The right thing does make sense

By Sova

November 20, 2008

Logic and ethics - does it go hand in hand - I think so.

Suppose Bill is a healthy man without family or loved ones. Would it be ok painlessly to kill him if his organs would save five people, one of whom needs a heart, another a kidney, and so on? If not, why not? Consider another case: you and six others are kidnapped, and the kidnapper somehow persuades you that if you shoot dead one of the other hostages, he will set the remaining five free, whereas if you do not, he will shoot all six. (Either way, he'll release you.) If in this case you should kill one to save five, why not in the previous, organs case? If in this case too you have qualms, consider yet another: you're in the cab of a runaway tram and see five people tied to the track ahead. You have the option of sending the tram on to the track forking off to the left, on which only one person is tied. Surely you should send the tram left, killing one to save five. But then why not kill Bill? '

Why not? Since we do not know more about Bill other than he has no family there is a chance that he is genius doctor and will be able to heal the other five, and that way nobody dies.

Ok it's unlikely, still not convinced? Read on.

But let's step back for a second and think about what is it we are trying to accomplish. We are trying to help individuals in misfortune and save as many as possible.

What sets Bill aside is that Bill is not in misfortune, Bill is not sick, nor tied to tracks, nor kidnapped. If we use Bill to save the others we have forced a fortunate individual to share the fate of the unfortunate ones. By doing this we are discouraging people/members of the group to be fortunate. In the extreme case above everybody will want to be sick and nobody will ever want to get healthy - since if healthy he/she is likely to share Bill's fate. Clearly not what we tried to accomplish.

In this universe there is a sufficient evidence that groups that encourage their members to behave act fortunately are more likely to succeed than those that not, and the more fortunate members a group has the more fortunate the group is. Finally fortunate groups are more likely to save their unfortunate members - which was our original goal.

In my mind the ethical thing is also the logical thing to do. And I'm not sure why the philosophers are puzzled.

I have a case of my own. Tom is a fireman. He can find people in the burning buildings like nobody else. He chooses to save two small children and the cost of his own life. Next day a school goes up in flames but the Fire department was not yet able to replace Tom and 20 kids die. Tom would have been able to save at least 7 of them.

We do not know the future and therefore the safer and more responsible approach is to try to help the ones in need but not at the cost of the rescuers life.

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„Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.“  — Albert Einstein

„Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.“  — Albert Einstein

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