Sinking boat moral dilemma

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:34 am

Well I was having a wee look through the archives this arvo and came across David's thread on the classic train track 5 vs. 1 moral dilemma, and I went looking on the internet for others to satisfy my curiosity, and I came across a good one, at least I think so anyway:

You're on a ship in the North Atlantic, the ocean is freezing cold. The ship hits an iceburg and begins to sink. The crew ready the lifeboats and everyone finds themselves a place. As the lifeboat you are sitting in is lowered into the water, you and the other 9 passengers realize there is a hole in your lifeboat, and it is taking on water. Using your genius, you calculate that if 9 of you bail out in shifts, with one person taking a 10 minute break at a time to recover their strength, you will be able to keep the raft afloat for 5 hours. During this time you hope to be rescued by another ship but it's really down to chance whether you will be rescued, or drown/die of hypothermia when your lifeboat finally sinks.

As you thought up the idea, you elect to be the first to take a 10 minute break, and as you're taking said break you look across the water and notice your friend from aboard the ship in another of the lifeboats not far off, he yells to you that there's space for one more person in their life raft and that you should swim across and join him. They can't take any more than that or the boat will be swamped.

You do some quick deductions and realize that if you leave your current lifeboat, without being able to take a periodic rest, the 9 people left will lose their strength over time, and instead of the boat taking 5 hours to sink - If you decide to leave, it will only take 2 hours to sink, this greatly diminishes their already tenuous chance of being saved.

You realize that your friend's lifeboat is in a current and is quickly drifting away, which will soon make it impossible to swim to, time is of the essence and you must make a decision:

1. Stay with the 9 people in your current sinking lifeboat, and hope that a ship arrive to pick you up within the next 5 hours before it sinks.
2. Leave your lifeboat, swim to the safety of your friend's lifeboat where you will eventually be saved. Resulting in the people in your old lifeboat only having 2 hours left until they sink.

Do you stay with them and risk all of you perishing after 5 hours when nobody comes to the rescue? Do you secure your own life and live with the guilt of knowing that your actions may have led 9 human beings to a watery grave?

What would you do?
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
User avatar
BlackBird
 
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:17 am

Jack,

Realistically, given that after about thirty seconds exposure to freezing arctic or antarctic water, one is going to either die from drowning or hypothermia then I would recommend staying put in the boat and putting a plug in the hole.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief

Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 15900
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:44 am

Ben wrote:Jack,

Realistically, given that after about thirty seconds exposure to freezing arctic or antarctic water, one is going to either die from drowning or hypothermia then I would recommend staying put in the boat and putting a plug in the hole.
kind regards,

Ben


Hi Ben, for the sake of the moral dilemma one should ignore practical concerns - As such all holes are unpluggable and one can safely swim to the other boat. This is a hypothetical situation put forth as a mental exercise,

If it doesn't interest you that's cool, but given the multi page interest in David's rail switch dilemma a few months back, I figure I'm not the only one that likes these kinds of thing.
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
User avatar
BlackBird
 
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby Ben » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:17 am

No, that's fine Jack. I didn't mean to hijack or derail your thread.
The training for my cert II in first aid is still fresh in my memory and as you have discerned my interest in ethics isn't so much in the hypothetical.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global Relief

Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 15900
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby befriend » Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:31 am

i think when we answer these questions we should get to the meat of it, an not get sidetracked in well is the raft full of good people or bad people etc...just suspend the eroneous details. i would stay with the raft and prepare for death, and do whatever practice a buddhist does before death. if you can increase the chance of your rescue by three hours to save your raft then i would say that is noble. i think that deed of extending the time of possible rescue would brighten the minds of those aboard, and clearly brighten your mind, so if your werent rescued your mind state before death might be wholesome. another element to add to the quandry.
befriend
 
Posts: 787
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:39 am

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby alan » Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:32 pm

Swim over to your friend. After all, she cared enough to help you, right? It wouldn't be proper to leave her wondering why you ignored her for the rest of her life.
Once you're rescued, sue the lifeboat company for negligence, then use some of the money to buy a sheep farm in New Zealand--preferably with a nice view over a quiet lake. With the rest, set up a Dhamma center in your town.

