## Dollars or death?

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• 9.4k
A variation of the trolley problem I see. Like the original the idea is to present a dilemma. The choices on offer are all unacceptable in one way or another, and to top it all off, an unfortunate victim, couldn't be anything else, is asked forced to make a choice.

A couple of facts about dilemmas in general and this specific one need to be brought out into the open for all to see as it were.

1. Dilemmas are presented to the unlucky as choices but dig a little deeper and this turns out to be false. Imagine I offer you two vials both containing cyanide and I also stipulate that you must select one. Is that a choice at all? Both vials are identical in being undesirable. The same goes for the dilemma in the OP - they're identical i.e. both are equally things you wouldn't want to opt for. In short, a dilemma isn't really a choice and that makes the whole exercise of asking what you/I/anyone would do meaningless.

2. There seems to be deep misconception regarding dilemmas but it's likely that I'm alone in this. I've always approached dilemmas with an intention of making the right choice and having a good reason to back up my decision. This, it seems, is precisely the wrong thing to do. What dilemmas are purposed for is a closer examination of the belief systems/values/whathaveyou that give rise to the dilemma in the first place. Basically, dilemmas aren't meant to be solved, assuming the word ""solved" is apposite; rather they're like road blocks one sometimes encounters and should, if all goes well, force you to retrace your steps back to first principles and with a bit of luck figure out what's amiss.
• 1.1k

How is money less complex here? What is my dollar spent on? The coffee machine? The coffee? Actual instruction? Which instruction? What instruction is most effective in preventing deaths? etc. etc.

It's a matter of how one's time, effort and wealth is dedicated towards one's personal goals and wants. It's that simple, the intricacies don't matter, I'm not going to fault someone who is dedicating their time, effort and wealth to help others if they can't prove they are saving lives.

I'm not sure in what sense it's insufficient. What do you mean?

It's insufficient because I don't know the details. When I was a kid, I got saved at the beach, I was taken out by the current and couldn't get back, a surfer noticed me and saved me. What if the surfer saw an eight-year-old kid desperately trying to swim back and failing, like 80m from the shore, right next to a cliff with sharp rocks and just ignored me. That'd be comically callous. I've also heard of stories of people trying to save someone from drowning in a dangerous environment, only to themselves drown. You could be talking about a minor inconvenience to yourself + feeling like you did a good deed, really a net benefit for you and no wonder you'd do that instead of donating your money, or you could be taking a serious risk and since you said "I'm saving someone in the water", I don't know what you're talking about.

My failing to give cash doesn't cause a death and is therefore not morally condemnable, my failing to intervene when someone's drowning does. Giving to charity is commendable but saving a person is morally obligatory in my view.

I agree with you, especially when saving the person isn't a risk to yourself. Everyone should agree that the moral option is to save the person on the tracks in OPs example. How can profiting from ignoring the needs of others be morally good? How can getting rich by letting others die be morally justifiable? The only way is to do the whole "I'd take the 100m and save as many as I could".

The question isn't about what is moral, it's about what your moral views are worth, what it takes to get you to betray them. Nobody thinks that abandoning a guy you could have easily helped for money is the ethical thing to do. My only point was that if you really won't look the other way to gain $100m, then that dedication should manifest in your life, otherwise they're just good-looking words. If it doesn't, does that mean you are lying and wouldn't take the money? Not necessarily but one shouldn't claim to be above prioritising themselves over the well-being of others when they generally do, that doesn't make sense right? I'm trying to explain why I think there's a moral difference between contributing by giving cash, where there's no causal link between the cash given and a life saved but there is where I'm confronted with a situation where my actions can prevent a death and where failing to do so would be morally condemnable. I agree that there is, I'm not trying to morally condemn anyone for not donating their time and money, I'm saying that by not donating your time and money, you are prioritising yourself over your potential for helping or saving others. This is morally admissible but it's not that different from OP's example. Are there differences? Yes, there's a difference between failing to save someone in front of you and failing to look for people to save, a difference between failing to sacrifice your time and resources and receiving money for looking the other way and more. As I said already, OP made this question comical by giving the value of$100m, he made it so that any answer which says they'd save the man, is effectively saying they're incorruptible, they value the morally right choice over any kind of monetary value. If he gave the value of $10,000, it's more reasonable, it's not life-changing money, but I still think many/most people would take$10,000 over saving a total stranger. $100m is so immense that you're giving up all measure of worldly desire for a complete stranger, it is quite a statement. I think philosophy tends to disregard the competitive aspect of society, it's all about collaboration and doing right by another, which leads to it being kind of removed from reality. The limitations of morality are stretched by$10,000, lmao, $100m, really? Do we all live in the same world or not? Is it even commendable to sacrifice such an opportunity of$100m just to save a stranger? Other than the fear of hell, does any other justification make sense?
• 4.2k
Thanks, I agree with basically everything you wrote.

