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  1. #1
    Honor Thy Inferior Such Irony's Avatar
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    Default Some more moral dilemmas

    Some more moral dilemmas

    Some people have hypothetical minds that like to debate what is right and wrong. Sometimes, however, what is right and wrong is not so clear, as is the case in a moral dilemma. Three years ago, Jamie Frater created a list of 10 agonizing moral dilemmas. Now that it’s so old, I think it’s time for 10 more. Be sure to tell us what you would do in each case.

    10 Overcrowded Lifeboat




    You are stranded with thirty people on a lifeboat that is intended to hold only seven. No one can paddle this heavy boat and it is definitely going to sink, drowning everyone inside it. It occurs to you that you can save some of the people in the lifeboat by throwing all but the strongest rowers overboard. Do you think it would be morally permissible to save some people by throwing others overboard, especially seeing that, otherwise, everyone, including those thrown overboard, would have drowned anyway?

    9 Painful Wife




    Your wife is suffering from a debilitating disease that has put her in constant and permanent pain and agony. Finally, one day, she decides that she really wants to die. However, her condition is such that she cannot die on her own. She is begging and pleading with you to help her commit suicide. This would, of course, be illegal. What would you do?

    8 Slave’s Dream




    You are a child slave in Africa, laboring away 18 hours a day making rugs. One night, you have a dream: God comes down from heaven and tells you that no one, not one person in the world, is buying your rugs. Would you feel:
    a. Disappointed and anguished because you truly are going through all this slavery for nothing, or
    b. Pleased because no one is benefiting from your cruel treatment.

    7 Debt to your Friend




    Slightly based on the trolley dilemma; there is a train that, much to your horror, is about to run over your own son, who has been tied to its track. It just so happens that you have only enough time to pull a lever which will send the train down an alternate track saving your son. However, you see that, tied to the other track, is your best friend, who recently saved your life and you have yet to repay him for doing so. What would you do?

    6 Happening upon Money




    You are living with your family in a scarce, poverty-stricken country. Where you live, there is no food bank, and you and your family are starving to death. One day, you are out trying to find some sort of food to nourish your family, when something miraculous (or problematic) occurs. You find a huge sack full of money that has fallen off the back of a truck. You realize this would be a fortune to your family, but there is one obvious catch. This money has to belong to someone else, and to take it and use it for your family would be stealing. You could explain your situation to the rightful owner of the money, but how can you know he’ll be a generous person? Would you:
    a. Return the money to its rightful owner or
    b. Take the money and use it to help your family.











    5 Daughter’s Sleepover




    One month ago, your 14-year-old daughter had a sleepover with her best female friend, which went very well and both girls had a good time. However, now, she is telling you that she is inviting her male friend over to do the same thing. Neither you, nor her, have ever viewed him as a boyfriend or an intimate partner of any kind, just a friend who happens to be male. He has agreed to come and stay with your daughter overnight, but you are worried that the event could escalate into teen sexuality and consider forbidding him to stay overnight, or telling your daughter not to invite him. Yet, you don’t want to be unfair to your daughter or her friend. She insists to you that he is just a casual friend and no sexual activity will occur. What would you do?

    4 Choice for the Cure




    You and your friend are stranded on an island. Unfortunately, you are both fatally ill. It just so happens that you have an antibiotic that can cure your illness. Sadly enough, there is just enough antibiotic to save only one person. How could you and your friend choose which one of you will take the antibiotic? Do you think that either person who takes it will, or should, feel guilty for the other person dying, although if neither of you take it, you will both die?

    3 Judge’s Abducted Daughter




    You are a Judge presiding over the trial of an alleged bank robber, who you know is innocent. However, something terrible in your life has happened: The enemies of the robber have kidnapped your 9-year-old daughter and have held her hostage. You don’t know where she is. The police have tried to locate her to no avail. The kidnappers have left you an anonymous note saying that if you convict the robber, they will set your daughter free. You fear the kidnappers could be abusing or even torturing your child. What would you do?

    2 Paramedic’s Uncle




    You are a paramedic and you have been called to help a young boy who was in a car accident. On the way to the emergency, you get in an accident with your elderly uncle, who you know and love dearly. He is knocked out, but you are able to determine that he is probably not terribly injured and is likely to survive without immediate medical attention. However, if you stop to help your uncle, or even call backup, you know for sure that the boy will die. The only way you can save the boy is if you drive away immediately. Would you:
    a. Stop for your uncle or
    b. Leave and help the boy.

