Boat Ethical Dilemmas

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 3:18:43 AM

Boat Ethical Dilemmas

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Would you sacrifice one person to save five? - Eleanor Nelsen

The most obviously relevant consequences are pain and pleasure. Generally speaking, utilitarian theories look to minimise pain and maximise pleasure. For example, a utilitarian might argue that it is justified for a poor person to steal from a rich person because the money would cause more happiness for the poor person than it would cause unhappiness for the rich person. Similarly, a utilitarian might argue that murder is justified if the victim is himself a murderer and so killing him would save 10 lives.

Jeremy Bentham is widely considered to be the first utilitarian philosopher. His act utilitarianism can be boiled down to three claims:. Act utilitarianism is sometimes called quantitative utilitarianism. Bentham provides the felicific calculus as a way to calculate utility in this way. So, for example, if two different courses of action lead to two different intensities of pleasure, then the ethically right course of action is the one that leads to the more intense pleasure.

It gets complicated, though, when comparing intensity with duration, say. Anyway, the felicific calculus should in theory provide a means to calculate the total happiness: add up all the pleasures and minus all the pains. Act utilitarians would agree that the morally good action is the one that maximises the total happiness. Note: many of the problems with act utilitarianism below inspired the alternative versions of utilitarianism e. If you are writing an essay i. And how do you quantify and compare each of the seven variables? How do you decide between, say, a longer-lasting dull pleasure and a short-lived but more intense pleasure? Are we supposed to hook everyone up to brain scanners every time we are faced with an ethical choice?

For example, imagine a scenario where a nasty murder has taken place and an angry crowd are baying for blood. In other words, it would make the crowd happy to see the perpetrator apprehended and punished for his crimes. They could just lie and frame an innocent man instead. After all, there are 10, of them and only one of him hence, tyranny of the majority. In fact, it would be morally wrong not to!

Possible response: rule utilitarianism. But act utilitarianism is concerned only with the greatest good for the greatest number. There are no grounds, then, to justify acting to maximise their happiness over some random person on the street. You get the idea. If we sincerely followed act utilitarianism we would never be morally permitted to spend time and money with our loved ones.

Or, you could argue that certain relationships have a unique moral status and that act utilitarianism forces us to ignore these moral obligations. Mill argues that people who have experienced the higher pleasures of thought, feeling, and imagination always prefer them to the lower pleasures of the body and the senses. Higher pleasures, he says, are more valuable than simple pleasures. Thus, Mill famously says:. There are situations where we might prefer something even if it makes us less happy, and situations where we might prefer something not happen even though it would make us more happy.

In other words, the machine maximises your happiness and minimises your pain. Yet despite maximising happiness, many people would prefer not to enter the experience machine. These people would prefer to live a real life and be in contact with reality even though a real life means less happiness and more pain compared to the experience machine. According to act utilitarianism, everyone should enter the experience machine because all that matters is maximising happiness.

We realise there are things in life more important than simple pleasure — such as being in contact with reality — but act utilitarianism ignores our preferences for these things. Possible response: preference utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of general rules rather than specific actions act utilitarianism. This provides a response to the tyranny of the majority objection to act utilitarianism above. Although in this specific instance punishing the innocent man leads to greater happiness, as a general rule it would lead to more unhappiness. For example, if you lived in a society where you knew innocent people were regularly framed, you would worry that it might happen to you.

Preference utilitarianism is a non-hedonistic form of utilitarianism. This provides a response to the experience machine objection to act utilitarianism above. Act utilitarianism says we should shove everyone into the experience machine — whether they want to go in or not — because doing so would maximise their happiness. A related example would be carrying out the wishes of the dead. However, if a deceased person expressed a preference for their money to be donated to the local cat shelter, say, then it seems there is a moral obligation to honour this preference.

Act utilitarianism, though, would say we should ignore the preferences of the deceased and just spend the money in whichever way maximises happiness — but this seems wrong. Preference utilitarianism can avoid this outcome and say we should respect the preferences of the dead. Mill claims that higher pleasures are just inherently more valuable than lower pleasures, but preference utilitarianism can explain this in terms of preference: We prefer higher pleasures over lower pleasures, and so should seek to maximise those. Good will is one that acts for the sake of duty. This, according to Kant, is the source of moral worth.

Kant argues that we each have a duty to follow the moral law. The moral law, according to Kant, is summarised by the categorical imperative. There are two kinds of maxims rules : categorical and hypothetical. Kant gives two ways to test whether a maxim applies universally. He also gives another formula for the categorical imperative, called the humanity formula. Example: we might ask Kant whether it is morally acceptable to steal. If stealing was universally acceptable, then you could take whatever you wanted from someone, and the owner of the object would have no argument against it.

