Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

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Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Fri Jun 30, 2017 10:51 am

Salvete omnes!

Inspiredby the discussion about modern and classical moral philosophy and the importance of logic I have the following thought experiment for you:
Four hungry people are on an island, two men, two women. They spread out to look for food. One man catches a wild chicken. How should he proceed?
A) He secretely cooks the chicken and eats it alone hoping that he will not get caught by the others.
B) He shares it with the woman he likes most in order to gain her favor and both of them hope they will not get caught by the others.
C) He shares it with the other man who is the strongest in the group. Even if the two women caught them, they would stand no chance against the stronger men.
D) He shares it equally with the whole group as agreed before.
E) He shares it with the others claiming the bigger piece for himself, since he caught the chicken.
F) He shares it with the others giving everybody according to his/her needs. One woman is pregnant, so she gets the biggest piece.
G) He gives it to the others and eats nothing himself to show how selfless he is.
H) He releases the chicken.
What is the right course of action and why?

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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:27 pm

I believe dividing the chicken according to necessity is the most logical. For various reasons:
I) It permits a higher chance that all survive, thus making the chances of finding MORE food higher (because they can cover more ground as 4 than as 2 or 1)
II) It removes the guilt that comes with secrecy, which can be a hinderance to a person's wellbeing
III) It increases the person's status among the group, which also increases ones wellbeing.
IV) It is a way to discipline one's self to not be a slave to one's body, which is important if he wishes to maintain anything left of dignity or humanity in these trying times.
V) It increases the chance of survival of the species, a natural human drive. Because saving only one of the women may help guarentee a one generational survival of his genes, it will still hardly go farther than that if the other couple doesnt survive.

All in all, it seems the safest longterm solution, but also one that requires the most amount of self discipline and Virtue.
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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Gaius Florius Aetius » Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:54 pm

A) because one meager chicken will barely feed one person, then with new vigor he can hunt better for everyone else afterwards! :D

If he'd share the small chicken, it would satiate nobody, and not really help. But survival is much easier when the people on the island cooperate. Hence that seems like the most logical solution to me.
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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Fri Jun 30, 2017 6:01 pm

That actually brings me to a question: How plump would this chicken be? If it was meager as Aetius suggests I'd have to agree with him. But if it was relatively plump I believe a chicken could actually feed four starving people quite well (chickens have a lot more meat than most people think lol)
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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Publius Sextius Laevus » Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:22 am

Salvete Convivatores

The scenario says four hungry people. It does not say four starving desperate people. It does not say they are the only people on the island. If these were true then it would be better to look for the chicken's eggs and make an omulet and there by preserve a source of food. But I expect one of the others is going to find the all night diner ... so let the chichen go. :)

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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:46 am

A quarter chicken is usually enough for me. I would have to struggle to eat a whole one.
The described scenario assumes that a quarter would provide enough for a light meal, but it is possible to ear a whole one, which would then of cours last longer.
The people are hungry, but not starving, as Laevus said. Their lives are not in immediate danger. They have no knowledge of other people being on the island.

Curti Philo, this sounds like the communist approach. "Everybody according to his needs" instead of the capitalist "everybody according to his merit".

Aeti, do you really think that one could get away with this excuse? " I ate the chicken alone for the common good, so I can serve the community better."
Sometimes leaders of trade unions and politicians seem to think like that, because they tend tobe rather overweight.

Laeve, indeed I did not consider this option that on the long term a chicken can provide food (eggs) without being killed. Usually this is not the first thougt of hungry people, when they see a chicken.
It is obvious that there must be more chicken on the island. It must have come from somewhere. If they still their hunger with one, they can later, when they find more, keep a few of them as domestic animals. Killing the first chicken would not forsake any further chance to get food.

Actually I had expected that someone would say being selfless and giving everything to the others would be the morally most valuable decision. Most people define morality based on these two extremes:
Taking all for yourself - totally morally wrong and despicable
Giving everything to others - most morally valuable and praiseworthy

The whole scenario was supposed to be a metaphor for society (republic) and how it deals with its resources. The man who caught the chicken is in a similar situation as a public employee or a magistrate who is put in charge of a certain resource (the chicken)
A) means, he is corrupt.
B) means nepotism.
C) means oligarchy by the ruling class.
D) means the rule of law.
E) means capitalism.
F) means socialism.
G) means asceticism.
H) means animal rights.
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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Sat Jul 01, 2017 10:19 am

Okay, this is my take on the dilemma:

Most of the options can be excluded based on rational analysis. They would not be helpful to achieve eudaimonia.

