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Old 08-28-2020, 10:50 AM   #1
ThisIsAnOutrage
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Things over in the Should the NHL Boycott thread have unfortunately bubbled over. For a while there though, there was some interesting and productive discussion. Maybe some of that energy could be redirected to a more focussed and hopefully civil discussion? So, below is an ethical dilemma that examines one issue that has come to fore in current times: the moral value of property vs. people.


If you're not familiar with ethical dilemmas, basically they are no-right-answer scenarios designed to prompt thinking about whether a given action is ethical in certain circumstances. One of the classic ones is the trolley scenario:
A trolley is running away down its tracks and can't be stopped. It will hit and kill four people if nothing is done. A person is standing beside a switch that can divert the trolley to another track, where it will only hit and kill two people.
The starting question is whether or not it is right for the person to pull the switch. On the one hand it will save four lives at the cost of two, on the other hand, pulling the switch kills two people who would have otherwise lived.


From there, you can posit other details for the scenario, for example, the four people combined only have 23 years left to live, but the two people combined have 100 years left to live. Does that make a difference? and so on.


For people vs. property issue, I came up with the following ethical dilemma:
A homeowner sees a person (the bomber) preparing to throw a bomb at their house. If the bomb is thrown, the house will be destroyed. There is no one in the house, and the homeowner and everyone else are far enough away from the explosion that they would not be hurt. At the same time, a third person is aiming a gun at the bomber and is prepared to shoot. If the homeowner does nothing, the bomber will be killed and their house will be spared. If the homeowner yells "Don't Shoot!" the bomber will be spared and the house will be destroyed. Assume that the homeowner knows the bomber will die if shot.
What is the right thing for the homeowner to do? Is it right for the Homeowner to let the bomber die in order to save the homeowner's house?

Some suggested adds to the scenario after considering the initial dilemma: the homeowner has no insurance; the homeowner's insurance will completely cover losses caused if the bomb is thrown; insurance will only cover 50% of the losses, which means the homeowner can't afford another house, but can live in a small apartment.


If anyone posts about this, please keep it civil. I assure you that even if moral consensus is achieved, there is no objectively right answer.
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:00 AM   #2
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Might be relevant to discussion:

Duty To Warn:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duty_to_warn
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:01 AM   #3
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Two images from my favourite episode:



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Old 08-28-2020, 11:05 AM   #4
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assure you that even if moral consensus is achieved, there is no objectively right answer.
I assure you, there is no consensus about whether there is no objectively right answer.

... I'm not being glib, most moral theories posit that there is in fact an objectively right answer and try to offer a way to determine what it is.

Actually, to suggest there is no objectively right answer reduces to moral skepticism - that there is no right and wrong in any circumstance - in which case, close the thread, because who cares what anyone thinks about any of it.
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:25 AM   #5
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What about unintended consequences for the Bombers actions.


I mean are there houses around, if he throws the bomb, can other houses be damaged. Also are you putting other fire fighters in jeopardy.


If you yell at the shooter not to shoot, does the bomber turn around and fling the bomb at the shooter?


I never think that these ethical questions can't be simplified.


It goes back to the question of, what if you go back in time and kill Hitler before he rises to power. Or what if Henry Tandy had pulled the trigger on Sept 29th 1918, would have millions of lives been saved.


Ethically you could say that sure maybe millions upon millions could have been saved. However if Hitler was wiped out, would an aggressive Stalin gained all of Europe and killed even more. Would an even crazier rival of Hitler have risen to the top of the Would Himmler or Goebbels risen in power and been even more brutal?
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:40 AM   #6
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What about unintended consequences for the Bombers actions.


I mean are there houses around, if he throws the bomb, can other houses be damaged. Also are you putting other fire fighters in jeopardy.


If you yell at the shooter not to shoot, does the bomber turn around and fling the bomb at the shooter?


I never think that these ethical questions can't be simplified.


It goes back to the question of, what if you go back in time and kill Hitler before he rises to power. Or what if Henry Tandy had pulled the trigger on Sept 29th 1918, would have millions of lives been saved.


Ethically you could say that sure maybe millions upon millions could have been saved. However if Hitler was wiped out, would an aggressive Stalin gained all of Europe and killed even more. Would an even crazier rival of Hitler have risen to the top of the Would Himmler or Goebbels risen in power and been even more brutal?
Assume there will be no unintended consequences, assume the only the one house will be destroyed and that the bomber will not turn to throw the bomb at the shooter. Assume the shooter would only kill the bomber, and nobody else would be harmed as a result.