    1 Man Crossing the Road




    You are speeding in your car on a one-way street, through very thick woods with a mad gunman chasing you and shooting at you from behind. Up ahead, you see a pedestrian crossing the street. You figure you have enough time to stop to let him cross, but with the thick woods, you cannot drive around him. Would you:
    a. Stop to let the pedestrian cross, even though you are being shot at or
    b. Hit the pedestrian and continue speeding away from the gunman.

    + Sophie’s Choice




    This is a true story that happened in World War 2. You are an inmate, imprisoned in a concentration camp. A guard tells you that you must choose one of your two children for him to take to the gas chamber. If you choose neither, he will take them both. What would you do? (Apparently, Sophie told him to take her younger daughter, she lost track of her older son, and she later committed suicide from the guilt of having chosen between her children).
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  2. #2
    ThatGirl
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    Sophie's choice

    S: Only have one child.

    Pedestrian

    S:I would 'bump' the man, and he has milliseconds to gtfo of the way.

    Paramedic

    S: Leave the uncle.

    Judge

    S: Convict the robber, get the kids, bust the kidnappers, free the robber.

    Stranded

    S: If the antibiotic is mine, I take it. If theirs they take it. If ownership cannot be determined, the person with the greater longevity and mental strength should take it.

    Sleepover

    S: Put them in separate rooms.

    Starving

    S: Keep the money. Feed my family. What dumb ass would put a huge sack of cash in the back of a truck?

    Train

    S: Don't do friends, or mutual favors. Save my son.

    Rugs

    S: I would be pissed that, that was all 'god' felt the need to say....what an asshole.

    Wife

    S: Drug her just enough she stops complaining incessantly.

    Rowboat

    S: Throw the majority of the people out, but allow them to hold onto the sides, and help propel the boat by kicking. The weight taken off by the water, and added speed, should be a win/win.

  3. #3
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    Number 10...

    This is morally permissible as long as you count yourself as one of the people who goes overboard..
    The captain always goes down with his ship.

    Number 9...

    I feel I would do as she asked. But it's not legal reasons that cause me doubt.. But rather my fear of my own loss that might make me hesitate.. If I was willing to kill this person it would obviously be because I loved them deeply. I admit, I am certain my own selfishness would put up a fight, but not a winning one.

    Number 8...

    I am going to go with B.
    I figure if God knows no one is buying them.. so do the people forcing me to make them.
    This hasn't stopped them.. So my cruel treatment is likely to continue regardless.
    At least they are not making profit..
    If I go for A.. I lose all hope don't I?

    Number 7...

    Save my son. and then jump in front of the train that is going to kill my best friend as well..
    Any time I am forced to chose life and death for others, I figure I forfeit mine.... Unless it's "war"..

    In the real world??.. Prolly just save my son.

    Number 6...

    Since I know some level of poverty myself..I can tell If I and my family were starving.. Hello dinner and thank You God.
    Do I feel Guilt?? Yes some.. But a "truck load" of money, is someone who has too much money.
    Now if the truck is going to feed other starving people .. I have a problem here.. But I am still going to buy my family some dinner.

    Number 5...

    I slept at MY GFs when I was 15 and we were trusted and respected the "no sex" rule ( I was a virgin anyway)
    So I guess I would have to say I would let it go and trust my kid.. I would prolly know when she was lying anyway .

    Number 4...

    I imagine we would both die during a conversation of .. "You take it" "No, You take it"

    Number 3...

    Convict The bank Robber..

    Get my daughter back.. Make sure she is safe.. Arrest kidnappers if possible.

    Release the bank robber with full pardon.. and Into witness protection, if needs be.

    Number 2...

    B seems the obvious choice.. but maybe I am missing something.

    Number 1...

    If I figure I have enough time.. I would start honking on my horn and motioning and telling for him to hurry the fuck up ..

    But I doubt I would just run him over. And I am not sure how likely I am ever to end up in a chase and shootout

  4. #4
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Do you think it would be morally permissible to save some people by throwing others overboard, especially seeing that, otherwise, everyone, including those thrown overboard, would have drowned anyway?

