g l o o m y s u n d a y (gloomy__sunday) wrote in moraltheory,
g l o o m y s u n d a y
gloomy__sunday
moraltheory

Today's Topic

If you see someone drowning, how much of a moral obligation do you have to save them?
Explain why, and whether or not you have this obligation depending on whether or not it is actually within your power to save them or not.

Do you have any other attached moral obligations- like to track down their family, or call a lifeguard or something of that sort, even after the person has died?
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It seems to me that a key feature of an 'obligation', as opposed to a supererogatory act, is that the failure to perform an obligation entails a strong sense of personal immorality.
Now if I don't try to help that person, then I'm valuing their life lower than whatever militates against me helping them: whether this is the risk to myself, the wettening of my clothes, or just making the effort. On the assumption that all sane humans value the wettening of their clothes or the making of a moderate effort at a certain, fairly low rate, as long as the risk to yourself is very small, by not helping you are showing yourself to put an incredibly low value on human life.
Admittedly, this serves merely to push the question back to why not caring about human life is a vice. But I think that it helps in linking this under our basic intuition as to whythat killing is wrong.
The degree of moral obligation is determined by the character and values of the person in the position to help, or not help. Such morality is not assigned or instilled, but when displayed, defines the person.

I would not risk my own life to save a drowning person, but would do everything I could to help. And if you think of a drowning person less literally, you realize that these circumstances happen much more frequently. I feel obliged to do everything I can to help anyone who is "drowning", when I am close enough to help. The hardest thing is to know what constitutes the best help, and how to give it.

I think there is a social obligation to contact the proper people after someone has died, and that kind of thing is natural and instinctive.
The only time when there is no obligation to attempt rescue is when you know the person who is drowning is a bad person. I'd save any morally neutral or good human being even at great personal risk from any fate I do not view them as personally responsible for.
What constitutes a "bad person"?
Does this mean we can also intentionally kill bad people?
In my opinion? Yes, we can, and should, kill bad people.

A bad person is someone who fails to exhibit even the basest level of virtue.
What is a virtue?
Why is it ok to kill someone who is like this? Are they not to be considered human? Or is it ok to kill humans?
It depends on how you define "human." I think we can all agree on certain obvious virtues: generosity, compassion, courage, loyalty, honesty. There are other commonly accepted virtues that are not universal: chastity, temperence, humility.

Ultimately, there are too many humans, and we're going to have to make a decision as to who is worth the space and who is not. We are going to have to decide whether or not we want to continue to allow corrupting elements of society to exist. It comes down to a question: if you could eliminate selfishness entirely by weeding out the most selfish of individuals over a long period of time, would you? I find it to be more than acceptable to thin the herd; to cut out the cancer so that the rest of the body can thrive.
And are you following the Aristotelean notion that virtues are a "golden mean" between one extreme and the other?
Don't you hurt my brain with your complicated math terms!

I think it's really late, because your sentence looks like greek to me. (Get it?)
*turns over in grave that isn't even dug yet*

How's that for a contradiction? o.0
You make it sound a little like ethical eugenics. o.O;;
I think it would work that way. Inherent morality can be trumped by societal indoctrination. If society has no selfishness, then it can no longer indoctrinate selfishness.
You realize that overgenerosity is a problem too.

Aristotle would agree with me ^_-
I don't think society can weed out traits such as selfishness because A) these aren't, to the best of current knowledge, genetic traits B) traits like selfishness-- merely the preservation instinct and natural self-interest-- are implicit in animal/human nature.
if you could eliminate selfishness entirely by weeding out the most selfish of individuals over a long period of time, would you?
You ask this, then seem to assume that we probably can. I think it's fairly clear that we couldn't.

Ultimately, there are too many humans, and we're going to have to make a decision as to who is worth the space and who is not. We are going to have to decide whether or not we want to continue to allow corrupting elements of society to exist.
Not if the world population growth rate levels out. Given how many contradictory ideas there are on this, and how often predictions have had to have been totally revised, I think we certainly can't say that we'll 'have to' make such a decision.

Also...who's we? Who does this killing? Who decides who's moral and immoral? Because if it's society as a whole, then your idea has been tried many times before, and has led to nothing but death and suffering on a massive scale.
i have to agree. it would be kind of like the blind leading the blind. humans are so irreversably corrupt that for a bunch of people to decide who's 'evil' and who's 'good' would be pretty ridiculous. the pot calling the kettle black and all...
i used to be a 'pool attendant'. it was a great job, minus all the sun and people. the best part about it, was that it wasn't actually in my job description to do anything at all if someone started drowning or what not. i wasn't a life guard, and even if i was, i wasn't required to save the unfortunate.

as far as i'm concerned, it all boils down to self preservation. if the person is in four feet of water and needs my assistance, i'll take off my headphones and help them. i doubt they could drag me to a watery grave in four feet. but when someone who can't swim dives into the eight foot section (it's happened) all i do is call the authorities and start trying to fish them out with a pole and hook (i don't think that's what it's called, but that's what it is). i'm not going to try to rescue someone who could accidentally take me with them. a child? sure. i'm confidant that i could support the weight of a child. an adult? no. too heavy.