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Plank of Carneades

Fabian_CH
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5/30/2011 11:32:36 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
A question about ethics:

The "Plank of Carneades"[1] proposes the following situation: after a shipwreck, two sailors both see a plank and swim to it. It turns out, however, that they are too heavy, and that the plank can only carry one of them. What would the moral choice be now? To give up the life-saving plank and thus to sentence oneself to death, or to push the other man off the plank (assuming he is unwilling to give it up) and, in effect, sign his death sentence? Or has whoever reaches the plank first some kind of right to it, which the other does not have and thus must resign himself to death?

And, because this a highly unlikely situation, here is the general question: if forced to choose between harm to oneself, particularly death, and harm to others, which would a moral man choose?

This general question could also apply to such problems as, e.g. a person who is being forced at gunpoint to shoot others, or a person who is starving, and could only save themselves by stealing others' food (Or, if you disagree that the same general question applies, you might explain the fundamental difference, and why one should choose one or the other way in different situations.)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
"What are we doing? Do we want to feed a starved humanity in order to let it live? Or do we want to strangle its life in order to feed it?"
- Andrei Taganov, We The Living (Ayn Rand)
headphonegut
Posts: 4,122
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5/30/2011 11:45:14 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
The term compromise one floats then swims when the other can no longer swim
crying to soldiers coming home to their dogs why do I torment myself with these videos?
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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5/30/2011 11:49:52 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
The question assumes a very juvenile and naive view of the world. Every action that you take has this result, the only difference is that you can not always see the man you are drowning but that does not make them any less dead. People however just get emotionally attached when they are physically involved.

You for example decided to go to college, this costs a significant amount of time and resources, the end result of this is that you have created significant value for yourself. However the same time and money could have saved countless people from starvation, sickness and death.

The general question is - is it moral to take an action to increase the value in one's own life knowing that this action is preventing another action which could create greater value, or prevent the loss of greater value to another.

There are many answers to this and they all depend on which moral philosphy that you ascribe to. One way to look at this objectively is to answer the question as to how you should act if you are one of the people involved but you do not get to know which one you are before you answer the question. This is one of the foundations of the ideal social contract theory of objective morality.
Fabian_CH
Posts: 232
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5/30/2011 12:26:18 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/30/2011 11:49:52 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
You for example decided to go to college, this costs a significant amount of time and resources, the end result of this is that you have created significant value for yourself. However the same time and money could have saved countless people from starvation, sickness and death.
Ah, but then according to that interpretation, would those other people be morally right to take this money from me, provided they are able?

Though I disagree with your premise. If I choose to spend such and such amount on something then I do it with my own money, value which I have created myself (or gotten as a gift from those who have). I am not destroying anything, at worst you could say that I am not causing some other thing to happen wich has not happened yet (and now, won't).

That is different from the question whether I should actively harm others to prevent harm to myself.

The general question is - is it moral to take an action to increase the value in one's own life knowing that this action is preventing another action which could create greater value, or prevent the loss of greater value to another.
Not in my interpretation (see above). Preventing something is different from actively causing something. The question is whether you should cause harm, not "not prevent harm from happening".
"What are we doing? Do we want to feed a starved humanity in order to let it live? Or do we want to strangle its life in order to feed it?"
- Andrei Taganov, We The Living (Ayn Rand)
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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5/30/2011 12:37:44 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/30/2011 12:26:18 PM, Fabian_CH wrote:

I am not destroying anything, at worst you could say that I am not causing some other thing to happen wich has not happened yet (and now, won't).

They are still dead either way regardless if you directly caused it or could have prevented it from happening. Look at it from the other side :

1) You are in a bar and over hear someone comment that they are planning to rape a woman when she leaves.

2) You do nothing.

3) The woman leaves and gets raped and ends up in an institution.

Are you not morally compelled to warn her. Would your decision change if you were the woman.

Second scenario :

1) You go into a drug store, you are body building and looking various supplements. Most of them are kind of expensive such as CQ10 and you work out that you are going to need about $500 to cover all of this, but hell you enjoy working out and these little jibs and jabs may give you an extra 0.5%.

2) You overhear a man plead for a prescription which his wife needs, without it she is going to have fatal seizures, however he simply does not have the money. He leaves without the drugs. The total cost of what he wants is less than half of the money you are spending.

Is is moral for you to refuse to give him the money. Would your decision change if were the other man or his wife.
OMGJustinBieber
Posts: 3,484
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5/30/2011 1:36:13 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I don't even know how much of a choice this would be in reality given that it's such a direct "one lives, one dies" case. It doesn't matter who gets to the plank first, in this case killing is synonymous with saving.