Simple!
alan
 
Posts: 2476
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby Sadge » Sat Apr 13, 2013 1:36 pm

Stay, I'm an optimist and would think we would be saved. Plus I would not want them to have less of a chance because of me. Also could not live with the guilt of leaving.
User avatar
Sadge
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2011 2:30 am
Location: U. K

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 13, 2013 3:47 pm

BlackBird wrote:Hi Ben, for the sake of the moral dilemma one should ignore practical concerns


But moral dilemmas are necessarily shaped by practical concerns; if there would be no practical concerns, there would be no moral dilemmas.
If resources (time, energy, money, material means etc.) would be unlimited, then there would be no problem, no dilemma.

That is, unless one were trying to explore pure evil. Ie. if one were to explore scenarios where resources are unlimited, but agents nevertheless choose morally reprehensible courses of action.
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby santa100 » Sat Apr 13, 2013 4:37 pm

BlackBird wrote:
your friend from aboard the ship in another of the lifeboats not far off, he yells to you that there's space for one more person in their life raft and that you should swim across and join him. They can't take any more than that or the boat will be swamped


Yell out to your friend in the other life boat to row as hard as he can against the current to slow their boat down while at the same time ask the people on your boat to row as hard as they can to speed your boat up. Once the 2 boats meet, apply the bail out in shifts as usual, except that the person who "bails out" simply jump onto the other boat, thus avoiding the freezing water and risking death of hypothermia. At the same time, have all 20 brains on both boats thinking real hard to come up with the best solution to plug that darn hole. Hopefully there'll be a genius among them who can solve the problem..
santa100
 
Posts: 1491
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 10:55 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby SamKR » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:25 pm

I don't know what I would actually do in the situation.
But based on the Buddha's teachings it is crystal clear that staying is the best option in that situation.
SamKR
 
Posts: 750
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:33 pm
Location: Virginia

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby manas » Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:57 pm

Here in the comfort of my warm living room, it would be easy to say I would stay - after all, that is the more noble thing to do. But in such difficult, life-threatening conditions, I'm going to be brutally honest and say, it would depend on who is in the boat with the hole in it. I am willing to risk my life for other close family members, but otherwise, I would say sorry to the others, wish them luck with keeping the boat afloat, and consider my children and how much they need their father in their lives - (myself being a parent with young kids) - and swim to the safety of the other boat.

:anjali:
The greatest warrior of all time turned out to be the most peaceful one.
User avatar
manas
 
Posts: 2098
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:04 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby Samma » Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:19 pm

Take a poll of the boat or ask most knowledgeable person and ask if they think it likely we will be rescued in 5hours and however long you could swim.
If not, bye-bye.

Secondly, is someone in the boat that should have priority?
World renown cancer research or whatever.

Or the dark ending. When the other people in the boat hear, half jump and swim to the other boat swamping it and all of them die? :candle:
Samma
 
Posts: 162
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:47 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Apr 13, 2013 9:44 pm

From the 1st precept view point there's no breaking it if you decide to escape death. You didn't cause their deaths. You simply abstained from helping them. Most of these moral dilemas (I enjoy them, don't get me wrong) have the same flaw: they equate lack of action in one direction with action in the opposite direction.

So yeah, I think I would leave.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
User avatar
Modus.Ponens
 
Posts: 1939
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:38 am
Location: Funchal, Portugal

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby reflection » Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:06 pm

What happened to 'women and children first'?

That's what I would choose - here from my comfortable chair behind the computer at least. Let a woman or child take the seat to be saved.
User avatar
reflection
 
Posts: 1115
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:27 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:25 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:From the 1st precept view point there's no breaking it if you decide to escape death. You didn't cause their deaths. You simply abstained from helping them. Most of these moral dilemas (I enjoy them, don't get me wrong) have the same flaw: they equate lack of action in one direction with action in the opposite direction.

