Sinking boat moral dilemma

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby alan » Sun Apr 14, 2013 1:03 pm

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. A dilemma is a choice between two bad outcomes. There must be no other options available.
Constructing a useful moral dilemma is difficult in the abstract and may never be worthwhile in a real world situation.
Unless perhaps you are teaching a group of teenagers who have never thought about this before.
alan
 
Posts: 2555
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 1:15 pm

alan wrote:Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. A dilemma is a choice between two bad outcomes. There must be no other options available.
Constructing a useful moral dilemma is difficult in the abstract and may never be worthwhile in a real world situation.
Unless perhaps you are teaching a group of teenagers who have never thought about this before.

So, out with it then; which?
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
User avatar
James the Giant
 
Posts: 784
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:41 am

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby alan » Sun Apr 14, 2013 1:29 pm

Which what, Big James?
alan
 
Posts: 2555
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby binocular » Sun Apr 14, 2013 2:25 pm

alan wrote:Perhaps I wasn't clear enough. A dilemma is a choice between two bad outcomes. There must be no other options available.
Constructing a useful moral dilemma is difficult in the abstract and may never be worthwhile in a real world situation.
Unless perhaps you are teaching a group of teenagers who have never thought about this before.


Agreed.

It seems that pondering such "moral dilemmas" and trying to decide in them somehow can satisfy the human desire for drama, and the desire to appear morally superior, to maintain the image of a morally superior person.

:embarassed:
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Mon Apr 15, 2013 12:15 am

It surprises me the amount of people who want to pick holes in, or criticise an abstract idea that I posted for a bit of fun, as a thought exercise. There's really no need for it. There's no real world application here, it's just a thought exercise to generate a bit of conversation. I don't think it says anything about a person one way or another. Sure it's not the best one out there and there's a lot of things that need to be set a side. But why do you care so much? If it's not your thing, then don't post. Sorry I haven't satisfied all your requisite perfections for a moral dilemma :tongue:

Binocular, I'll reiterate what I said above, it's just a bit of fun. There's no desire to satisfy a need for drama or moral superiority in me, nor in anybody else that I can see in this thread.

metta
Jack
"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." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
User avatar
BlackBird
 
Posts: 1861
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby SarathW » Mon Apr 15, 2013 1:18 am

This question was put to the test on a management training programme.
People came up with different reasons for their decision. Outcome was that there is no right or wrong answer.
You can do whatever fits you for the situation.

However there is a Buddha’s story that he swan with his mother for her rescue, though his life was at risk. Perhaps I would do the same.

Problem is I can’t swim!
SOS
SarathW
 
Posts: 2186
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby zavk » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:57 am

BlackBird wrote:There's no real world application here, it's just a thought exercise to generate a bit of conversation.


Hi all

I'd say that such a thought exercise can be valuable, in that it may be a way for us to cultivate greater sensitivity towards the limits of our capacity to know, greater hospitality to the 'outside' of thought. And I would say that it is pertinent to the real world - not in the sense that it has any immediate calculable application, but in the more general sense of how it touches on a some aspects of our day-to-day relations that cannot be easily compartmentalised or contained with 'objective' knowledge.

There's a distinctive element that characterises the initial scenario and all the responses that have been posted: the element of the unkown or unknowningness. The scenario turns on the unknowingness of whether the group would survive or not if they had stayed together, whether the person who decides to go with his/her friend would be betraying the trust of the group or honouring one's friendship, etc. It could go both ways - the outcome remains unknown, or at any rate, unknowable in advance.

Regardless of the reasons one gives and the decision one makes, the element of unknowingness is not eliminated as such - it remains, despite our rationalisation and calculation. To be sure, the reasons we come up with may be sound reasons, but when the decision is made to act a certain way, the unknowingness of what one's decision would lead to remains an open question. Our knowledge of the situation up till that point, our knowledge of why we choose to act a certain way, only takes us that far - at the point where the decision is made, our capacity to objectively know reaches its limit, thought stands exposed to its outside.

What is it, then, that carries forth our decision? Could it be this thing called faith? Or if you prefer, trust, anticipatory confidence, fidelity - in any case, what is generally expressed by the notions of 'doing something in good faith', or saying 'Yours Faithfully'. What makes such scenarios difficult is because of our bonds of relationality to those involved: a good friend, a family member, loved ones, those to whom we have made a promise. The promise could be explicit such as when the person agrees to be part of the group; but the promise need not be articulated for it to be a promise, such as when we feel an unspoken responsibility those dear to us. In any case, aren't we making promises all the time when we say to our family, friends, and loved ones: "I love you', 'I'll see you around', 'I do'. When we say these things, we are effectively saying without articulating it: 'trust me, I will honour fidelity to our relationship.'

The relation between faith-as-trust-anticipatory-confidence-fidelity and knowledge is a reciprocal one. We reflect on the reasons why we ought to act a certain way, then we make the decision. But from that point it is no longer the duty of knowledge but the duty of faith-as-trust-anticipatory-confidence-fidelity to hold us true to our decision - which, btw, could very well generate consequences against our wishes. Things could always go pear shape. There is no guarantee that our decision would not meet its own ruin, that our faith-as-trust-anticipatory-confidence-fidelity would not be violated by its own chance. Our decision must expose itself to chance for it to be a decision in the first place.