A) He secretly cooks the chicken and eats it alone hoping that he will not get caught by the others.
There would be a significant risk of being discovered. Even if he was able to cook and eat the chicken without being caught in the act, the traces of his deed would remain, the fireplace, the feather, the bones. He would have to live in fear that the others find out for a long time.

B) He shares it with the woman he likes most in order to gain her favor and both of them hope they will not get caught by the others.
This would help him to impress his romantic interest, but it would not affect the risk of discovery. Both of them would be punished if caught.

C) He shares it with the other man who is the strongest in the group. Even if the two women caught them, they would stand no chance against the stronger men.
This could work for the moment, but he would have broken the agreement that the whole group had. Now there would be no reason for the stronger man to honor the agreement with him and not to take away the chicken by force or to honor any future agreements that they may have. Unless the stronger guy is totally gullible, our man would end up as the loser.

F) He shares it with the others giving everybody according to his/her needs. One woman is pregnant, so she gets the biggest piece.
No such agreement was made before and it would not be in hiss own interest. It would not be in the interest of the group either, since it discourages the effort to hunt for food and encourages only neediness. Soon all would compete with each other in neediness and not in their efforts to get food.

G) He gives it to the others and eats nothing himself to show how selfless he is.
There is no logical reason to do this. It is not exxpected from him. He would go hungry and he cannot live on nothing but his reputation of being selfless.

H) He releases the chicken.
He has no agreement with the chicken, but with the other humans, so this would make no sense.

Therefore we are left with two reasonable options:
D) He shares it equally with the whole group as agreed before.
E) He shares it with the others claiming the bigger piece for himself, since he caught the chicken.
Which of the two options the group has to choose depends on the need to encourage its members to hunt for food. If the supply of wild chicken is high, there is no need to encourage people to hunt. If it is difficult to catch chicken, then the group might see the necessity to reward the successful hunter by giving him a bigger share.

As we can see, the logical course of action is quite clear. The man in question cannot stand alone against the rest of the group, therefore he needs to make an agreement with them. This needs the point of reference shifts from him as individual to the whole group. They will only be able to agree on what is good for the group.

In modern times however one can find many people with illogical approaches to ethics and with transcendental concepts of what is "good".
There might be a socialist in the group, and he will insist that everybody should gget according to his needs, which means option F), that the pregnant woman gets a bigger share.
There might also be a religious person in the group that selflessly rejects the food and eats nothing, so others can eat more.
There also might be a vegetarian that insists on the chicken's right to live and demands that it is released.

No decision that is not based on logic is agreeable, because nobody can be made to agree to one's own ideology or faith. This transcendental "good" based on religion or ideology will therefore always lead to conflict and violence. Faith and ideology must therefore never be the foundation of our values.

One might object that even if the chicken is shared equally among all members of the group, it would not be agreeable for the chicken. However the chicken, or better the community of all living beings that include both, humans and chicken, is no valid point of reference. There is no and cannot be an agreement between the humans and the chicken, because there is no communication between them. And the chicken would probably not honor any agreement due to the limitations of its intelligence.
Therefore the chicken cannot be part of any community with humans that establish an agreement over a moral code.
The vegetarian option in our case is accordingly not reasonable. Its concept of what is "good" has no logical foundation.

Some may claim that it would be totally reasonable for the man to eat the chicken alone, if there is no transcendental sense of justice in him, but this is wrong as explained above. The threat of being discovered for his crime and the related fear outweighs the benefit. So even if he is totally selfish, this decision would not be the most reasonable.
He could eliminate the threat by choosing option C) (sharing it with the strongest guy), but he would have broken the agreement that protects himself from injustice. This is also not in his own interest. Even for a selfish man D (and E, if he can convince the others) is the best option.

Humans tend to decide from their gut feeling how they would decide in such a moral dilemma. But this is the wrong way. The situation needs to be analyzed logically and it will only leave one rational answer.

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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Lucia Horatia Adamas » Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:35 pm



L. Horatia Adamas omnibus S.P.D.

Raptim…but last night I could not get logged in at all. Apparently there was something wrong with the authentication server. My user name and / or password were incorrect, or so said the contraption.

