapidly with improvised sails, etc. All of these things certainly would be considered, however, the original question is the one under consideration.

Respectfully Submitted
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Re: Topic 5 - Moral Dilemma 1

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:46 pm

Salvete,

I must say, very good Lupe! I thoroughly enjoyed your answer. I also enjoyed every one's answer! It shows a lot of thought. This is why I enjoy the study of morals - it always requires deep thought, reflection, and contemplation of what the "other" means.

Remember - this is just a thinking exercise. There are no fixes - no remedies for the boat.
There is also no right answer. As morals go, there can never truly be a right answer.

The boat cannot fit more. It cannot be fixed. This is it. This is how we exercise our thinking and moral compatibility.

Personally, I do not even know what I would do. If it was my mother or my best friend, it would certainly be a lot harder to leave than someone I did not know. So now it becomes: self-preservation, saving a close friend/family member, or someone you do not know at all.
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