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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 7:58 pm 
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Here is an ethical dilemma that came to mind a few minutes ago:

Suppose you are in some kind of bizarre situation where you have to let either a young baby or a young adult die. You can only save one. Which one would you let die: the baby or the adult? Why?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 8:09 pm 
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I would let the baby die. Basic utilitarian calculus. The baby has had less time to develop commitments to friends and family, has no one depending on them, and fewer people will be emotionally harmed by the loss. It is tragic, but either way someone dies, and it is better to prevent as much sufering as possible.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:31 pm 
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I would save the baby, simply because it is defenseless and is unable to help itself.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 12:32 pm 
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The baby, because the young adult has a vague, however minor, chance of saving itself. The baby has a lesser chance of this.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:19 pm 
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Narsil wrote:
The baby, because the young adult has a vague, however minor, chance of saving itself. The baby has a lesser chance of this.

Without a more precise scenario, we have no way of knowing if the adult has even a slight chance. The way Adam put it was essentially "one lives, one dies, you decide which," not "one lives, one might die."

I would let the baby die, for the same reasons as Comrade Tortoise.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:32 pm 
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In that case I'm letting the adult die, as he has had a lot of chances to dissapoint friends and family, ruin and possibly end other peoples lives, and generally make the world a worse place.
The baby on the other hand starts with a clean slate.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 5:32 pm 
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vampykat wrote:
I would save the baby, simply because it is defenseless and is unable to help itself.

One problem I have with that logic is shown by the following: suppose there was an evil villain trapped next to a ticking bomb and cannot move. There is also a man close to this bomb, however not trapped; he has the ability to run away, but cannot run fast enough to escape without your help, so the decision is in your hands.

Do you rescue the defenseless, trapped villain or the man who has a chance to run for himself? If you make your choice based on who has a better chance on his own, you would go for the trapped villain, letting the innocent man attempt a futile escape.

However, since in my scenario, all other things can be presumed equal; there is no villain factor, so perhaps defenselessness is a valid factor to weigh in.

If you modified the original situation so know both have no chance to escape, would that change your analysis? Or would you let the young adult take his 0% chance to survive on his own anyways?



As for my decision, I have to agree with CT's assessment, but for a different reason. I hate to think of babies dying, but the cold hard facts is that there is a far greater existing investment in an adult than there is in a child.

When an adult dies, society loses his experience, his knowledge, and his ability to contribute. The baby has only potential. To put it bluntly, he is more easily replaced.



Though as I think about the logical extension of this philosophy, I start to be more weary about it. The ethical system to which I mostly subscribe is utilitarianism, defined as suffering is bad, and therefore should be kept to a minimum. (I do not like the definition of maximizing happiness, since I feel it is more difficult to objectivly measure)

But what I just described in my first paragraph sounds more like an economic argument, that is, minimizing loss to society is good.

Such a premise will lead to many of the same conclusions as 'suffering is bad' utilitarianism, but it is not the same. Any thoughts on an ethical system like this? I will post more of my thoughts after I have thought about it more.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 07, 2006 9:49 pm 
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In a lot of cases, I actually use it. It is not utilitarianism proper, but a functionalist COnsequentialist mode of ethical thought.

It is what I generally subscribe to actually. The cool part is, one can still apply a Utilitarian framework in cases directly involving people. This is because suffering or happiness are consequences are indicators of the functional significance of any given decision.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 12:52 am 
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Can you give a better scenario? All I can come up with are kill rooms, a crashing plane (One parachute for the three of you), and possibly an ocean lifeboat sitution.

The kill room likely won't happen in reality. In a crashing plane, if you can take along an extra 90kg on you chute, the 7 the baby weighs is coming too. On the ocean, well, I'm still stuck in a women and childern first mentality. Though, I'm having trouble applying your bomb example. Babies, even toddlers, don't weigh more than 25kg. I can carry that with ease and still lend a shoulder to the young man. Assuming a small bomb, no more than a few kilos of C4, you would have to clear a few hundred meters to some sort of cover, and that doesn't sound like to bad a proposition.

I suppose if I had to put my thoughts on this subject into words it would be something like: I will fight with everything I had to save as many people as I can. No descrimination, a life is a life.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 1:45 am 
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That is a good way to live, life and life. But i see this scenario as two air locks side by side, one has a baby, the other a young adult, One air lock (outter door) must be opened all the way and left there in order to open the inner door for the other, saving them....so there are no half saves, no close calls, no sacrafice yourself. Pick one to die, and the other live.

hope that helped

as for whos door I would open, will have to go with the babies. It will be hard emotionaly to see it die, not to much for me(dont know why though, I have seen it hit very hard on people here in the ER) but I see far greater benifits in saving the young adult

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 8:43 am 
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That still falls into a kill room style situation with a mechanism on the inner door of one opening the outer door of the other. I suppose its a good example, but its just not something that would be implimented in reality.

With a bit more though, the best I can come up with is a burning building. The baby is in the crib and the young man is in his bed across the hall. The building has burned very hotly, with the fire destroying many of its support beams, and is very weak structurally. As the gallant passerby you have only enough time to go through one window and get one person out before the building collapses. Who will you rescue?

It would still be the child first and the building collapsing on me and the other guy.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 1:56 pm 
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In situations where I have to move fast to save myself (the fire, for instance), much less someone else, and I have no personal preference or dislike for picking either person (ie, neither person is a friend or enemy) then I would pick the baby, for the simple reason that I am a small, kinda wimpy person who just can't lift much. I could definately pick up a baby, but the young adult is questionable, and I wouldn't have time to test it.

This has nothing to do with the morality of the situation, I know, though it is pragmatic I guess.

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