So, in a world where stealing is universally acceptable, the concept of private property disappears. If there is no such thing as private property, then stealing is impossible. Therefore, stealing is not morally permissible. If a maxim leads to a contradiction in conception, you have a perfect duty not to follow that maxim. It is always wrong. Assuming the maxim does not result in a contradiction in conception, we must then ask whether the maxim results in a contradiction in will — i.

There is no contradiction in conception in a world where nobody helps anyone else. But we cannot rationally will it , says Kant. The reason for this is that sometimes we have goals Kant calls these ends that cannot be achieved without the help of others. To will the ends, we must also will the means. Of course, not all goals require the help of others. Hence, Kant argues this results in an imperfect duty. Kant gives another formulation of the categorical imperative :. Treating someone as a means to your own end means to use them.

If you pretend to love someone to marry them and take their money, you treat them as a means to make money. By withholding your true intentions, you prevent the other party from rationally pursuing their own ends e. In this case you can both rationally use each other for mutual benefit. You acknowledge each others ends , even if they are not the same. Kant argues that ignoring a perfect duty leads to a contradiction in conception.

Both of these maxims can be universalised without undermining the concept of private property. They would apply rarely enough that there would be no breakdown in the concept of private property. By defining maxims cleverly, it seems possible to justify any course of action using the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative is concerned with the actual maxim I am acting on and not some arbitrary one I just made up. There is a strong intuition that consequences i. Is it right to kill one person to save five people? Kant would say no, a utilitarian would say yes. But what about people? Or the entire population of the world? Surely if the consequences are significant enough we should consider breaking certain rules?

Another example is stealing. The problem with such rigid rules is drawn out further in the lies section of applied ethics. These thought experiments seem to draw out absurd and morally questionable results from following rules too strictly. One of his patients, whom he has diagnosed as HIV positive, is about to receive a blood transfusion prior to being released from the hospital. He has told Ken, in the confidence of their doctor-patient relationship, that after he gets his transfusion, and his medicine from Ken, he intends to infect as many people as possible with HIV starting that evening.

Because Ken is bound by doctor-patient confidentiality, there is no legal way to stop this man from carrying out his plan. Even if Ken warned the police, they would not be able to arrest him, since his medical information is protected. It occurs to Ken that he could contaminate his medication by putting an untraceable poison in it that will kill him before he gets a chance to infect others. Tom is part of a group of ecologists who live in a remote stretch of jungle. The entire group, which includes eight children, has been taken hostage by a group of paramilitary terrorists.

One of the terrorists takes a liking to Tom. He informs Tom that his leader intends to kill him and the rest of the hostages the following morning. He is willing to help Tom and the children escape, but as an act of good faith he wants Tom to torture and kill one of his fellow hostages whom he does not like. If Tom refuses his offer, all the hostages including the children and Tom will die. If he accepts his offer, then the others will die in the morning but Tom and the eight children will escape. Should Tom torture and kill one of his fellow hostages in order to escape from the terrorists and save the lives of the eight children?

Mary is in a hospital lounge waiting to visit a sick friend. A young man sitting next to Mary explains that his father is very ill. The doctors believe that he has a week to live at most. He explains further that his father has a substantial life insurance policy that expires at midnight. If his father dies before midnight, this young man will receive a very large sum of money. After talking with him Mary can tell this man is in desperate need of the money to feed his family. Mark is a crewperson on a marine-research submarine traveling underneath a large iceberg. An onboard explosion has damaged the ship, killed and injured several crewmembers. Additionally, it has collapsed the only access corridor between the upper and lower parts of the ship.

The upper section, where Mark and most of the others are located, does not have enough oxygen remaining for all of them to survive until Mark has reached the surface. Only one remaining crewmember is located in the lower section, where there is enough oxygen. There is an emergency access hatch between the upper and lower sections of the ship. If released by an emergency switch, it will fall to the deck and allow oxygen to reach the area where Mark and the others are.

However, the hatch will crush the crewmember below, since he was knocked unconscious and is lying beneath it. Mark and the rest of the crew are almost out of air though, and they will all die if Mark does not do this. Should Mark release the hatch and crush the crewmember below to save himself and the other crew members? They have orders to kill all remaining civilians over the age of two. Jane and some of the townspeople have sought refuge in two rooms of the cellar of a large house. Outside Jane hears the voices of soldiers who have come to search the house for valuables. If Jane turns on the noisy furnace to block the sound, the other room will become uncomfortably hot for adults and children, but deadly for infants.

Doug is on a cruise ship when there is a fire on board, and the ship has to be abandoned. The lifeboats are carrying many more people than they were designed to carry. The seas start to get rough, and the boat begins to fill with water. A group of old people are in the water and ask Doug to throw them a rope so they can come aboard the lifeboat. It seems to Doug that the boat will sink if it takes on any more passengers. Carrie is a doctor working in a hospital. In a certain room of the hospital are four of her patients.