The question I find interesting is what would happen if one of the men is a Senator and the other is homeless and sickly. Maybe in this case it's an "ought to" situation, but I couldn't fault the homeless man for fighting for his life in that condition because it would just be demanding too much of him. In such a personal, one vs. one point it's difficult to override the idea of self-preservation. Utilitarian calculations have little practical use in these cases where the whole idea of it even being a choice is questionable.
Fabian_CH
Posts: 232
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5/30/2011 2:08:24 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/30/2011 11:45:14 AM, headphonegut wrote:
The term compromise one floats then swims when the other can no longer swim
I guess that's more or less the best answer; if one of them refuses, then the other's use of violence to secure the plank could be justified.
"What are we doing? Do we want to feed a starved humanity in order to let it live? Or do we want to strangle its life in order to feed it?"
- Andrei Taganov, We The Living (Ayn Rand)
Justin_Chains
Posts: 623
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5/31/2011 2:25:00 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/30/2011 2:08:24 PM, Fabian_CH wrote:
At 5/30/2011 11:45:14 AM, headphonegut wrote:
The term compromise one floats then swims when the other can no longer swim
I guess that's more or less the best answer; if one of them refuses, then the other's use of violence to secure the plank could be justified.

This.
Justin_Chains
Posts: 623
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5/31/2011 2:28:54 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/30/2011 12:37:44 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 5/30/2011 12:26:18 PM, Fabian_CH wrote:

I am not destroying anything, at worst you could say that I am not causing some other thing to happen wich has not happened yet (and now, won't).

They are still dead either way regardless if you directly caused it or could have prevented it from happening. Look at it from the other side :

1) You are in a bar and over hear someone comment that they are planning to rape a woman when she leaves.

2) You do nothing.

3) The woman leaves and gets raped and ends up in an institution.

Are you not morally compelled to warn her. Would your decision change if you were the woman.

Second scenario :

1) You go into a drug store, you are body building and looking various supplements. Most of them are kind of expensive such as CQ10 and you work out that you are going to need about $500 to cover all of this, but hell you enjoy working out and these little jibs and jabs may give you an extra 0.5%.

2) You overhear a man plead for a prescription which his wife needs, without it she is going to have fatal seizures, however he simply does not have the money. He leaves without the drugs. The total cost of what he wants is less than half of the money you are spending.

Is is moral for you to refuse to give him the money. Would your decision change if were the other man or his wife.

You fail to understand the point Cliff.

Fabian is talking about preventing harm to yourself by harming someone else. Both of your examples fail in reflecting his point and fail in answering the question.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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5/31/2011 3:03:40 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/31/2011 2:28:54 PM, Justin_Chains wrote:

Fabian is talking about preventing harm to yourself by harming someone else. Both of your examples fail in reflecting his point and fail in answering the question.

The point of blind social contract theory is that they are handled the same.
Fabian_CH
Posts: 232
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5/31/2011 3:06:30 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Social contract...? I do not follow.
"What are we doing? Do we want to feed a starved humanity in order to let it live? Or do we want to strangle its life in order to feed it?"
- Andrei Taganov, We The Living (Ayn Rand)
Justin_Chains
Posts: 623
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5/31/2011 3:25:05 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/31/2011 3:06:30 PM, Fabian_CH wrote:
Social contract...? I do not follow.

You won't be able to follow Fabian. Cliff's only purpose is to be an intelligent troll. He believes that nothing can truly be know and therefor contradicts anything that anyone says, because of this Pyhhronistic stance on life.

No matter what answer you give, he will try to contradict it some way.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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5/31/2011 4:19:46 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/31/2011 3:06:30 PM, Fabian_CH wrote:
Social contract...? I do not follow.

That morality is derived from an ideal social contract between individuals which is based on the assumption of perfect rationality of an external observer. There is a debate between Kagan and Craig where Kagan defends Craig's argument that objective morality can not exist without God and Kagan describes how you can in fact do just that. It is worth watching if only to see one of the few times that Craig is put completely on the defensive and loses control of the debate and at times is actually close to being speechless.
PARADIGM_L0ST
Posts: 6,958
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5/31/2011 5:09:24 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
The answer to the supposed dilemma is beat the other individual to death and use the corpse for both food and flotation.
"Have you ever considered suicide? If not, please do." -- Mouthwash (to Inferno)
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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5/31/2011 5:15:09 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/31/2011 5:09:24 PM, PARADIGM_L0ST wrote:
The answer to the supposed dilemma is beat the other individual to death and use the corpse for both food and flotation.

A similar solution is discussed on the youtube lectures on morality from Harvard.
Fabian_CH
Posts: 232
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6/1/2011 9:47:10 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 5/31/2011 4:19:46 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 5/31/2011 3:06:30 PM, Fabian_CH wrote:
Social contract...? I do not follow.

That morality is derived from an ideal social contract between individuals which is based on the assumption of perfect rationality of an external observer.
Huh, well then I don't agree with you. Morality isn't a function of others (a contract is), but of yourself.
"What are we doing? Do we want to feed a starved humanity in order to let it live? Or do we want to strangle its life in order to feed it?"
- Andrei Taganov, We The Living (Ayn Rand)
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/1/2011 11:07:47 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/1/2011 9:47:10 AM, Fabian_CH wrote:

Huh, well then I don't agree with you. Morality isn't a function of others (a contract is), but of yourself.