The limitations of morality are stretched by $10,000, lmao,$100m, really? Do we all live in the same world or not? Is it even commendable to sacrifice such an opportunity of \$100m just to save a stranger? Other than the fear of hell, does any other justification make sense?

I don't know. I live comfortably money wise. More money isn't very meaningful to me and I think that will play a very big role in people's decisions as well. Another factor is probably how many people will be aware of your choice and who. My kids' and my wife's opinions matter and they would want me to make the moral choice. So fear of the wife instead of hell probably.
• 2
obviously dollars.
• 377
it is comparable. Take for example those who will claim to spend the money to save more lives. If a huge mass of wealth is merely the precursor to being charitable, then why isn't that already the case? What dollar amount is enough security for an individual to constitute them willing to be charitable? What percentage of what amount is morally acceptable, and are corporations and elites at an ethical responsibility to meet this?

Judaka's issue is that he's already qualified the entire world as similar to him, and so he is in a circular position: the world is cruel and uncharitable, therefore I'll be cruel and uncharitable, therefore adding to the nature of the world, thus proving my position. It's very common, and is the justification of many for taking a selfish approach. It's sort of the precursor for greed. It's the thought that makes greed acceptable in the minds of the greedy.

The problem is that this doesn't just end at the individual level, but it projects into a global phenomenon. Those interested in encouraging the growth of common human welfare are ripe for the exploitation, and often times those who have been exploited accept this as their reasoning to participate in exploitation. People of this nature will consider those who aren't willing to participate in this exploitation weak, when in reality it takes more fortitude not to give into the nature of greed, and to seek the common welfare of life.

Judaka's position may be true, that the majority of people are willing to participate in the exploitation of others for money, but my point is: that doesn't make it right.

Humanity has a lot of potential. Poverty hinders this potential. Greed facilitates poverty.
• 377
right, the point is self reflection and observation of the reflections of others, and then to consider how that reflects on the nature of humanity.
• 9.4k
right, the point is self reflection and observation of the reflections of others, and then to consider how that reflects on the nature of humanity.

So? What's your take on the dilemma? Should you go for the million bucks in brand-new notes or should you save the poor fellow on the tracks?

Bear in mind that, in this case, quite intriguingly, the choices on offer aren't, as I expected, equally bad; au contraire, they're, meant to be, equally good: who wouldn't want to get their hands on a million greenbacks? who wouldn't want to save a man from death? Nonetheless, this is an illusion of course; the actual choices are, either lose a million dollars or let a man die.

If you ask me, the system of values that confer worth on the two choices are poles apart - one is that which provides us with the means to do things (the million) and the other is that which is valuable in a way that can't be converted to dollars (life).

Imagine if the choices were either a million dollars or a diamond? This is an easy one for diamonds can be converted to dollars and vice versa.

Returning to the OP's dilemma, life is priceless i.e. we can't convert the man on the tracks into dollars, not even all the wealth in the world can buy life. Ergo, save the man and forfeit the million.

That said, the dilemma blows the lid right off the existing value-systems, operating full swing in society as we know it. Money has become the touchstone of value. Want to know how much something is worth? How much is it (in dollars)? Perforce then we should, do everything we possibly can, to see how many dollars the man on the tracks is worth? The other value-system we need to worry about in this scenario is that of morality and especially how it (morality) treats life above all else? When put like that, the choice seems rather easy (save the man), making the purported dilemma not a dilemma at all?
• 377
right, and that's the underlying issue. If morality dictates that the choice is morally obvious, then what is the underlying difference between the person who will choose one option over the other? It proposes the question: what is the solution for greed? It proposes the question: is it acceptable to be greedy? It proposes the question: to what extent is it acceptable to be greedy? It proposes the question: what is the core value of human life in the eyes of humanity? What is the percentage of those who share each value, and what effect does this have on society? If the entire planet were to be of the belief that it's their duty to save the man what is the effect of that on society? And the same for the other, the effect if everyone were to be of the belief that they should take the money? What's the effect if this belief is split directly down the middle? The person who will strictly save the man is at a disadvantage in society as compared to the person who will take the money. This is because exploitation is profitable, and profit generates security, but this is only because society has opted to accept exploitation in the first place.

I'm sorry. This is not a very productive writing. Trying to understand greed and trying to find a solution for it that actually resolves it is difficult.
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