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Moral Dilemma's. How do you handle them?

Adagio

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The city of happiness

The city of happiness
The story (“The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas”) tells of a city called Omelas—a city of happiness and civic celebration, a place without kings or slaves, without advertisements or a stock exchange, a place without the atomic bomb. Lest we find this place too unrealistic to imagine, the author tells us one more thing about it: “In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas, or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window.” And in this room sits a child. The child is feeble-minded, malnourished, and neglected. It lives out its days in wretched misery.

They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas . . . They all know that it has to be there . . . They all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, . . . even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery. . . . If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of the vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms.

Are those terms morally acceptable?
 

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Imo, no those terms are not morally acceptable, assuming the child is there against his will.
 

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I read that story in school, not sure what grade, but I remember it vividly. Interesting conversation to say the least.
 

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Depends on one's morality as to whether or not it is morally acceptable.
 

Adagio

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I agree with you. Whether the child knows it's there really doesn't matter. As a Libertarian I can see that individual rights matter most to you. The situation tests the Utilitarian claim of consequential morality ( what serves the greatest good for the greatest number is the morally correct thing to do) The first objection to Bentham’s utilitarianism, the one that appeals to fundamental human rights, says they are not—even if they lead to a city of happiness - morally acceptable. It would be wrong to violate the rights of the innocent child, even for the sake of the happiness of the multitude.
 

Adagio

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It's a bit of a poll, and a bit of an exercise. I think it might be a thread that makes people think without hurling bricks at each other.
 

Adagio

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yes...we know that. That's the question. Are those terms morally acceptable to YOU? I'm asking what YOU think of this. Is it morally acceptable to YOU?
 

Sarcogito

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Definitely not morally acceptable. The society may decide it is pragmatic, but it is immoral by my compass.
 

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Moral Dilemma #2.


You're driving a train. Suddenly you have no brakes. Up ahead you see 5 workman on the tracks. The Whistle doesn't work. The only thing you can do is steer slightly. As you look, you can also see a side track which you could steer onto, but there is a person on that track as well. You have a decision that you must make now. Do you veer off to the side track knowing that you'll kill one person instead of 5? Or do you stay the course and kill the 5 workmen, saving the one?

If you're a utilitarian you would do what's in the best interests of the greatest number. You maximize pleasure over pain. There is more utility in taking out the one in order to save the five. So that is the morally correct decision.


Now...suppose the person on the side track is an 8 year old boy? Do you still take him out to save the greatest number? Does it matter who he is or how old he is? Morally speaking, isn't it better to save 5 over 1? If you are morally consistent with the idea that you save the most people, even if you have to sacrifice one life, then you kill the kid.
 

Adagio

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So far I'm in agreement with the two Libertarians. I wonder how far it'll go?
 

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Assuming the worst outcome for the city, I would definitely keep the child enslaved.

It's better written example of the trolley problem. The classic, "Are you going to let the trolley kill 1 person or 5 people?" The only difference is that in the Omelas city version, the story is being phrased from the point after which the switch has already been thrown. So yes, I would keep the switch thrown or the child enslaved.
 

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I just brought up the trolly problem. I used a train instead. I'm a bit surprised since a Libertarian is usually most interested in individual rights. Doesn't your answer undermine that principle that is so important to the Libertarian?
 

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I just brought up the trolly problem. I used a train instead. I'm a bit surprised since a Libertarian is usually most interested in individual rights. Doesn't your answer undermine that principle that is so important to the Libertarian?
Think of there being two types of libertarians: consequentialist and deontological. Those who judge the morality of actions/policies concerning free markets, property and natural rights by taking into account the consequences of those actions/policies, and those who believe in the morality of those actions/policies on sole principle, regardless of consequence.

I am an atheist and a humanist. I don't believe in an afterlife or some ultimate purveyor of justice. What is done on this Earth, is done and cannot be undone. Thus, I take a much more utilitarian view on ethics. The life of one versus many is a repulsive moral question, but I could not do more harm to the many than to save one.
 

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I read that story in school, not sure what grade, but I remember it vividly. Interesting conversation to say the least.

Yeah, I read that story and a variation of it for two classes I had last semester (Political Theory and another class called Monsters and Bad States).

The overall story is really discussion about things being done "for the common good" and the sacrifices that must be made, but also the battle between the collective and the individual as it relates to morality. Pretty much the story asks the question: Is it OK for some to suffer if it benefits the greater good?


Personally, I would say no, that the child does deserve to be free, as does everyone.

