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Moral Dilemmas

Discussion in 'Alley of Dangerous Angles' started by Barmy Army, Jul 5, 2012.

?

Q1) Do you divert the train? Q2) Do you call the police? Q3) Do you keep your promise?

  1. Q1) Yes

    82.6%
  2. Q1) No

    17.4%
  3. Q2) Yes

    69.6%
  4. Q2) No

    26.1%
  5. Q3) Yes

    78.3%
  6. Q3) No

    17.4%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. The Great Snook Gems: 31/31
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  2. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    1. I’m having trouble imagining a scenario where (a) I’m close enough to the baby to know that there is, in fact, a baby on the tracks but not close enough to run over an get it off the track before the train gets there, (b) I’m close enough to the man to know that he is both old and drunk, and (c) I wouldn’t have noticed either one before the train was a danger and done something at that time. What I’d likely do is try to get to the baby before the train does because, like Aldeth, I probably wouldn’t know how to divert the train, and the scenario as presented doesn’t preclude that course of action as being an option.

    2. Yes.

    3. Yes, as long as I could find a way to do it without payng the money. My answer would probably be different if I believed in an afterlife, but like BTA, I probably just made the promise to make him happy while he was alive.
     
  3. Vorona

    Vorona Shadow-Whisperer

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    I was imagining myself in some kind of switch box to change the tracks with a switch (where flipping a switch would be easy and possible, but where running out of the box to pick up the baby might not happen in time) and I figured that the drunk guy would have looked obviously drunk and have a bottle (otherwise, it's hard to tell the difference between drunk and different illnesses that affect balance and motor control), maybe be singing or yelling loudly and out of key or something.
     
  4. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Actually, I came up with my own scenario:

    I’m walking to Old Trafford to scatter my recently-deceased father’s ashes on the field. My walk takes me by a set of railroad tracks that branches into two tracks just ahead. I notice an old man walking and carrying a baby girl. I ask him why he has a baby, and he explains that his single-mother daughter recently died. He is clearly drunk, explaining he had just drowned his sorrow in a few shots of of whiskey, and was headed home to care for his now-orphaned granddaughter. I am about to ask him more questions, but I looked down and noticed a set of papers with a title page called “The Train” on the ground. I picked up the papers, remembering that my father was a train enthusiast. I start to read the contents, and realize that the manuscript is actually part of a plan by a local charity to rob a bank by diverting a train and crashing it into the bank. I just finish reading the section which goes into specific detail on how to operate the mechanism to switch tracks when I look up to see that, 100 feet past the point where the tracks branch off, the old man has put the baby down by one set of tracks while he takes a wiz by the other set, and then promptly passes out on the tracks while his granddaughter climbs onto the other set. At that point, I notice that a train is fast approaching and is headed towards the track the baby is on. I start running towards the baby, but in my haste drop my father’s urn and trip on it, badly spraining my ankle in the process. Unable to reach the baby in time, I notice I have fallen by the track-switching mechanism which, thanks to the papers had I just read, I now know how to operate. I switch the tracks because the old man reminds me of my father, who I’m ticked at because of a stupid promise I made.
     
  5. Mesmero

    Mesmero How'd an old elf get the blues?

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    After reading your story I looked up Old Trafford on Google Maps and there is actually a railway right next to it, with quite a lot of junctions at a stone-throw's distance. So, I guess your scenario is pretty plausible ;)
     
  6. Barmy Army

    Barmy Army Simple mind, simple pleasures... Adored Veteran

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    It is not the point of the exercise to find creative solutions and you can only make decisions based on what you know. Quite possibly the drunken old man in the first dilemma is a professor at the local university and is on the verge of discovering the cure for cancer. Quite possibly the baby will grow up to be someone awful like a serial rapist, a mass murderer or a Liberal Democrat MEP. But since you don’t know, I don’t think utilitarian calculations are of much use. You lack the time and knowledge to make them.

    Quite a few interesting answers here. One or two baby killers....
     
  7. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Three baby killers according to the numbers :)
     
  8. Gaear

    Gaear ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful

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    I think I heard him say "I'm f*cked up!" ;)

    If I was there, I would point that out to everybody and also pester you about time concerns and ask for rapid updates on what you're going to do. :p
     
  9. Splunge

    Splunge Bhaal’s financial advisor Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    OK, fair enough. Then I stand by my first answer, which is to try to reach the baby before the train does.
     
  10. Morgoth

    Morgoth La lune ne garde aucune rancune Veteran

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    1. Yes, statistically speaking, the baby has more potential than the old drunk man. Also, the guy decided to get drunk, so I guess he will have to suffer the consequences of the unfortunate turn of events. (I guess this question only separates the people who don't want to make important choices from those who do. Easy question.)

