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  1. Fifth Business
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    Fifth Business Member

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    Philosophical Questions

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Fifth Business, Mar 2, 2012.

    Hey I hope this post is acceptable.

    I love philosophy and am extremely interested in it. I truly believe that it is basically necessary to incorporate into writing, no matter how minor and it is also basically impossible not to include it, even inadvertently.

    I am taking Philosophy right now, and my teacher asked a question in class a week ago.

    This is about the "jist" of it: You're done your exams and you're happy that you've finished high school and are going off to University or wherever you're going. You decide to go on a walk because it's a beautiful day, and you take your dog. You've had this dog for only a couple years, but you've grown a strong attachment to it. So you take it on a walk through a nature trail that follows along the side of a river. The river is rapid because of a large amount of snow and flooding the previous winter. You're playing fetch with the dog and everything is going nicely. You're daydreaming about your future and idly throwing a stick around, when you accidentally throw it into the river and the dog runs and jumps in the river after it. There is no way the dog will live unless you jump in and save it. But it is absolutely no problem for you to save it, it's extremely actually easy and if you jump in and get it, both of you will survive unharmed. But right when you're about to jump in, you hear cries for help. A person (this person is a stranger) is in the river calling for help and is also drowning. No matter which one you choose, you will both survive unharmed but you can only choose one. You have to pick between saving your dog or saving the stranger.

    My class was actually split pretty evenly.

    I said I'd save the dog because you don't know the circumstances of why that person is there. If you were not there at that specific time, that person would still be in the same position. On the other hand, if you weren't there at that specific time, your dog wouldn't be in that position. Therefor there is an obligation to save your dog. Yes, that person could be a good person and go onto to do nice things, but they could also go on to drunk drive their car one night and kill somebody. They could also be a rapist or a killer. The dog has no potential of ever doing these things.

    What is your take on it? Also, I think it would be cool if this was a thread for other questions like these or even the metaphysical ones, like what is reality? Or, is there a God? And so on.
     
  2. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese Contributing Member

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    Hi Fifth,

    I also enjoy the occasional takes on philosophy. I originally took philosophy to fill a breadth requirement at my University, but I ended up really enjoying the entire thing.

    As for your own question, I have to say I strongly disagree with you (I'm not saying you're wrong, just that my opinion differs). In a situation like that, I would save the person every time. This is coming from someone who actually does own a dog, and has had him for a good four years now. Don't get me wrong, I love my dog, and it would kill me to leave him to drown, but to weigh the life of an animal to that of a human being isn't very reasonable in my opinion.

    Your argument is sound; the person could be some sort of criminal, but the opposite holds too. You could be letting a perfectly normal, fully functional, emotion-equipped, loving friends and family, spouse and children, drown to death in order to save an animal which serves no other purpose but to be a pet. Sure, he/she really isn't your obligation, they got themselves into that mess, it has nothing to do with you. But that's true for any case where you find someone in some sort of trouble. If you find a stranger dying on the street, you'd still call emergencies, even if you had no part in what happened.

    Let's scale the event down a little: Imagine you are out for a walk alone. Once you reached the river, you find a dog (that you've never seen before) in danger of drowning. Would you save it? Are you sure? But what if it was abandoned because it attacked a child, or assaulted its original owner? What if the dog has rabies, or some other disease? Besides, you would be ruining your favorite outfit.
    I would see most people still trying to save this dog, because despite the risks, the opposite poses just as many (if not more) risks.

    Cheers!
     
  3. Fifth Business
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    Fifth Business Member

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    I see what you're saying.

    Most of the people who sided with saving the person said that human life has more value than the dogs. The teacher then asked if they would save the person if it were Paul Bernardo (if you're not Canadian, which I see you are Cheddar but for others benefit, you might not know him but he's a serial killer/rapist). The majority changed their answer to no, they would save the dog instead.

    I think this is hypocritical because originally they said human life had more value than the dog's. So I guess they're taking the existentialist standpoint and allowing the actions and decisions the person has already made define their value as a human.