So there is a certain double bind here. But I'd say that it is precisely because of this double bind - the lack of guarantee that our decision would not become that which burdens us - it is because of this im-possibility of guarantee, of objectively knowing in advance - that we have the ongoing movement of responsibility. Why exert constant effort to reflect on our decisions, to readjust them, to retake them, over and over again, if the decision is not exposed to what is beyond its capacity to know or settle once and for all? I believe the general thrust of what I'm suggesting is expressed by this passage in Tilt's signature:

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

:anjali:
With metta,
zavk
User avatar
zavk
 
Posts: 1161
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:04 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby binocular » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:01 am

BlackBird wrote:It surprises me the amount of people who want to pick holes in, or criticise an abstract idea that I posted for a bit of fun, as a thought exercise. There's really no need for it. There's no real world application here, it's just a thought exercise to generate a bit of conversation. I don't think it says anything about a person one way or another. Sure it's not the best one out there and there's a lot of things that need to be set a side. But why do you care so much? If it's not your thing, then don't post. Sorry I haven't satisfied all your requisite perfections for a moral dilemma :tongue:

Binocular, I'll reiterate what I said above, it's just a bit of fun. There's no desire to satisfy a need for drama or moral superiority in me, nor in anybody else that I can see in this thread.


Great! :guns:
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby Reductor » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:30 am

I'd stay, even if I really wanted to get home to my kids. And if they were grown up and no longer needed me, I'd stay without hesitation, since these other people would already be terrified by approaching death, and to leave them would be to compound that fear while increasing the odds of its realization.

Not that I'd be totally at ease with dying, myself, but that's my problem to come to grips with; but I don't trust other people to come to grips with their own mortality, and would seek to spare them that as much as possible.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

User avatar
Reductor
 
Posts: 1285
Joined: Sat Sep 12, 2009 6:52 am
Location: Alberta, Canada

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby BlackBird » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:56 am

Hi Ed

Thanks for your post which was as always a thought provoking read.

I think you've got to the heart of the matter when you point out that unknowingness is a crucial element of this.

My thinking on the matter goes like so:
Image

Only one of the four outcomes for me would be ideal, one is life for all and no moral repercussions, one represents death, the other represents guilt, and the final one represents shame. The decision would seem to be easy, but it's not.

Say you stay, and help does not arrive, as the boat is going under and you're about to die you wonder why you didn't take the chance to jump ship, at least then one life could have been saved - If the other life raft was here now, you'd take it, and probably not experience guilt for doing so, at least not as much than if you had braved the uncertainty of jumping at the start of things. Hindsight is 20/20 though.

Say you jump, and the help does not arrive, but because you shortened their remaining time, how can you know it would not have arrived in time to rescue them if you had stayed? Do you not share a degree of responsibility for consigning them to sink 3 hours earlier to save your own hide, when they might otherwise have lived?

Say you jump, and they do get saved anyway. They all send you abusive emails and letters berating you for your cowardice, how could you have left them at their moment of need? They got lucky to be rescued they say, and you could have killed them. You ask yourself what the point was in jumping ship - If only you had stayed on board you wouldn't have to go through the abuse. But again, hindsight is 20/20.

Finally, say you stay, and help does arrive in time. Everyone lives, and your friend from the other life boat asks you: Why the hell did you take the risk? How do you justify that? By saying you would rather have risked death than live in a world carrying the guilt of others lost lives, or the shame of being abused for your supposed cowardice and selfishness.

The fact is, when you make the decision you don't know what's going to happen. Even once you have made the decision there is still uncertainty over what the outcome will be.

zavk wrote:
BlackBird wrote:There's no real world application here, it's just a thought exercise to generate a bit of conversation.


What is it, then, that carries forth our decision? Could it be this thing called faith? Or if you prefer, trust, anticipatory confidence, fidelity - in any case, what is generally expressed by the notions of 'doing something in good faith', or saying 'Yours Faithfully'. What makes such scenarios difficult is because of our bonds of relationality to those involved: a good friend, a family member, loved ones, those to whom we have made a promise. The promise could be explicit such as when the person agrees to be part of the group; but the promise need not be articulated for it to be a promise, such as when we feel an unspoken responsibility those dear to us. In any case, aren't we making promises all the time when we say to our family, friends, and loved ones: "I love you', 'I'll see you around', 'I do'. When we say these things, we are effectively saying without articulating it: 'trust me, I will honour fidelity to our relationship.'



It's interesting that you make this point because the thought occurred to me at one stage to add a kicker to the game that would identify the people in your life boat as work colleagues or friends, as opposed to strangers. I think that would definitely modify the results. On the flipside, if they're all strangers and your wife and kids, mother and father are all at home eagerly awaiting your arrival from your trip on a ship, do you put your life on the line despite them?
"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." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
User avatar
BlackBird
 
Posts: 1861
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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
 
Posts: 2555
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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.
alan
 
Posts: 2555
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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:
User avatar
Zom
 
Posts: 824
Joined: Fri May 08, 2009 6:38 pm
Location: Russia, Saint-Petersburg

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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.
alan
 
Posts: 2555
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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.
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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...
Samma
 
Posts: 167
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:47 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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
alan
 
Posts: 2555
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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.
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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
alan
 
Posts: 2555
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:14 am
Location: Miramar beach, Fl.

Re: Sinking boat moral dilemma

Postby 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, ...?
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Open Dhamma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Coyote, Exabot [Bot], robertk, VinceField and 9 guests