Sinking boat moral dilemma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
alan
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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by alan » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:06 pm

If the good boat is close enough to swim to, it should also be close enough for them to paddle over and assist the sinking one. You could hear your friend, so she can hear you. Why not just yell for help?

alan
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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by alan » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:16 pm

zavk: I don't understand. Maybe I'm not smart enough. A distillation of the argument would be helpful.

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by Zom » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:23 pm

No matter what you decide now by thinking and pondering - in real-life situation your action will be absolutely different :hello:

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by alan » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:45 pm

Oh, I'm not sure about that.

The value of mental games like these is that it can help clarify your values, so if the time comes to make a momentous decision, it will not be disorienting.

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by binocular » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:38 pm

alan wrote:Oh, I'm not sure about that.

The value of mental games like these is that it can help clarify your values, so if the time comes to make a momentous decision, it will not be disorienting.
I think that for that, it's important to establish the big picture for life in general, the basic premises, to figure out what are the key principles by which one would like to act - ie. principles that will remain the same regardless of the specifics of the situation at hand.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by Samma » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:31 am

The essence of a dilemma is that whatever you pick it will be bad right?
So not surprising people don't want to answer.
Yet, I showed the pragmatic response.
If one does not take into account the likelihood of being rescued or not, then one makes decisions not grounded in actuality. And if one does not take into account which person should be saved, then one is selfish. This particular case does not seem any more complicated than that, besides nitpicking. Would anyone disagree?

In this way, I might argue that most dilemmas are not actually dilemmas. From what I understand, in philosophy, there is some argument as to whether there is such a thing as a genuine moral dilemma. There should be a best course of action. And if there are cases where there is not a best course, both are equally bad...well just flip a coin or whatever then.

What moral dilemmas are good at highlighting is what different people take to be most important, and then further discussions can come out of that...

alan
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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by alan » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:29 pm

Samma, binocular: the essence of a dilemma is that you'll be hurt, either way. You have to chose between two horns of the Bull charging at you. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I will have to point out once again that the choice must be imperative.

It usually boils down to "Do you choose yourself or others?" I think this is useful for introducing young people to basic ethics. Probably best used for soldiers going into war, where these situations are a very real possibility, and they will have to make decisions contrary to their basic presumptions.

Of course, most people in ordinary life will choose to stay alive. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. I do it.

Last point: I tend to disbelieve the motivations of those who claim they'd "be like the Buddha and sacrifice themselves to help the poor rabbit". Those stories are morality plays for children, not based upon the suttas, and not backed up by anything I've understood.

Wish you light on the path,
Alan

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by binocular » Tue Apr 16, 2013 7:41 pm

alan wrote:It usually boils down to "Do you choose yourself or others?" I think this is useful for introducing young people to basic ethics. Probably best used for soldiers going into war, where these situations are a very real possibility, and they will have to make decisions contrary to their basic presumptions.
It's also, for example, in instructions for how to act in the case of a plane crash if one is a passenger: save yourself first, don't wait for others.
Last point: I tend to disbelieve the motivations of those who claim they'd "be like the Buddha and sacrifice themselves to help the poor rabbit". Those stories are morality plays for children, not based upon the suttas, and not backed up by anything I've understood.
There is another factor when trying to resolve a moral dilemma: Namely, first one needs to figure out what one would do in the given scenario, and then one has to figure out how to formulate one's decision when talking to other people.
It is not socially acceptable (or politically correct) to state straightforwardly that one would watch out for one's own interest first; stating so clearly could get one labeled as mentally and morally pathological and one's reputation could suffer.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by alan » Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:00 pm

Everyone watches out for their own interests first. Everyone holds their life dear; even Queen Maalikaa admitted it to the King.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by binocular » Wed Apr 17, 2013 6:38 pm

alan wrote:Everyone watches out for their own interests first.
But how come there is a taboo on actually saying this?
What is accomplished by this taboo? A semblance of community, solidarity, ...?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:14 pm

binocular wrote:
alan wrote:Everyone watches out for their own interests first.
But how come there is a taboo on actually saying this?
What is accomplished by this taboo? A semblance of community, solidarity, ...?
The Buddha had this to say:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
[The Blessed One was at Saavatthii]

At this time King Pasenadi of Kosala was on the upper terrace of the palace with Queen Mallikaa. And the king asked her: "Mallikaa, is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"[1]

"Your Majesty, there is no one dearer to me than myself. And you, sire, is anyone dearer to you than yourself?"

"Nor is there anyone dearer to me, Mallikaa, than myself."

Then the king went down from the palace and visited the Blessed One [and told him the whole story.] And the Blessed One, understanding, thereupon uttered this verse:

Though in thought we range throughout the world,
We'll nowhere find a thing more dear than self.
So, since others hold the self so dear,
He who loves himself should injure none.


:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by BlackBird » Thu Apr 18, 2013 12:25 am

alan wrote:Everyone watches out for their own interests first. Everyone holds their life dear; even Queen Maalikaa admitted it to the King.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
Perhaps, but then I think there are a number of people who's own interests are the interests of others. There are plenty of examples throughout history, even recently of people sacrificing their lives to try and save the lives of others.

So I completely disagree with anyone who puts forth the view that everyone will look after themselves and only themselves in these kind of situations.

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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by Polar Bear » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:10 am

If I only had a couple seconds to decide, survival instincts would probably override any other concerns and I'd probably immediately jump off my boat and swim to the other one where I'd be safe and then I'd start to feel concerned for the people on the sinking boat once I was myself safe. If I had a few minutes to decide I'd be much more likely to stay but I still can't say for certain what I would do. Either way that situation would suck.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."

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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by binocular » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:31 am

mikenz66 wrote:
binocular wrote:
alan wrote:Everyone watches out for their own interests first.
But how come there is a taboo on actually saying this?
What is accomplished by this taboo? A semblance of community, solidarity, ...?
The Buddha had this to say:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
[The Blessed One was at Saavatthii]

At this time King Pasenadi of Kosala was on the upper terrace of the palace with Queen Mallikaa. And the king asked her: "Mallikaa, is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"[1]

"Your Majesty, there is no one dearer to me than myself. And you, sire, is anyone dearer to you than yourself?"

"Nor is there anyone dearer to me, Mallikaa, than myself."

Then the king went down from the palace and visited the Blessed One [and told him the whole story.] And the Blessed One, understanding, thereupon uttered this verse:

Though in thought we range throughout the world,
We'll nowhere find a thing more dear than self.
So, since others hold the self so dear,
He who loves himself should injure none.
Do you find that this sutta is suggesting that the reason there is a taboo on stating that "everyone watches out for their own interest first," is that others would feel injured if one were to state so?

I agree with this conclusion, although I don't see it in the sutta.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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mikenz66
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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:35 am

No I think that the Buddha is using the honest observation that we don't find anything more dear than our selves into a teaching of how we should therefore care for others.

:anjali:
Mike

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