In addition to the points raised by other respondents, I think it might be reasonable to note that the chicken might be a rooster, and therefore unlikely to lay any eggs, and that wild chickens in general may be more muscular, and less fat, than the domestic version, many of which are confined to small cages, but well fed. Wild ones also can fly…given the popularity of chicken wings these days, perhaps even the domestic ones will regain that ability if let out of their cages.

If someone cooked a chicken on an island, it is likely that someone would see and / or smell the smoke, and perhaps find the intestines, etc., which are not edible. Most of us don't eat the bones, either. Secrecy would seem to be unlikely.

To me, the fairest solution would be to share the bird with everyone alike. The pregnant woman may not even realize that she is pregnant; nothing is said about how far along she is, or whether she knows that she is pregnant. Some women continue to menstruate for at least the first trimester of a pregnancy, and some have very irregular cycles. All we know is that she is pregnant, but not whether she is aware of this, or how this determination was made, or when it was made. If she is in the first trimester, and particularly if pregnant with a girl, she might also vomit the food, which is counterproductive to the group and herself, especially if granted an extra ration. It might be wise to give her something else first, and see if it stays down. Too, fish might be available near an island...

As mentioned, too, some of the group may be vegetarians / vegans…but I know some Hindus who consider American beef perfectly fine food, since 'American cows aren't holy' (whereas Indian ones are holy), and was rather surprised at one restaurant dinner I had with some acquaintances, at which a vegetarian / vegan ordered a Buffalo burger…bison are not vegetables, fruits, or grains; they are animals. There was also the Jewish lady my mom knew who liked "lamb" made from the hind leg of a pig….

Add that Bengali Hindus refer to fish and seafood as 'jalapushpa,' and have no problems eating any of these 'water lilies,' and that Punjabis consider poultry as non-meat as well; for them, chicken is a fine vegetable. In an emergency, people may eat things they ordinarily would refuse. Consider what was served by the Third Reich…so we cannot be certain that any vegetarian in this group would refuse chicken.

On the "Survivor" program, in which 16 people are marooned on islands or other jungle-type sites, the producers sometimes offer three chickens to the hungry participants: two hens, and a rooster. The rooster gets sacrificed first, as he cannot lay eggs, but the participants may forget that eggs are more likely to result if the hens are visited (shall we say) by the rooster...

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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Spurius Iuventius Catulus » Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:12 pm

The answer is in the question: one shares the chicken because this is what was agreed upon.

Taking the whole chicken, or attempting to share it secretly with someone else for favor is a dead-end in the sense that it both violates the initial agreement, and promotes a culture of distrust in which individuals can't operate fairly with one another.

Sharing the chicken according to the needs of those present is negotiable upon returning with the chicken to share, and arguably something that promotes a stronger group bond, but would need to be agreed upon by all those who were party to the original agreement.

Agreements are the glue of interaction: expectations and needs negotiated with what can be offered and what one is willing to give. Treating those agreements with respect demonstrates that you can be trusted and depended upon, and that you are willing to trust in turn. Everyone knows what to expect, and if something goes wrong, everyone can expect the other parties to negotiate some kind of remediation.

And yes, this is Stoicism Compliant(TM) in the sense that it is Wise (taking the long view with regard to the situation, cultivating the best result), Just (keep your deals), and Moderate (you're taking your portion, no more/less). Presumably it's also Courageous if you're afraid of chickens, but this was not noted in the original question. ;)
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Re: Moral dilemma: Two men, two women and a chicken

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Sat Jul 01, 2017 11:08 pm

Not socialist or communist at all, Lupe amice, because of one main factor: Choice. You said I got the chicken and had the right to choose one option or another. A communist society, that falls into a spiral of victimization and competitive neediness is one in which a third party or the community as a whole tyrannically forces the individual into submitting to a form of partition of resources.

What I proposed was how I would find more virtuous to deal with something that was mine. Giving a bigger part to the pregnant woman, if she was passed the vomiting phase, is a good move for the health of the baby. This baby could grow to search for food itself. I do not think forcing the biggest part for the finder is actually the best way to incentivize hunting. Giving the hunter the right to define how the food is partitioned seems to me to be a much better accord. I as the hunter that found the meat have the right to define how I will or if I will partition it. That incentivizes me to hunt more because I could with that have a greater say on how things are done and how resources are divided. And having seen that my people are hungry and we have a pregnant woman in need of more nutrients, I'd make an administrative choice: give her the bigger part. It is an investment. She would owe me and so would her baby. And at the same time, she will live. It is good for all parties.
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