For those who are interested, the story can be read here: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dunnweb/rprnts.omelas.pdf

Edit: In regards to the trolley example, I would steer away and take only one person's life. This is not because I believe in the greatest good for the greatest number, but from just a practical, common-sense way of thinking, it is worse if five people died rather than one, not to say that that one person's death is meaningless or should not be remembered.
 
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brothern

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Edit: In regards to the trolley example, I would steer away and take only one person's life. This is not because I believe in the greatest good for the greatest number, but from just a practical, common-sense way of thinking, it is worse if five people died rather than one, not to say that that one person's death is meaningless or should not be remembered.
... ?

In one version, you say that killing 1 person is better than killing 5.
In the other version, you say that suffering 1,000 people is better than suffering 1.

How does that NOT conflict?
 

Adagio

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Think of there being two types of libertarians: consequentialist and deontological. Those who judge the morality of actions/policies concerning free markets, property and natural rights by taking into account the consequences of those actions/policies, and those who believe in the morality of those actions/policies on sole principle, regardless of consequence.

I am an atheist and a humanist. I don't believe in an afterlife or some ultimate purveyor of justice. What is done on this Earth, is done and cannot be undone. Thus, I take a much more utilitarian view on ethics. The life of one versus many is a repulsive moral question, but I could not do more harm to the many than to save one.


I'm not aware of Libertarians that adopt a consequentialist perspective. That's a utilitarian morality that rejects the idea of individual rights, which is a high priority, probably the highest among Libertarians.
Nozik believes in Strong theories of Rights. Individuals are separate beings with separate rights deserving of respect. It’s a mistake thinking about justice or law by just adding up preferences.
Libertarianism: The fundamental individual right is the right to Liberty. Because we are individuals, we are not available to anybody’s use. A right to live freely and do as we choose as long as we don’t interfere with another’s rights.

It seems that if this is coming from Robert Nozick, it's probably fundamental to Libertarian ideals.

It's fine that you don't believe in an afterlife or some ultimate purveyor of justice, but isn't that just another way of saying that you agree with Kant that to act freely is to act autonomously. And to act autonomously is to act according to a law I give myself.
 

Adagio

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Yeah, I read that story and a variation of it for two classes I had last semester (Political Theory and another class called Monsters and Bad States).

The overall story is really discussion about things being done "for the common good" and the sacrifices that must be made, but also the battle between the collective and the individual as it relates to morality. Pretty much the story asks the question: Is it OK for some to suffer if it benefits the greater good?


Personally, I would say no, that the child does deserve to be free, as does everyone.

For those who are interested, the story can be read here: http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/dunnweb/rprnts.omelas.pdf

Edit: In regards to the trolley example, I would steer away and take only one person's life. This is not because I believe in the greatest good for the greatest number, but from just a practical, common-sense way of thinking, it is worse if five people died rather than one, not to say that that one person's death is meaningless or should not be remembered.

What if that one person on the side track was a 6 year old child? Would that change your view?
 

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What if that one person on the side track was a 6 year old child? Would that change your view?

No.


... ?

In one version, you say that killing 1 person is better than killing 5.
In the other version, you say that suffering 1,000 people is better than suffering 1.

How does that NOT conflict?

Ok, maybe I was not clear. The OP asked were those terms morally acceptable. All I said was that the kid should be free. What I really should have said was that no, those terms were not morally acceptable.
 

Fisher

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yes...we know that. That's the question. Are those terms morally acceptable to YOU? I'm asking what YOU think of this. Is it morally acceptable to YOU?

Then you should have added the "to YOU" to your OP.

It would not be morally acceptable to put the child under the building, but I have no moral duty to save him/her.

As for the train, I would stay on the track I was supposed to be on. Since that appears to be the one that takes out the 5, then that is what I would do. Staying on the track the train is supposed to be on makes the deaths the fault of the brakes. Going onto the track I am not supposed to be on makes the death my fault.
 

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The city of happiness

The city of happiness
The story (“The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas”) tells of a city called Omelas—a city of happiness and civic celebration, a place without kings or slaves, without advertisements or a stock exchange, a place without the atomic bomb. Lest we find this place too unrealistic to imagine, the author tells us one more thing about it: “In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas, or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window.” And in this room sits a child. The child is feeble-minded, malnourished, and neglected. It lives out its days in wretched misery.