    Absolutely not. On the other hand, my answer would be different if the question was whether to overload the boat in the first place. Don't overload it.

    9 Painful Wife
    What would you do?

    I think the more moral choice is to kill her, although I don't know if I could do it (it would be easier if there were a quick/easy/painless/neat method)

    8 Slave’s Dream

    You are a child slave in Africa, laboring away 18 hours a day making rugs. One night, you have a dream: God comes down from heaven and tells you that no one, not one person in the world, is buying your rugs. Would you feel:
    a. Disappointed and anguished because you truly are going through all this slavery for nothing, or
    b. Pleased because no one is benefiting from your cruel treatment.

    And pissed off at God for bothering to come rub it in my face. Asshole.

    7 Debt to your Friend

    Slightly based on the trolley dilemma; there is a train that, much to your horror, is about to run over your own son, who has been tied to its track. It just so happens that you have only enough time to pull a lever which will send the train down an alternate track saving your son. However, you see that, tied to the other track, is your best friend, who recently saved your life and you have yet to repay him for doing so. What would you do?

    Impossible to say. If it were a stranger, maybe I would kill him. Since it's a good friend, maybe not. I think it would be more moral to not change the course of the train, but I don't know what I'd do.

    6 Happening upon
    You could explain your situation to the rightful owner of the money, but how can you know he’ll be a generous person? Would you:
    a. Return the money to its rightful owner or
    b. Take the money and use it to help your family.

    Not that I think it's more moral necessarily, but it's what I'd do.

    5 Daughter’s Sleepover

    Yet, you don’t want to be unfair to your daughter or her friend. She insists to you that he is just a casual friend and no sexual activity will occur. What would you do?

    This isn't a "moral" dilemma. My parents wouldn't have dreamed of allowing it and I don't think I would, either.

    4 Choice for the Cure

    How could you and your friend choose which one of you will take the antibiotic? Flip a coin, unless one of you is dying already or something.

    Do you think that either person who takes it will, or should, feel guilty for the other person dying, although if neither of you take it, you will both die? Shouldn't but probably will.

    3 Judge’s Abducted Daughter

    What would you do?

    Probably convict, although it's not the moral thing to do.

    2 Paramedic’s Uncle

    Would you:
    a. Stop for your uncle or
    b. Leave and help the boy.

    But come on, you can totally call 911 on your cell for your uncle, as you're on your way to help the boy.

    1 Man Crossing the Road
    Would you:
    a. Stop to let the pedestrian cross, even though you are being shot at or
    b. Hit the pedestrian and continue speeding away from the gunman.

    Probably, anyway.

    + Sophie’s Choice
    What would you do? (Apparently, Sophie told him to take her younger daughter, she lost track of her older son, and she later committed suicide from the guilt of having chosen between her children).

    No idea. I probably wouldn't choose. That's a horrible situation.
    -end of thread-

  5. #5
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    10 Overcrowded Lifeboat
    Make the choice that would minimize the number of deaths.

    Painful Wife
    If I was certain that she wants to end the hopeless suffering and not because she doesn't want to be a burden, I would help her. It would be the loving thing to do. The law is irrelevant.

    Slave’s Dream
    I would become an atheist.

    Debt to your Friend
    I think the ethical decision would be to save the friend. From a rational perspective, morals cannot be based solely on what feels good at the moment.

    Money Bag
    This isn't even a moral dilemma. "Rightful Ownership" is not determined by the written law alone. If the money was not earned, then they have no more right to it than I do. What idiot would let their family starve to death just to obey an arbitrary law?

    Daughter’s Sleepover
    Give them a clinical lesson on sex. That would be the sure way to spoil the mood forever.

    Choice for the Cure
    Flip a coin.

    Judge’s Abducted Daughter
    Convict him and try to get him freed after the daughter is safe.

    Paramedic’s Uncle
    Since the uncle is in no danger and the kid faces certain death, go save the kid.

    Man Crossing the Road
    Compromise. Slow down a bit and honk the horn to give him a chance to get out of the way. If he insist on exercising his "pedestrian's rights", then it sucks to be him.