I never said it is a function of others. Hitler thought his actions were perfectly moral (one would assume), however it is still immoral through social contract theory which is an objective contruct, it exists ontologically even if epistemologically it is denied.
Justin_Chains
Posts: 623
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6/1/2011 3:42:25 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/1/2011 11:07:47 AM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 6/1/2011 9:47:10 AM, Fabian_CH wrote:

Huh, well then I don't agree with you. Morality isn't a function of others (a contract is), but of yourself.

I never said it is a function of others. Hitler thought his actions were perfectly moral (one would assume), however it is still immoral through social contract theory which is an objective contruct, it exists ontologically even if epistemologically it is denied.

False.

Explain your stance in detail and prove it that it is objectively true for every living spirit in existence.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/1/2011 4:13:56 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/1/2011 3:42:25 PM, Justin_Chains wrote:

Explain your stance in detail and prove it that it is objectively true for every living spirit in existence.

Justin, this is not my position, social contract theory was revitalized by John Rawls, one of, if not the most important political philosopher in the last century. The argument for a rational social contract through hypothetical construct experiments such as "the veil of ignorance" are argued and defended through peer review publications. If you actually have something meaningful to add to refute this position then by all means do so - as if you could do so through original thought then you would have a walk-in PhD at your leisure. As for your challenge, no problem - want to debate it?
Justin_Chains
Posts: 623
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6/1/2011 4:45:03 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/1/2011 4:13:56 PM, Cliff.Stamp wrote:
At 6/1/2011 3:42:25 PM, Justin_Chains wrote:

Explain your stance in detail and prove it that it is objectively true for every living spirit in existence.

Justin, this is not my position, social contract theory was revitalized by John Rawls, one of, if not the most important political philosopher in the last century. The argument for a rational social contract through hypothetical construct experiments such as "the veil of ignorance" are argued and defended through peer review publications. If you actually have something meaningful to add to refute this position then by all means do so - as if you could do so through original thought then you would have a walk-in PhD at your leisure. As for your challenge, no problem - want to debate it?

If you are going to try and prove that something is objectively true... Then I will accept your challenge any day.

The very act that in your reality something is "objectively" true and in my reality something in opposition is "objectively" true... Then both truths are subjective. Objective truth can't be proven, because a subjective life form with a subjective mind and a subjective reality, is the only thing that could try to prove it... And in doing so makes your evidence subject to a biased acceptance of something being believed as "objective truth".

The very fact that you form a belief which becomes accepted as an objective truth in your reality and I form a similar opposing opinion, this makes objective reality completely fail as pertains to the mind scope of subjective lifeforms.

You may believe in scientific gravity and that the "phenomena" is "A" And I believe that "gravity" does not exist, and the "phenomena" is worked by a powerful entity known as "Zootiria", but can be measured in the same way. But that Zootiria can use this phenomena as a tool however it pleases.

You cannot prove that my objective truth is any more invalid than your objective truth and that's because objective truth exists outside of the mind scope of a subjective life forms subjective reality. Once any information enters the subjective realm it is no longer truly objective.

Once night becomes day it is no longer night. Once up becomes down it is no longer up. Once objective truth becomes subjective it is no longer objective. Or more true, would be to say that it is still objective but cannot be perceived by lifeforms as objective, because our realities and all truths in our realities a subjective.

So, objective truth and subjective truth are both only half true. But neither can perceive eachother's existence in essence. Objective truth cannot perceive subjective truth subjective truth cannot perceive objective truth.

So yes, if you would like to prove how something can be objective in the realm of subjective realities, then by all means, go ahead.
CosmicAlfonzo
Posts: 5,955
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6/1/2011 4:50:43 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
You don't have to know what objective truth is for there to be objective truth, you know.
Official "High Priest of Secular Affairs and Transient Distributor of Sonic Apple Seeds relating to the Reptilian Division of Paperwork Immoliation" of The FREEDO Bureaucracy, a DDO branch of the Erisian Front, a subdivision of the Discordian Back, a Limb of the Illuminatian Cosmic Utensil Corp
Justin_Chains
Posts: 623
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6/1/2011 4:55:59 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/1/2011 4:50:43 PM, CosmicAlfonzo wrote:
You don't have to know what objective truth is for there to be objective truth, you know.

No, but you would not be able to perceive what objective truth really is from a stance of subjective reality. So it exists, but life will never be able to perceive it's truth, because life perceives from a subjective reality.
Cliff.Stamp
Posts: 2,169
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6/1/2011 8:14:25 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 6/1/2011 4:45:03 PM, Justin_Chains wrote:

[...]

So you have no warrant at all for your absurd and juvenile condemnation of a well respected published academic position and again refuse to debate it and again turn out another page of jibberish.

Sure I will debate the above once you define what all of the terms you are using mean so it is possible to understand what you are saying. It appears that you are confusing the ontological and the epistemological.