What do you do?
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:44 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThisIsAnOutrage View Post
Things over in the Should the NHL Boycott thread have unfortunately bubbled over. For a while there though, there was some interesting and productive discussion. Maybe some of that energy could be redirected to a more focussed and hopefully civil discussion? So, below is an ethical dilemma that examines one issue that has come to fore in current times: the moral value of property vs. people.


If you're not familiar with ethical dilemmas, basically they are no-right-answer scenarios designed to prompt thinking about whether a given action is ethical in certain circumstances. One of the classic ones is the trolley scenario:
A trolley is running away down its tracks and can't be stopped. It will hit and kill four people if nothing is done. A person is standing beside a switch that can divert the trolley to another track, where it will only hit and kill two people.
The starting question is whether or not it is right for the person to pull the switch. On the one hand it will save four lives at the cost of two, on the other hand, pulling the switch kills two people who would have otherwise lived.


From there, you can posit other details for the scenario, for example, the four people combined only have 23 years left to live, but the two people combined have 100 years left to live. Does that make a difference? and so on.


For people vs. property issue, I came up with the following ethical dilemma:
A homeowner sees a person (the bomber) preparing to throw a bomb at their house. If the bomb is thrown, the house will be destroyed. There is no one in the house, and the homeowner and everyone else are far enough away from the explosion that they would not be hurt. At the same time, a third person is aiming a gun at the bomber and is prepared to shoot. If the homeowner does nothing, the bomber will be killed and their house will be spared. If the homeowner yells "Don't Shoot!" the bomber will be spared and the house will be destroyed. Assume that the homeowner knows the bomber will die if shot.
What is the right thing for the homeowner to do? Is it right for the Homeowner to let the bomber die in order to save the homeowner's house?

Some suggested adds to the scenario after considering the initial dilemma: the homeowner has no insurance; the homeowner's insurance will completely cover losses caused if the bomb is thrown; insurance will only cover 50% of the losses, which means the homeowner can't afford another house, but can live in a small apartment.


If anyone posts about this, please keep it civil. I assure you that even if moral consensus is achieved, there is no objectively right answer.
I've always prefered the 'fat guy' option for this scenario, first because its funnier, but secondly because it requires more active involvement than pulling a switch, the fat guy option is 'do you push a fat guy off a bridge in front of the trolley that is heading towards a group of kids on the track?'
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:49 AM   #8
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Assume there will be no unintended consequences, assume the only the one house will be destroyed and that the bomber will not turn to throw the bomb at the shooter. Assume the shooter would only kill the bomber, and nobody else would be harmed as a result.

What do you do?

I mean morality wise if its a simple questions with no un-intended consequences, no idea of the justification of the bomber, then the only moral answer is



Life > Property. Without question.


I mean otherwise you'd look at the scene in Forrest Gump when Jeeennnny throws rocks at the old house and I think it burned down later and could have said that Forrest would be justified in pulling out a Magnum and putting two through the o ring.
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:51 AM   #9
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Reminds me of a few years ago seeing a test around the AI decisions self-driving cars would make if someone was in front of them. Basically in a bunch of different scenarios you would need to decide between mowing down a group of pedestrians or crashing the car into a brick wall killing the drivers, so really just a variant of the trolley dilemna. Scenarios varied based on the number and composition (age, race, social class) of pedestrians, number of people in the car, and whether the car kept going straight or swerved.


One of the criteria I used was that I would not sacrifice the drivers of the vehicle to protect people who were breaking the law crossing the street (i.e. jaywalking or crossing when the car had a green light). The automated results the test generated didn't even seem to contemplate that as being a criterion you would use, so maybe I'm in the minority with that view. Instead it interpreted my results as favouring protecting high income people, which didn't come into my decisions at all and was just a random result due to the limited numbers of scenarios in the test.
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Old 08-28-2020, 11:55 AM   #10
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Utilitarianism

A persons statistical life is worth between 8-10 million.

So certainly for the average person you save the life of the bomber at let your 500k house blow up. Even if you discount the bombers life value by 90% because you believe he is a criminal his life value still outweighs the house value.

Categorical Imperative

If you were put in the bombers, the shooters or the owners position would you accept. The bomber being dead is an unacceptable outcome to the bomber whereas the loss of the house is mitigable over time.