    Sophie’s Choice
    No rational decision is possible here.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Beargryllz's Avatar
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    Number 10, I could see throwing out a number of people, but only under the condition that bias for the person empowered with the authority to make the decision is removed. A person willing to make the decision must also be willing to sacrifice his or her own life for the group. This is essential because it is already established that the survival of the group supersedes the killing of people for this end. One would think that, it would be easiest (from a moral perspective) to leave the boat first (presuming this person was not essential for the operation of the boat, and with 30 people, no one person is really essential), and hardest to be unwilling or unable to sacrifice oneself. The reason it would be harder is because we can now establish that this person is actually an inferior person, because every person that DOES leave the boat is improving the survivability of the group, and every person that stays is actually harming every single other person in his or her life. Therefore, we would laud self-sacrifice as the morally superior choice, and we could consider a less moral decision to not choose self-sacrifice.

    On the other hand, not throwing anybody out is also immoral, because this will cause more people to die. Likewise, an essential component to the survival of the group (a particularly strong rower, for example) cannot be discarded to save another life, because this will cause more people to die as well.

    Number 9, Kill her

    Number 8, disappointed, but in a humorous way

    Number 7, Intervening by pulling the lever would require me to kill someone, so I probably could not pull the lever, but I might attempt something else.

    Number 6, I would not return the money

    Number 5, Voice concern, but probably not refuse any guests that have not given me any reason to

    Number 4, Rock, paper, scissors, or mortal combat, depending on which friend is with me, and which they would rather consent to

    Number 3, Can't harm an innocent person and remain moral, so we instead have to rescue the girl, despite any preconceived notion of futility. This would be the only acceptable choice

    Number 2, Because one person will die if we do not continue, we must continue. If we continue, two people will be alive in the best case scenario, but if we do not continue, one person will absolutely die. The decision is whether you will jeopardize another person's life to save someone, but the dilemma implies that this person is not put in serious jeopardy. No matter what, if we do stop, someone will absolutely die, but if we continue, one person has a slight chance of dying.

    Number 1, The decision is between hitting a person to decrease the chances of being hit (moving targets are harder to hit), or placing two lives at risk by stopping. If we stop, both the driver and the pedestrian are placed in harm's way, because. We really cannot justify stopping, but we cannot necessarily justify hitting the person. I would probably hit the person, because being shot and being hit both suck, but if I remove the pedestrian from the incident, I may actually be helping him more than I am hurting him, while also preserving my own life.

    Sophie's Choice, The life chosen is arbitrary. We can't not pick a person, but if we save one person, we have a best case scenario. If we choose not to save one person, two people will die, and this will be unacceptable, given the alternative. It should not matter which person is selected.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Helios's Avatar
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    10) I'd throw the excess survivors overboard.

    9) Help her commit suicide.

    8) I've no idea how I'd feel.

    7) Save my son.

    6) Take the money.

    5) Forbid him from sleeping over.

    4) No idea.

    3) Convict the robber.

    2) Leave and help the boy.

    1) I need more information about the pedestrian.

    Sophie's Choice: The guard could take both.

  8. #8
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Moral dilemmas are resolved based on the issue of personal priorities.

    One can try to make a detached assessment of a difficult situation; but the rules that govern the decision are not universal mores, they are personal ones.

    I have had to make a range of hard decisions in my life. Two are as follows:

    (a) When I was 15, one of the kittens of our outdoor cats became sickly to the point of being skin and bones AND having maggots visibly crawl in and out of the skin of its legs and bodies. It was horrific to see. The kitten was going to die, there was no way to save it. But it was in pain.

    I was too squeamish to kill it in a messy way (as with a rock or an impact), and I felt it was meaner to do it in some impersonal way, so I filled a bucket with water and held it under until it drowned. I thought that was would be the easiest, all things considered, based on what resources I had and how I felt... but it ended up being horrible because it wasn't fast. I won't describe anything else, but the emotions from that day still linger with me, and while I still think I made the right decision, I can't do something in that way under that context ever again.

    (b) My dad was dying of alcohol poisoning, a slow years-long suicide. The night he collapsed and almost died, my mom called me crying, and I had to make a decision about whether to encourage him to get to a hospital as he was refusing to listen to her. I felt like I was violating his autonomy as it had been expressed for years; at the same time my kids were sleeping at their house overnight. It was mostly the factor about my children being in proximity that led me to want to get him help, but otherwise (especially with a few years' hindsight) I feel now like I should have let him finish the road he started, and given everyone else a fresh start in the process. Funny how context also shapes moral decision.


