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Sinking boat moral dilemma - Dhamma Wheel

Sinking boat moral dilemma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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BlackBird
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Location: New Zealand

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?
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." -

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Ben
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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
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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BlackBird
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Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

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

"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." -

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Ben
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Location: kanamaluka

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
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

befriend
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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.
nothing can destroy a man who has lived a pure life

alan
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Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

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!

Sadge
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Location: U. K

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.

binocular
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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

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


santa100
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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

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


SamKR
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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.

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manas
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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:
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

Samma
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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:

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Modus.Ponens
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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.
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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reflection
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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.

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BlackBird
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Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

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

"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." -

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Modus.Ponens
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Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 2:38 am
Location: Gallifrey

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

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

He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

User avatar
BlackBird
Posts: 1925
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

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

"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." -

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James the Giant
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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.

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

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.

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James the Giant
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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.


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