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| | |-+  Gustaf's philosophical question number 4 (NO TROLLEYS)
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Question: Is there a moral difference between the two acts?
Yes   -10 (71.4%)
No   -4 (28.6%)
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Total Voters: 14

Author Topic: Gustaf's philosophical question number 4 (NO TROLLEYS)  (Read 2301 times)
Gustaf
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« on: May 31, 2008, 03:51:43 am »

So, here we go with number 4. This time there are no trolleys, so listen up folks.

Case 1: Mr. Jones has a wealthy little cousin. He is the only heir to this wealthy little cousin. Mr. Jones likes money. One day, as he walks into the bathroom in his cousin's big mansion, he sees that the boy has had some kind of accident, probably slipped and banged his head on the side of the bath-tub or something. He's floating in the tub, face-down. Jones decides that this is his chance. He stands above his cousin with his hand just above his head, prepared to push down the boy's head if required and get his inheritance. But the boy never moves but simply drowns by his own accord.

Case 2: Mr. Smith has a wealthy little cousin. He is the only heir to this wealthy little cousin. Mr. Smith likes money. One day, as he walks into the bathroom in his cousin's big mansion, he sees that the boy has had some kind of accident, probably slipped and banged his head on the side of the bath-tub or something. He's floating in the tub, face-down. Jones decides that this is his chance. He stands above his cousin with his hand just above his head, prepared to push down the boy's head if required and get his inheritance. The boy starts giving weak signs of life so Smith applies a little gentle pressure by his hand to keep him down and the boy consequently drowns.

So, is there a moral difference between Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith, i.e. is Smith more morally reprehensible than Jones? Vote and discuss.
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« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2008, 09:26:05 am »
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Yes, and it is recognized in the law. Being a proactive actor is different than refusing to be the good samaritan for selfish motives. Maybe it is more of a practical distinction than a moral one.
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« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2008, 11:20:00 am »
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Yes, but not a huge difference.
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2008, 11:44:39 am »
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Yes, there is. Refusing to act to save someone's life is morally reprehensible but not as severe as committing an act of murder itself.
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2008, 12:06:34 pm »
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Yes, there is. Refusing to act to save someone's life is morally reprehensible but not as severe as committing an act of murder itself.

Agreed.  One is a massive failure of moral responsibility; the other is, well, murder.
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2008, 01:28:22 pm »
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There is no moral difference. The intent and end result were exactly the same. Legally there is unfortunately.
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2008, 01:34:54 pm »
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There is no moral difference. The intent and end result were exactly the same. Legally there is unfortunately.

It's not unfortunate. It's practical. If the law came down on all those moral defectives who failed to act, folks would have a nervous breakdown, along with the courts, the jails, etc. The problems of proof would also be near  insurmountable, as to intent, knowledge, etc. Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good.
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2008, 02:39:18 pm »
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A slight difference in that in situation 1, we have no way of knowing whether Mr. Jones would have carried through with his intentions had the cousin shown signs of life.
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2008, 04:06:06 pm »

I hope no one thought that the question asked about legal matters - that is irrelevant. It asks whether there is a moral difference.

It's interesting that no one thought acts and ommissions were relevant in the first trolley case but the vast majority still seems to support a deontological view in this case. Especially since this case was designed by a utilitarian to show the folly of differentiating between acts and ommisions....
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2008, 06:32:33 pm »
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Except that the difference given is not between acts and omissions.  In both cases, an omission is made, but in only one case is an opportunity to act available.  Here is a revision of your cases that provides only omission as possible in case 1 and only action as possible in case 2.

Case 1: Mr. Jones is confined to a wheelchair and has limited mobility.  Mr. Jones has a wealthy little cousin. He is the only heir to this wealthy little cousin. Mr. Jones likes money. One day, as he rolls into the bathroom in his cousin's big mansion, he sees that the boy has had some kind of accident, probably slipped and banged his head on the side of the bath-tub or something. He's floating in the tub, face-down. Jones decides that this is his chance. He could reach the chain for the drain plug and let the water out, but does not.  The boy never moves but simply drowns by his own accord.

Case 2:  Mr. Smith is confined to a wheelchair and has limited mobility.  Mr. Smith has a wealthy little cousin. He is the only heir to this wealthy little cousin. Mr. Smith likes money. One day, as he rolls into the bathroom in his cousin's big mansion, he sees that the boy has had some kind of accident, probably slipped and banged his head on the side of the bath-tub or something. He's floating in the tub, face-down. Smith decides that this is his chance.  He can't reach the chain for the drain plug and let the water out. However, the boy starts giving weak signs of life so Smith applies a little gentle pressure by his hand to keep him down and the boy consequently drowns.
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2008, 08:18:49 pm »
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Yes, there is. Refusing to act to save someone's life is morally reprehensible but not as severe as committing an act of murder itself.