So yeah, I think I would leave.


I don't read that into it, I read that if you leave you have to deal with the potential guilt of knowing that you may have been able to save the lives of 9 others by remaining aboard, not that you're actually a killer.

I'm with Manas on this one. Hypothetically speaking I would stay, but put in the reality of the situation I cannot say that the drive for self preservation would not lead me to jump ship.

alan wrote:Swim over to your friend. After all, she cared enough to help you, right? It wouldn't be proper to leave her wondering why you ignored her for the rest of her life.
Once you're rescued, sue the lifeboat company for negligence, then use some of the money to buy a sheep farm in New Zealand--preferably with a nice view over a quiet lake. With the rest, set up a Dhamma center in your town.

Simple!


Glad to see you're still around Alan.

Ben wrote:No, that's fine Jack. I didn't mean to hijack or derail your thread.
The training for my cert II in first aid is still fresh in my memory and as you have discerned my interest in ethics isn't so much in the hypothetical.
kind regards,

Ben


That's cool Ben, no harm done. :)
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
User avatar
BlackBird
 
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:34 am

BlackBird wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:From the 1st precept view point there's no breaking it if you decide to escape death. You didn't cause their deaths. You simply abstained from helping them. Most of these moral dilemas (I enjoy them, don't get me wrong) have the same flaw: they equate lack of action in one direction with action in the opposite direction.

So yeah, I think I would leave.


I don't read that into it, I read that if you leave you have to deal with the potential guilt of knowing that you may have been able to save the lives of 9 others by remaining aboard, not that you're actually a killer.


If that was the case it wouldn't be a dilema, since we face that decision every day by, for example, not saving money to feed people in Africa or give them medical treatment. Every book, CD, DVD, gas money, car, etc. Could save people's lives. We don't do that every day. So it's only a dilema if you believe in the equality between not acting in one direction and acting in the opposite direction.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
User avatar
Modus.Ponens
 
Posts: 1939
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:38 am
Location: Funchal, Portugal

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:50 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:From the 1st precept view point there's no breaking it if you decide to escape death. You didn't cause their deaths. You simply abstained from helping them. Most of these moral dilemas (I enjoy them, don't get me wrong) have the same flaw: they equate lack of action in one direction with action in the opposite direction.

So yeah, I think I would leave.


I don't read that into it, I read that if you leave you have to deal with the potential guilt of knowing that you may have been able to save the lives of 9 others by remaining aboard, not that you're actually a killer.


If that was the case it wouldn't be a dilema, since we face that decision every day by, for example, not saving money to feed people in Africa or give them medical treatment. Every book, CD, DVD, gas money, car, etc. Could save people's lives. We don't do that every day. So it's only a dilema if you believe in the equality between not acting in one direction and acting in the opposite direction.


Respectfully, I completely disagree. :)
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
User avatar
BlackBird
 
Posts: 1854
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby James the Giant » Sun Apr 14, 2013 11:27 am

I'd like to think I would stay and help bail.
Risking or giving up my life to help people survive... that's a good use of a life I reckon.
The Titanic survivors only had to wait around 2 hours before the Carpathia arrived, so I'm banking on a nearby ship and good karma for a favourable rebirth.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
User avatar
James the Giant
 
Posts: 774
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:41 am
Location: Perth, Australia

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby alan » Sun Apr 14, 2013 11:47 am

An effective mental exercise on moral issues must create a dilemma. You've left too many holes in the story--it is way too easy to find another way out of the situation. Nice try, though.
alan
 
Posts: 2476
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby James the Giant » Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:40 pm

It is interesting how many people are unwilling to engage with the scenario, and instead weasel out by finding loopholes and gaps to avoid having to make the choice.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
User avatar
James the Giant
 
Posts: 774
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:41 am
Location: Perth, Australia

Next

Return to Open Dhamma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], Yahoo [Bot] and 4 guests