    For the listed cases:


    10. Rationally, I think it only makes sense to throw people out of the boat, if survival is the issue. And rationally, if I am not one of the strongest, then I should be willing to throw myself out of the boat. Fair is fair.

    But, based on (a) above, I don't know if I could ever forcibly be the one to throw someone to their death or physically hold them away from the safety of the boat to save the others. It's too much for me, however rational it might seem.


    9. If i felt the reasoning for death was sound, I would help my spouse die and suffer the consequences myself.


    8. Why does the fact that no one is buying my rugs have any impact on how I feel about having to make rugs? They are separate things. Thus, neither a nor b.


    7. I'd probably save my son, because he is my son and because he has more life to live. The fact that my best friend "saved my life" and I haven't repaid him is not a real consideration to me; someone saving my life should be a gift freely given, not a gift given in expectation of a return. If they expected something back, part of me would have rather died. That choice to save my life was a choice they made apart from my choice over this.


    6. I would probably assume that, if the entire country is poor, anyone with that much money isn't one of the hunger-stricken poor and probably has more where that came from, so I would keep it for my family. (In a different context, here in the states where it might not be as clear the life status of the owner, I might return the found item depending on what it was.)

    Another option is to return part of the money and say the rest was stolen, although that allows that one might be caught if investigations are made and my family would then suffer.


    5. Male boy friend can stay over, but he is not staying in her room, and the door to the room stays open. All the stipulations in the problem simply can't be trusted to be accurate. This is pretty textbook parenting strategy.


    4. Either of us can choose to GIVE the antibiotic to the other. If we don't, and we can't come up with a rational reason why one of us needs to live, then we can settle on some random-chance method of deciding who gets it. Guilt might still be unavoidable, but both of us should work through it and fight feeling guilty... although if one feels guilty about not giving away the antibiotic, then maybe one should listen to that feeling rather than acting out of fear of death instead?


    3. I don't think I could falsely convict a man who I knew was innocent, regardless.

    But judges do not have that power in the US. It's up to the jury to acquit, the judge just facilitates the trial and handles sentencing. I suppose I could misappropriately use my judicial powers to impact the trial outcome, with the understanding my child would be released and then the case would be overturned on appeal and the trial reheld.

    So maybe, rationally, it would be best to flub the trial -- I get my child back, and then a new trial would be held, with the man given the opportunity to be released.


    2. Help the boy.


    1. I have no idea. It would be a decision either based on completely random chance or some careful understanding of nuanced detail, of which I have none in the wording of this problem.

    And yes, I'd be plagued by guilt for the rest of my life.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  9. #9
    Senior Member Helios's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post

    (a) When I was 15, one of the kittens of our outdoor cats became sickly to the point of being skin and bones AND having maggots visibly crawl in and out of the skin of its legs and bodies. It was horrific to see. The kitten was going to die, there was no way to save it. But it was in pain.

    I was too squeamish to kill it in a messy way (as with a rock or an impact), and I felt it was meaner to do it in some impersonal way, so I filled a bucket with water and held it under until it drowned. I thought that was would be the easiest, all things considered, based on what resources I had and how I felt... but it ended up being horrible because it wasn't fast. I won't describe anything else, but the emotions from that day still linger with me, and while I still think I made the right decision, I can't do something in that way under that context ever again.
    This is quite depraved. Drowning, by all accounts, is an incredibly painful experience, and it chills me to imagine the episode; it would have been much more humane to have killed it with the rock. Better still, you could have contacted, or had someone else contact for you, a vet.

    If I were a psychiatrist, I would be wondering whether you were then afflicted with a disorder of some sort.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Beargryllz's Avatar
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    I notice that for 3, people have sullied the dilemma part of the dilemma by convicting the man, but then doing a magic 180 to save him through some silly appeal process. I propose that #3 be changed to executing the innocent man on the same day that the girl is released. This way, it actually feels like a moral dilemma. The implication is that the judge has the power to either convict or not convict, not the jury, and making both opposite decisions (convict then somehow not convict) simultaneously to resolve the dilemma is no way to make a moral choice.

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