So my two favourite moral theories favour stopping the shooting of the bomber.

In the real world if the home owner stopped the killing of the bomber and didnít have insurance he could set up a go fund me and make millions for being so altruistic.
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:01 PM   #11
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So going by your statement the average human is worth $50,000 per pound in meat costs. so in a world that's becoming over populated is Soylent Green as a business morally justifiable?
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:02 PM   #12
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Utilitarianism

A persons statistical life is worth between 8-10 million.

So certainly for the average person you save the life of the bomber at let your 500k house blow up. Even if you discount the bombers life value by 90% because you believe he is a criminal his life value still outweighs the house value.
Following this logic a little bit further, what if the home owner is a billionaire and the house is worth $100M (or any other number that is greater than the statistical value of a life of $8-10M)? Do we then get into a situation where the bomber's life is worth more than the property of a poor or middle class person but less than the property of a rich person? That logic has some very...uncomfortable implications.
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:04 PM   #13
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Following this logic a little bit further, what if the home owner is a billionaire and the house is worth $100M (or any other number that is greater than the statistical value of a life of $8-10M)? Do we then get into a situation where the bomber's life is worth more than the property of a poor or middle class person but less than the property of a rich person? That logic has some very...uncomfortable implications.
It’s where pure utilitarianism breaks down. Anytime an individual is sacrificed for the greater good which is why I like the categorical imperative.

The other flaw is the statistical like assume the bomber is average and the house is average and you were applying this over thousands of interactions. It’s less useful on edge cases like your billionaire.
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:10 PM   #14
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My vote is for wannamaker
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:16 PM   #15
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Classic utilatarianism though doesnt care about property beyond its ability to cause 'happiness' to the population, the classic utilatrian arguement would be 'does saving the building cause more happiness than keeping the bomber alive?' for instance a hospital might be worth killing the bomber for where as if the building was a military base not only should you not kill the bomber you should actively help him
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:16 PM   #16
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Categorical Imperative

If you were put in the bombers, the shooters or the owners position would you accept. The bomber being dead is an unacceptable outcome to the bomber whereas the loss of the house is mitigable over time.
That's an interesting way of formulating the categorical imperative. Literally, it's "Act only on that maxim which you can at the same time consistently will that it should be a universal law".
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:21 PM   #17
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That's an interesting way of formulating the categorical imperative. Literally, it's "Act only on that maxim which you can at the same time consistently will that it should be a universal law".
I believe in the trolly problem that is the correct way to apply it. So you as the decision maker would be comfortable with the trolly running you over to save the 10 kids. If not the law isnít universal itís dependant on where you sit on the tracks.
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:28 PM   #18
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I believe in the trolly problem that is the correct way to apply it. So you as the decision maker would be comfortable with the trolly running you over to save the 10 kids. If not the law isn’t universal it’s dependant on where you sit on the tracks.
The issue is that Kant's formulation doesn't fit particularly well with normal moral philosophy thought experiments. You can't assume away other possible circumstances when you're talking about extending an action to "universal law" status. You have to consider all other possible circumstances. Can you really say that it's a universal law that the bomber needs to live, there? What if he's carrying a contagious and deadly disease that will result in him dying anyway, but also everyone he has contact with, including the police who are on their way to arrest him for attempted arson? There are a million other formulations.

If you say, "in that circumstance, I would advocate a different maxim", then you don't have a moral theory, you just have your subjective moral intuitions in each set of circumstances, and the categorical imperative goes out the window. EDIT: Alternatively, someone might as, "well, why, in that circumstance, would your conclusion be different?" If your answer is, "because it would then save the greatest number of people", you've probably abandoned Kant in favour of utilitarianism.

Deontologists are a strange bunch, I don't think most students of moral philosophy think that it's a supportable way to live your life. And given that the base goal of a moral theory is to provide a goal for how to act, that's kind of disqualifying, imo.
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Old 08-28-2020, 12:38 PM   #19
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If you could go back in time knowing what you do would you kill baby Hitler? Consider that his death could mean that you would never be born, but ignore for this exercise the fact that if you were never born you wouldn’t be able to go back in time to kill Hitler.

I’d do it.
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Old 08-28-2020, 01:51 PM   #20
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I wouldn't, a baby is innocent no matter what happens later, I would steal him and raise him myself. Or kill his key influences
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