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Thread: Your favourite moral dilemmas and quandaries

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    [insert religionist whining about atheists having moral dilemmas here]
    Do human beings have free will? I can't decide.

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    Veteran Member Cheerful Charlie's Avatar
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    The ancient problem that perplexed Augustine. Does God value mercy or justice? If somebody has done wrong, should they be punished forever in hell or forgiven their sins mercifully? Is God just or is God merciful? Origen thought God was merciful and nobody languished in hell for ever. He was later account a heretic. Robert Bell in recent years has resurrected the puzzle. Much to the displeasure of many Bible literalists. Google universal reconciliation for more.
    Cheerful Charlie

  3. Top | #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Spacetime Inhabitant View Post
    It doesn't matter what the condition of the girl is - she could have autism and be a multiple amputee - she is a person and the embryos aren't -they are just collections of cells - just like a limb that a surgeon amputates to save the life of a person is many millions of cells. This is a no-brainer.
    Why does the girl currently being a person matter? In other words, how is it not reasonable to consider outcomes that are other than immediate or short term?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spacetime Inhabitant View Post
    Could make it more of a moral dilemma by stating that the embryos are vital to a cure for a disease, but even then I would save a real person over hypothetical lives saved.
    Ok, so let's include that. Why would you save the currently real person then? Assuming that the embryos are vital to a cure for a currently-incurable disease and that you know this, and you have no good reason not to think that the embryos are in fact vital.

    This starts to make this dilemma a bit of a trolley problem in reverse in some ways, I think, because now we are effectively choosing how many people to save rather than how many to kill. We could imagine a trolley that would either kill one person now or multiple people later, further down the line.

    In other ways it's a bit like the 'walk away from Omelas' problem, in the sense that it's asking whether a 'bad' outcome for one person (the girl) outweighs the 'good' for many, albeit in this case a future many, not a currently existing many.
    Person = sentient being with a vested interest in its own life = entity with inherent value.

    If she's unconscious, she's merely in a state of not being able to state her interest. If the condition's temporary (or a likelihood of it) you should assume her interest in staying alive.

    The embryos don't have that same interest in life. And they never will... not AS embryos. Their future potential as maybe someday having some instrumental value does not establish their current comparative value.

    "Future" is fantasy. Anyone's imagination about future lives does not have intrinsic value. Those future lives are, as of right now, only thoughts. That doesn't compare well with a current "entity with inherent value".

    Same answer if the embryos are vital to a cure.

    So, it's not even an issue of 1000's of lives compared to one. It's an issue of "an idea" versus "a person" (ie, an entity with an interest in its current, present life).

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    Would You Eat Your Cat? has several of these sorts of conundrums.

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    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PyramidHead View Post
    I reckon I already know what Pyramidhead might say if and when he reads this.
    Am I allowed to deliberately break the embryo container?
    Lol. Yes, I guess so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post

    Why does the girl currently being a person matter?
    So, it's not even an issue of 1000's of lives compared to one. It's an issue of "an idea" versus "a person" (ie, an entity with an interest in its current, present life).
    Ruby's question is strange. Why does her being a person matter? For me it's because I value life in a society where my personhood matters. So that is a value to me.

    (Before I was a person, I did not care about myself at all. Neither did you.)

    Abaddon's answer is well articulated. It's a test of whether one values possible ideas over actual people. It's a no-brainer to me (pardon the pun metaphor).

  7. Top | #27
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    A real event. The Titanic sunk in frigid water. Do you give up your spot in a lifeboat for a child?

    Right now today do you support open borders and supporting anyone who gets across the border, or should we forcefully push them back men, women, and children?

    I have no favorite dilemma.

    In my real life work always doing the right thing even when it meant taking a beating was my dilemma.

    Choosing to speak truth or remain salient when there were professional and career consequences, a lie of omission.

  8. Top | #28
    Senior Member OLDMAN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Ok so there's the various trolley problems (which I enjoy pondering over). Any other good ones?

    I'll offer one I know of. It's really only a dilemma for some people.

    You're in a burning building in which, as far as you know, you are the only occupant. As you try to make your escape, you hear a muffled whimpering behind a door. You open the door and in the room is a little 4 year-old girl, cowering in the corner. You also notice a large container labelled "contents: 100 live human embryos" (it's a medical building of some sort, as it happens). You can't take both the girl and the container and you won't be able to come back into the building. You can only save one of the two. Which?

    You can change the number of hypothetical embryos to 100,000 or much more if that helps you decide the number of embryos that would make the container the thing worth saving, of the two, in your opinion.

    Creative solutions are allowed, but no breaking the stated 'rules' (restrictions) of the scenario. Also, no complaining that it's not a fair question or a realistic situation.

    That may or may not be one of the best dilemmas ever invented but I have used it in discussions with pro-lifers, especially those who say that every human life is precious.

    I thought of another one in the shower earlier today, which I had made up myself, but I've forgotten it.

    Feel free to try to think up your own examples, or post ones that you feel are juicy.

    Feel free to post versions of trolley problems also.
    Never mind a four year old girl, make it a four year old Adolf Hitler. You still have to save the person. Why? Because people have the potential to change. The embryos are a what if, as in what if the fire suddenly goes out.

  9. Top | #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by untermensche View Post
    Where do I find a blue pill?
    Church

  10. Top | #30
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    People have raised valid points that make the clear answer "the girl", mostly that she is a "person".

    So that hinges on the issue of what a person is. Hopefully, we can agree that "a person" is a mental category that like all categories is not objectively defined, but one whose properties are subjectively decided upon by us based on salient dimensions we find useful. Our current conception of "a person" in influenced by the natural birth process, and by the norm in which live embryos do are not viable outside the mother whereas "a girl" that has been born is viable.

    But what if there came a time where it was better and safer for both mother and fetus, to remove all embryos after conception and develop them outside the womb. And what if the girl was not 4 years old, but 9 months old. After developing for 9 months in the special chamber, it was her day to be taken home.
    Thus, the little girl infant was just like the current embryos in the hospital, with just more time to develop, and neither can survive on its own without constant care. There would be no such thing as a "birth", making the line between an embryo, fetus, and infant only a matter of development that occurs over time, much like the difference between a 2 year old and 10 year old.

    I think most people would feel very differently than they do now, and the choice between 10 embryos versus 1 that is a few months further along in the "tank" would be more difficult, because without a birth process and with the "viability" issue rendered moot, the line between "a person" and a thing becomes highly arbitrary.

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