    But I'm looking at it with more focus on responsibility. You own the dog, you take care of the dog and you put the dog in that position. It's your responsibility to save him. If people argue that it is a human's responsibility to always help other human's in peril, than that means it is still technically a person's responsibility to save Paul Bernardo.

    I want to bring up something interesting though. There is this place (I forget where and am too tired to search it up at the moment) where there are volcanic hot springs. A young man showed up with his dog, and the dog ran and fell into the springs. Instantly, the boy jumped in right after the dog to save it, and both died from their burns. It is interesting though that there wasn't even any hesitation in the boy, not even to think or process the situation.
     
  4. RusticOnion
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    RusticOnion Contributing Member

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    You would also be responsible for the person's death, you would need to report it, and explain to people what happened; probably in-front of their family.

    If you choose your dog it could be for a number of reasons, and saving the dog is actually a selfish act, not that I wouldn't do the same.
     
  5. Henning
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    Henning Member

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    Hey Fifth Business.
    I do not own a dog, I never studied philosophy, and I'm dead tired. I apologize in advance for making an ass out of myself.

    To me the two scenarios your teacher asked about are completely different.
    In one, you're weighing the odds, deciding whether or not to take the chance of leaving an animal you love behind for a person you know nothing about. The stranger part makes all the difference because there's the question of whether or not you're doing the right thing. In this case, valuing human life more comes into play.
    If you change the situation and the person is no longer a stranger, human life no longer applies because you have feelings for both. Emotion takes over. Would you save a rapist and let an animal you love drown to do so? Would you save your dog and let your best friend drown?

    In the stranger scenario, I believe I would take the chance to make a horrible mistake and save the person. Hey if I made a mistake I can always avenge the dog and kill the person, right?
    Now seriously, dogs live in the moment. Ultimately the only person getting hurt by the dog dying is its owner. On the other hand if I let the person die, and they turned out to be above scum of the earth, many people would have to go through something I don't wish on anyone. I would take the risk of hurting myself, and of course the dog, and maybe saving the person and the ones close to him/her. There's just too much possible pain on one side compared to the other.

    Hmm but then if the person you saved kills someone, my argument is invalid. I still think I would take the chance.
     
  6. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd save the person.

    The scenario is interesting though; I just hope I wouldn't ever find out who they were exactly, lest I find out something I wouldn't want to.

    Still, chances that they would be a serial killer/extreme scum of the earth would be, in the end, relatively small.
     
  7. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    You save the person over the dog if that is the parameters you have. But being a writer I set the terms so I’ll save both. For some writers the whole point is philosophy. We write stories with the intent to teach the consequence of choices. We create worlds to set an example and say “only if”.

    As for the great metaphysical questions:

    What is reality? The old Hume vs Kant debate, subjective vs objective perceptions. Those who see the world as whatever they choose to project is real versus those who claim an objective reality we interact with. I’ve always wondered how those who do as they please, ignoring anything else, can call themselves aware. Just feeling isn’t thinking is it? They argue we can’t really know what is real just what we sense? So what? Reality is what is repeatable, how else can we test its validity.

    Is there a God? Life exists and life evolves so the next question is how far can life evolve versus what power we require for a life form to qualify as God? If we acknowledge that evolution does not have a limit then the issue becomes one of time only. How long does it take for life to evolve to the point of qualifying as God? So if a God can exist then has there been enough time for a life form to have reached the required level already? If time is infinite then we can say with some reliability that God does in fact exist. So I ask the question is the existence of God really a philosophical question or a matter of logic and science?

    Who is happier the mayor or the village idiot?
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I'd save the person. There is a higher chance of them being a regular smuck anyway, but also they could be someone truly special. The chance of them being a shining paragon of humanity is slim, and 'evil' people are more common yes, but so is the chance that the dying person being a regular hard-working person with loved ones - and who am I to bring such misery onto others? With saving the dog you are running the risk of not saving a person who really ought to have been saved, or condemning a person who at least deserves to live. Not to say that the dog does not deserve to live too, in an ideal world I would save both, and not that I rate other animals lower than humans, but humans can reason and build. Besides, being a human, the altruist imperative could prove too strong.
     