    2. No, because in capitalist america, bank robs you! (also in europe of course, but capitalist america is a good opposite of soviet russia ;) ). As far as I am concerned: "don't steal" is not categorical imperative; money is a virtual commodity without true value; and banks are insured anyway. Also, screw banks.
    (Assuming that these two decide to rob the bank in some creative way that doesn't leave any physical/mental scars. I'm only talking about taking away someone else's belongings. It's different matter if they invade a bank that is filled with customers and leave them traumatized.)

    3. Yes, your promises can only be meaningful as long as you are willing to keep them. That the father is dead is irrelevant to the promise, it's about the honesty of the person who promises. I don't like dishonest people.
     
  11. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Not much a dilemma for me -- yes to all three and didn't really have to think about them at all. I realize the definition of a moral dilemma is a choice between two bad things or two good things (generally two bad), but I also believe a person has their own set of ethics that makes most decisions fairly straightforward.

    The first was simply a question of 'do you care enough to take any action.' I think most who would not flip the switch woula also not flip the switch if the train was heading for the drunk.

    The second 'does the end justify the means.' In my opinion, the how is just as important as the end. I would love to donate millions of dollars to St Judes or other organizations helping children -- but I would not rob to do so.

    The third scenario cuts to the core of honor and integrity.
     
  12. Vorona

    Vorona Shadow-Whisperer

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    You're right. And yet, you're not. That is, yes, if the train was heading toward the drunk, AND I saw both the drunk AND the baby, I would not divert the train to force it to hit the baby. But if I only saw the drunk and did not see the baby, I WOULD divert the train and feel really guilty when it hit the baby.

    So, it's not so much a lack of willingness to take action, but rather not willing to deliberately choose who gets hit if I could see that both were potentially in danger. The only way I would take action in that case is if I could cause BOTH of them to survive (like getting the endangered one off the tracks).
     
  13. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Veteran

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    My feelings are very similar to Vorona's I would not divert the train, by doing so I am actively killing another human being. By not taking action I am not taking action but I seriously do not think I am justified in deciding who lives and dies.
     
  14. T2Bruno

    T2Bruno The only source of knowledge is experience Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Ultimately, not willing to choose is a choice. By not taking action a person still decided who will live and die -- although it is easier for many to justify (and live with) a lack of action rather than active participation. For me, the lack of action would cause me more issues than taking an active part.
     
  15. Erod Gems: 14/31
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    Food for thought: By taking action you also commit a murder, which might have consequences later on.
     
  16. Blackthorne TA

    Blackthorne TA Master in his Own Mind Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    I don't agree. All the circumstances surrounding the event decided who will live and die; I decided there was nothing that would lead me to change the circumstances.

    To me there is a big difference between intervening and not. If you intervene, you decided the baby is more important than the old man. If you don't intervene, you decided one of two things: The old man is more important than the baby, or they are equally important.
     
  17. Gaear

    Gaear ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful

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    As regards the train and the baby -

    I realize the point of this exercise is not to find literal solutions to the problem, but I would hazard a guess that in reality, very few could accurately predict what they would really do until they were actually placed in the circumstance. All these philosophical considerations become moot when you've got 2.14739 seconds to make a decision. In that time you don't ponder "do I have the right to decide who lives and who dies?", you just either do something or you don't, and most people probably will default to the latter.

    Don't feel bad - when the cops take your statement afterward you'll just state truthfully that you didn't know what the hell was going on and before you knew it it was too late to do anything anyway. :)
     
  18. Paracelsi

    Paracelsi ★ SPS Account Holder Adored Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!)

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    Murder implies malice, which (I assume) is absent in this situation.

    Choosing not to act still counts as a decision, and whether your like it or not you are now part of this situation - your decision (whether to intervene or not) will affect it. This is analogous to potential energy in physics - it doesn't really participate, but you'll find that your calculations will be all screwy without it.

    So you can save the baby but not decide that they are equally important? Thing is, if neither matters to you (or both are equally important) the situation changes. It's no longer about saving the man or baby. You might decide to do nothing because it's convenient. You might decide to ignore the whole thing and look at cloud patterns in the sky. You might decide to save the baby because you felt like taking a quick jog.

    In the end, it all boils down to how if you didn't feel like expending extra energy (ie intervening) at the time, the baby would die. Reversing this (old man dies if you didn't feel like doing anything) wouldn't affect your decision in the slightest. So to me it doesn't make sense when you imply that you can intervene but not decide that they are equally important, when you say that not intervening can imply that you decided that they were equally important.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  19. dmc

    dmc Speak softly and carry a big briefcase Staff Member Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice - Neil Peart

    See, there's a Rush lyric for every situation.

    Legally, there is more culpability tied to taking action than refusing to take action. This is a moral question though, not a legal one. I think the point of the exercise is to get you to grapple with your innate prejudices on the value of a life and the effects of taking action.
     
  20. Erod Gems: 14/31
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    Yeah, I was thinking of a second degree. But it would probably be manslaughter, now that I looked it up a bit more. But in any case, someone died because of your actions.
     
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