Agreed.  One is a massive failure of moral responsibility; the other is, well, murder.

Exactly. Both are terrible acts, though.
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« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2008, 03:59:34 am »

Except that the difference given is not between acts and omissions.  In both cases, an omission is made, but in only one case is an opportunity to act available.  Here is a revision of your cases that provides only omission as possible in case 1 and only action as possible in case 2.

Case 1: Mr. Jones is confined to a wheelchair and has limited mobility.  Mr. Jones has a wealthy little cousin. He is the only heir to this wealthy little cousin. Mr. Jones likes money. One day, as he rolls into the bathroom in his cousin's big mansion, he sees that the boy has had some kind of accident, probably slipped and banged his head on the side of the bath-tub or something. He's floating in the tub, face-down. Jones decides that this is his chance. He could reach the chain for the drain plug and let the water out, but does not.  The boy never moves but simply drowns by his own accord.

Case 2:  Mr. Smith is confined to a wheelchair and has limited mobility.  Mr. Smith has a wealthy little cousin. He is the only heir to this wealthy little cousin. Mr. Smith likes money. One day, as he rolls into the bathroom in his cousin's big mansion, he sees that the boy has had some kind of accident, probably slipped and banged his head on the side of the bath-tub or something. He's floating in the tub, face-down. Smith decides that this is his chance.  He can't reach the chain for the drain plug and let the water out. However, the boy starts giving weak signs of life so Smith applies a little gentle pressure by his hand to keep him down and the boy consequently drowns.

Yes, both options are available. But the question is not about the person in one case picking either an act or an ommission. It's about two persons, one which killed by action and one which killed by ommitting in otherwise identical circumstances. Thus, it provides the basis for comparing acts and ommissions, don't it?
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« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2008, 07:32:33 am »
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A slight difference in that in situation 1, we have no way of knowing whether Mr. Jones would have carried through with his intentions had the cousin shown signs of life.

I agree with this.
A slight difference, but enough to say yes to this question, IMO.
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« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2008, 10:39:16 am »
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Yes there is a difference, in the second case requires actual action on the part of Smith to win his reward, while in the first Jones only needs to stand there. Morally Smith is therefore acting more reprehenisible as he actually does something (evil) to achieve his goal.
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Gustaf
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« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2008, 02:38:48 pm »

Overwhelming support for the acts and ommissions doctrine then it seems. Quite interesting, given the replies to the first examples.
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« Reply #15 on: June 01, 2008, 06:42:28 pm »
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Yes, both options are available. But the question is not about the person in one case picking either an act or an omission. It's about two persons, one which killed by action and one which killed by omitting in otherwise identical circumstances. Thus, it provides the basis for comparing acts and omissions, don't it?

No.  In your version, both persons omitted puling the person out of the water, meaning that the omission is not part of the comparison.  The comparison in your version is between:
  • Mr. Jones, who prepared to commit an act, but never got the chance to.
  • Mr. Smith ,who prepared to commit an act, got the chance to, and did so.
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« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2008, 12:44:59 pm »
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If there is, there's not much, so I'll put no. Yes, admittedly Mr. Jones might have changed his mind if the little cousin had been alive and struggled, but given he had already decided to kill before knowing I find it somewhat unlikely he'd change his mind at that point.
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« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2008, 06:11:15 pm »

Yes, both options are available. But the question is not about the person in one case picking either an act or an omission. It's about two persons, one which killed by action and one which killed by omitting in otherwise identical circumstances. Thus, it provides the basis for comparing acts and omissions, don't it?

No.  In your version, both persons omitted puling the person out of the water, meaning that the omission is not part of the comparison.  The comparison in your version is between:
  • Mr. Jones, who prepared to commit an act, but never got the chance to.
  • Mr. Smith ,who prepared to commit an act, got the chance to, and did so.
Eh. Ok, if you want to you can have Mr. Smith drag his cousin out of the water and THEN drowning him. I don't see the relevance of that though. One person kills by not acting and the other kills by acting. Both have the options of acting/not-acting open to them. Note that there is nothing hindering either to kill the cousin in some other way. That the person killing by ommitting did not have the opportunity to kill by the particular act of pressing the struggling cousin's head back under water is not vital to the overall point.
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« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2008, 08:26:07 am »
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bump for next gustaf question Smiley
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