  9. LaGs
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    I may be wrong but, I thought if you leave someone who is dying (in a position such as drowning) you are possibly even committing a crime by omission; and if that's the case, there's a duty placed upon you by criminal law to save that person, and so abstract philosophical examples of serial killers drowning are irrelevant. And anyway, the former example of the stranger, while still unlikely to happen, could almost be considered more likely than the latter of the serial killer. You know the serial killers' name only because he has been caught; and at any time before that he may as well just be like any hypothetical drowning (presumably normal) human. There's an assumption here in which case you treat all humans the same. You would never find a known serial killer drowning in a river because he would either be dead or in jail.
     
  10. jazzabel
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    Dog is my friend. I know him, I care about him, but that's irrelevant. I was already in the process of saving him, I was just about to jump in. So for that reason, I would stick with the dog.

    It's a similar situation to very common medical occurrence where more than one patient needs you. You are by the bed of an 80 year old lady. She had leg vein bypass earlier in the afternoon, and it just started to bleed profusely. You have gauzes in your hand, you are just about ready to apply pressure (if you don't she might die from exsanguination) when you hear a young man scream for help in a room down the corridor. What do you do?

    You always help whomever you were about to help, there's only one of you and if you hesitate, you'll lose them both.

    About people mentioning how person might be evil etc. In medicine, it is irrelevant if it's Hitler himself who needs help, you can't use moral judgement in an emergency because it leads to a slippery slope of eugenics.
    If it's not an emergency, and we are considering who to give a kidney to, then some discrimination may occur but never on the basis of morality, only on the basis of expected good it might do (so an 80 year old hypertensive woman might not be a priority for a kidney transplant over a 12 year old and otherwise healthy child). But those decisions are so difficult and fraught with legal issues, they are made by big committees designed to share the responsibility, there are protocols and studies to justify them etc. None of that applies in an emergency and if you stop helping someone and go to help someone else purely because you perceive that other person to be more "worthy" of help, you are being negligent.

    I know this is not a medical situation, but the ethics underlying the profession are deeply rooted in philosophy, so I think that might be a good way to think about it.

    Of course, there's a big difference between what you should do, what you want to do and what you end up doing and whether there are any likely consequences, all that plays a part.
     
  11. Unit7
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    I'd save the human. Everytime. Mostly because I wouldn't have been stupid enough to actually throw the damned stick into the river. I'd have made certain each throw would have been away from the River.

    But... well if I were to find myself in that posistion anyways. I'd still save the human. Even if it was some famous serial killer/rapist. Chances are I wouldn't recognize them. For all I know they are just some random guy who has done nothing wrong. Even if I thought I recognized them I wouldn't want to risk that they just look similar.

    So yeah I'd go with the stranger every time.

    Well thats not entirely true. He could have escaped from prison or he could be on the run after he was discovered.
     
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    There are a number of known serial killers whose whereabouts the authorities do not know. It's actually pretty scary.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what if you were that person, fifth business, and you had a spouse and children depending on you for their lives?

    how would you feel seeing the person who could save you going for a dog, instead?
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This thread will be permitted to remain open only until it becomes a debate.

    Why? because debates invariably and rapidly turn into arguments, and that does not belong on this site. There are other sites for those who love to shout at one another. This site is for civilized, respectful discussion.

    There will be no further warnings. So far, everything is copacetic. Please keep it that way.
     
  15. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    How the hell can you talk about philosophical questions without debating the philosophy of it?
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can state your perspective once without attempting to refute that of others.

    This is not a debating site.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd go with the dog, whether it was mine or not. I don't care much for humans overall.
     