In another room there is one of her patients. If she does nothing the fumes will rise up into the room containing the four patients and cause their deaths. The only way to avoid the deaths of these patients is to hit a switch that will cause the fumes to bypass the room containing the four patients. As a result of doing this, the fumes will enter the room containing the single patient against her will. If she does this, the woman will die, but the other four patients will live. You are an inmate in a concentration camp. A sadistic guard is about to hang your son who tried to escape and wants you to pull the chair from underneath him. You are an emergency worker that has just been called to the scene of an accident.

When you arrive you see that the car belongs to your wife. Fearing the worst you rush over, only to see she is trapped in her car with another man. You reel back in shock, devastated by what you have just found out. As you step back, the wreck in front of you comes into focus. You see your wife is seriously hurt and she needs attention straight away. You look at the seat next to her and see her lover.

If you attend to your wife, her lover will bleed to death, and you may not be able to save her anyway. If you work on the lover, you can save his life, but your wife will definitely die. You are the network administrator for a rather large company. You have a young family and need your job to support them. Part of your responsibility as a network administrator is to monitor the emails for the organization.

Usually this just means occasionally allowing through emails for staff members that have been accidentally blocked by the spam filters. One day you get a helpdesk request from a staff member asking for an email to get released. You recognize the name on the helpdesk request so quickly attend to the problem. You scan the rest of the contents of the email and there is no doubt that she has been having an affair for some time now. Your initial reaction is to call your friend up and tell him about the email, however you quickly realize that company policy is very strict about revealing the contents of staff emails, and you will certainly lose your job if your boss finds out.

However you feel that by not telling your friend you are helping his wife to get away with adultery and this troubles you greatly. The Pregnant Lady and The Dynamite. A pregnant woman leading a group of five people out of a cave on a coast is stuck in the mouth of that cave. In a short time high tide will be upon them, and unless she is unstuck, they will all be drowned except the woman, whose head is out of the cave. Fortunately, or unfortunately, someone has with him a stick of dynamite. There seems no way to get the pregnant woman loose without using the dynamite which will inevitably kill her; but if they do not use it everyone else will drown. You and your family are going away for the weekend. Your daughter is 7 and is best friends with your niece, who is also 7.

Your families are very close and your daughter asks if your niece can come with you on your holiday. You arrive at your holiday destination and the house you are staying at backs onto a beach. The girls ask if they can go for a swim. You tell them that they have to wait until you have unpacked the car, but they can play on the sand directly in front of the beach. They run down to the sand, and you begin to unpack the car. After about 5 minutes, you hear screaming coming from the direction of the beach and it sounds like the girls. There is no one else on the beach and the girls are caught in a rip tide. You swim out quickly, but when you get there, you realize that there is no way you will be able to get both the girls back to the shore on your own.

You need to decide which of the girls you will rescue first, you have enough strength and energy to rescue them both, but you can only do it one at a time. You look at the two girls, and your niece is really struggling to hold her head above water and you know if you take your daughter back first, there will be little or no chance that she will survive. The Bali Drugs Charge. You are on holiday in Bali with your wife and 18 year old son. You have been there for a week and are ready to head home. All three of you are at the airport getting ready to board your plane, when an armed officer comes around with a sniffer dog. At first you feel angry that he would do such a thing and start planning your responsibility lecture, but then you realize that you are in Bali, and they have a zero tolerance policy on drugs, meaning your son could be jailed for life, or worse, executed, if he does have some illicit materials in his bag.

You look at your wife and realize she has come to the same conclusion and has gone pale with fear. The armed officer accompanying the dog is beginning to look more stern with every sniff the dog takes and looks directly at you and asks you to open to the bag. You see your wife in the corner of your eye, and she is about to step forward and claim it as her own. A madman who has threatened to explode several bombs in crowded areas has been apprehended. Unfortunately, he has already planted the bombs and they are scheduled to go off in a short time. It is possible that hundreds of people may die. The authorities cannot make him divulge the location of the bombs by conventional methods. He refuses to say anything and requests a lawyer to protect his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.

In exasperation, some high level official suggests torture. This would be illegal, but the official is sure that it will make him tell the truth in time for you to find and defuse the bombs. What if you know that the bomber can withstand torture himself, but would talk if you were to torture his innocent wife instead? You are going on a cruise. As it is lowered however, it hits the side of the ship, putting a hole in the side of the raft, and when it hits the water it begins to sink. While taking your break, you glance over to another boat and notice that a friend of yours whom you met on the boat is there and has noticed your predicament.

There is only just enough room for one more person.

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