They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas . . . They all know that it has to be there . . . They all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, . . . even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery. . . . If the child were brought up into the sunlight out of the vile place, if it were cleaned and fed and comforted, that would be a good thing, indeed; but if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed. Those are the terms.

Are those terms morally acceptable?


Of course not--release the child and let the chips fall where they may......
 

brothern

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I'm not aware of Libertarians that adopt a consequentialist perspective. That's a utilitarian morality that rejects the idea of individual rights, which is a high priority, probably the highest among Libertarians.
Nozik believes in Strong theories of Rights. Individuals are separate beings with separate rights deserving of respect. It’s a mistake thinking about justice or law by just adding up preferences.
Libertarianism: The fundamental individual right is the right to Liberty. Because we are individuals, we are not available to anybody’s use. A right to live freely and do as we choose as long as we don’t interfere with another’s rights.

It seems that if this is coming from Robert Nozick, it's probably fundamental to Libertarian ideals.

It's fine that you don't believe in an afterlife or some ultimate purveyor of justice, but isn't that just another way of saying that you agree with Kant that to act freely is to act autonomously. And to act autonomously is to act according to a law I give myself.
"Consequentialists count among their ranks thinkers such as the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, Nobel laureates Milton Friedman, and F.A. Hayek, and even Harvard’s very own Prof. Jeffrey Miron."

Yes. The fundamental individual right is the right to Liberty, but not every moral situation is the clear cut black/white. In cases of unavoidable injury or rights-infringement, one has to take a position that is able to differentiate the moral choices. Otherwise it's not a very effective moral system, is it?
 

Adagio

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And here it goes. We're looking for consistency here. Mr. Invisible's morality is inconsistent. It's whimsical. If it were indeed consistent then it should hold up under every condition. So the question is what is that kind of morality based on? His true instinct is to free the child, and I suspect it's because he feels that the child's individual rights matter. But in the second instance he is opting to take the Utilitarian position of doing what's in the interest of the greater number. Save the five at the expense of the one. Does the kids rights matter any less under these circumstances? Why should the kids rights have any less meaning because in one case it's kept in a dungeon, and in the other it's walking on the tracks? Are rights dependent on such things?
 

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Moral Dilemma #2.


You're driving a train. Suddenly you have no brakes. Up ahead you see 5 workman on the tracks. The Whistle doesn't work. The only thing you can do is steer slightly. As you look, you can also see a side track which you could steer onto, but there is a person on that track as well. You have a decision that you must make now. Do you veer off to the side track knowing that you'll kill one person instead of 5? Or do you stay the course and kill the 5 workmen, saving the one?

If you're a utilitarian you would do what's in the best interests of the greatest number. You maximize pleasure over pain. There is more utility in taking out the one in order to save the five. So that is the morally correct decision.


Now...suppose the person on the side track is an 8 year old boy? Do you still take him out to save the greatest number? Does it matter who he is or how old he is? Morally speaking, isn't it better to save 5 over 1? If you are morally consistent with the idea that you save the most people, even if you have to sacrifice one life, then you kill the kid.


Yes, unfortunately, you kill the kid.....
 

brothern

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And here it goes. We're looking for consistency here. Mr. Invisible's morality is inconsistent. It's whimsical. If it were indeed consistent then it should hold up under every condition. So the question is what is that kind of morality based on? His true instinct is to free the child, and I suspect it's because he feels that the child's individual rights matter. But in the second instance he is opting to take the Utilitarian position of doing what's in the interest of the greater number. Save the five at the expense of the one. Does the kids rights matter any less under these circumstances? Why should the kids rights have any less meaning because in one case it's kept in a dungeon, and in the other it's walking on the tracks? Are rights dependent on such things?
... ah, no, he just clarified what he meant.
 

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No.




Ok, maybe I was not clear. The OP asked were those terms morally acceptable. All I said was that the kid should be free. What I really should have said was that no, those terms were not morally acceptable.

Well the terms may not be morally acceptable, but those are the conditions. You answer that NO, keeping the kid in the dungeon is not acceptable. Clearly his individual rights aren't being addressed. In the train scenario, you have to make another choice and because no matter what choice you make...somebody dies. You answered no. It would not make a difference. You'd allow the train to hit him and save the 5. Do the Childs rights matter any less whether he's in a dungeon, or walking on the tracks? If his rights are a deciding factor in freeing the child, why are his rights any less for walking on the track? You aren't as interested in the effects his freedom will have on the entire population of the city, as you are in the lives of the 5 workman that you're willing to save by knowingly killing a kid.
 
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