  18. BFGuru
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    I just don't look at this as realistically plausible. Dogs are natural swimmers. Better than many humans. If the dog wouldn't survive, I wouldn't survive trying to save him. However, I can save the human without entering the water many times by way of throwing a line. Save the human, then once the human is safe there are two of you to try to rescue the dog. There is more of a chance of rescuing all parties if you go for the person instead.
     
  19. superpsycho
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    MC who had been walking is little wiener dog sees it stumble and fall into the creek “Help! Help! My dog has fallen and he can’t get up” as he hurries to take his shoes off so he can save his dog.

    “You can save him,” said the narrative.

    Looking around and seeing no one “Who the heck is that?” Just then MC hears a scream and a splash.

    “Help! I’ve fallen into the creek and I can’t get out” MC hears as he continues to remove his shoes.

    “You can save only one” the narrative says, his voice echoing into the distance.

    “Hay, why don’t get down here and lend a hand” screams MC.

    MC now in his bare feet MC turns to save his dog but forum member 1 appears and grabs him. “No you must save the man it is the moral thing to do.”

    “Why!” yells MC as he struggles to pull away, “I don’t know him. You go save him.”

    “But the narrative says I can’t” says forum member 1, looking shocked that MC should even ask. “You must choose.”

    “Then just tell him to stand up, it’s a creek” MC proclaimed. “It’s only two feet deep for Christ sake.” As he still struggles to get free so he can save his little dog.

    “That’s not the point,” says forum member 1 looking disgusted. “This is philosophy, it’s about the choice.”

    “Choose!” says the narrative.

    “I did but this guy wants to debate the issue” screams MC who finally kicks forum member 1 in the...

    “NOOOO!” screams the narrative you can’t say that here.

    Pulling free as forum member 1 doubles over, MC turns to save his little wiener only to see it has washed away. “Look what you’ve done you fool,” Screams MC kicking forum member 1. “I just got that dog this morning and it cost me two hundred dollars. Fork it over or you’ll hear from my lawyer.”

    Like that
     
  20. Phoenix Hikari
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    Your example is so similar to that the Utilitarian theory gives: a train, two tracks, one person at one track, five on the other. Which way do you let the train go?

    Anyway, I was thinking how about if you reverse your position. Let's say you're a relative of that drowning person, let's assume you can't save them for any particular reason. You see a dog drowning as well then a person jumps into the water and saves the dog while you're watching your relative dying. How would you feel towards that person who abandoned your relative in order to save their dog?

    I agree, the person might be a criminal or whatever, but your dog is a good breed because you know him. Still, the next day your dog might catch a disease and die. There are all kinds of possibilities for either decision.

    I don't think there's a right or wrong decision here. It all depends on what kind of person you are. What drives you to do good or bad and how you evaluate your decisions. If on emotions then you'd go with the dog, if according to logic then probably the person.

    I'm an emotional person but I'd rather save the person. By saving the person I'd also be saving their family and I'm sure my dog will forgive me.
     
  21. RusticOnion
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  22. LaGs
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    lol, oh my...Do we have to write everything in story format? That might get a bit tedious after a while. I'd rather just come out and say it. Each to their own I suppose ;)
     
  23. CheddarCheese
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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking most people (including myself) changed their answer to "no" because they valued the lives of other human beings more than the one of the serial killer (including themselves). If the serial killer was saved, that would mean that he/she would continue to murder other people, which you wouldn't want.

    Long story short: Dog < One Person < Multiple People, such that:
    Dog + Multiple People > One Person.

    At least that would be my standpoint. If the person drowning in the river happened to be a well known shoplifter/burglar with no accounts of murder, I would still save him/her (granted I'd call the police right after :D)

    EDIT: Whoops! Did not see Cogito's "no debating" post. I was under the notion that philosophy was mostly debating. Won't happen again.
     
  24. superpsycho
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    The narrative I presume? LOL Or a MOD looking to spank?
     
  25. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Only when the mods indicate the topic is to far from the subject of writing. But it is good exercise.
     
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