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Morality as taught in the IVY LEAGUE - FOR REAL


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Poll: Vote on the scenarios (17 member(s) have cast votes)

There are times when the only way to prevent harm to a large number of people is to harm a smaller number of people. Is it always permissible to harm a smaller number in order to prevent harm to a large number?

  1. Yes, always or almost (4 votes [23.53%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.53%

  2. No, never or at least rarely (3 votes [17.65%])

    Percentage of vote: 17.65%

  3. Sometimes, it depends on factors other than just sheer numbers (10 votes [58.82%])

    Percentage of vote: 58.82%

Suppose you are driving through a narrow tunnel and a worker falls onto the road in front of you. There is not enough time for you to stop. If you keep straight, you will hit the worker and kill him, but if you swerve left into oncoming traffic, you wi

  1. You should not swerve and risk killing the children (2 votes [11.76%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.76%

  2. I'm not worried about the kids but if I hit the bus headon, I'm dead! (1 votes [5.88%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.88%

  3. I'd swerve for a cat or dog BUT A GOVERNMENT WORKER! (1 votes [5.88%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.88%

  4. Swerve because it is the natural thing to do (10 votes [58.82%])

    Percentage of vote: 58.82%

  5. other (3 votes [17.65%])

    Percentage of vote: 17.65%

Ten thousand innocent civilians live next to a munitions factory in a country at war. If you bomb the factory, all of them will die. If you donít bomb the factory, it will be used to produce bombs that will be dropped on fifty thousand innocent civilians

  1. Bomb them (11 votes [64.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 64.71%

  2. Don't bomb them (1 votes [5.88%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.88%

  3. Bomb them but pray for them (4 votes [23.53%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.53%

  4. Bomb them and cover up the civilian casualties (1 votes [5.88%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.88%

Suppose a man has planted a bomb in New York City, and it will explode in twenty-four hours unless the police are able to find it. Should it be legal for the police to use torture to extract information from the suspected bomber?

  1. Lets see, how exactly do you waterboard (Yes) (11 votes [64.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 64.71%

  2. Torture is always wrong and doesn't work usually anyway NO (1 votes [5.88%])

    Percentage of vote: 5.88%

  3. He's a dead man anyway, Tucker telephone torture is good YES (2 votes [11.76%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.76%

  4. Aggressive interrogation is as far as I would go (no) (3 votes [17.65%])

    Percentage of vote: 17.65%

Now suppose the man who has planted the bomb will not reveal the location unless an innocent member of his family is tortured. Should it be legal for the police to torture innocent people, if that is truly the only way to discover the location of a lar

  1. Yes, if it will save 100 people - torture his six year old girl (4 votes [23.53%])

    Percentage of vote: 23.53%

  2. This is just wrong, you can't torture the kid for what the father did (11 votes [64.71%])

    Percentage of vote: 64.71%

  3. If it will save more than five lives, torture the kid (2 votes [11.76%])

    Percentage of vote: 11.76%

Vote

#1 PUBBY

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 09:58 PM

Last night a fellow from Harvard Michael Sandel was on the Colbert report.

This guy teaches a political philosophy class at Harvard that explores the philosophy surround morality. The course is very popular at Harvard and its popularity has soared in Japan, S. Korea and now (especially) Japan.

The course is not about telling folks what to think but rather exercising their capacity to think and reason.

What makes the class - which was videoed and put on line for everyone to enjoy - is the approach that Sandel takes as he engages the class, and through discussions - the Internet audience.

Here's the video:



Here is an idea of the types of scenarios that make the class much more than the dry reading you may have had in your philosophy class.

  • There are times when the only way to prevent harm to a large number of people is to harm a smaller number of people. Is it always permissible to harm a smaller number in order to prevent harm to a large number?
  • Suppose you are driving through a narrow tunnel and a worker falls onto the road in front of you. There is not enough time for you to stop. If you keep straight, you will hit the worker and kill him, but if you swerve left into oncoming traffic, you will collide with a school bus and kill at least five children. Whatís the right thing to do? Does utilitarianism have the right answer?
  • Ten thousand innocent civilians live next to a munitions factory in a country at war. If you bomb the factory, all of them will die. If you donít bomb the factory, it will be used to produce bombs that will be dropped on fifty thousand innocent civilians in another country. Whatís the right thing to do?
  • Suppose a man has planted a bomb in New York City, and it will explode in twenty-four hours unless the police are able to find it. Should it be legal for the police to use torture to extract information from the suspected bomber?
  • Now suppose the man who has planted the bomb will not reveal the location unless an innocent member of his family is tortured. Should it be legal for the police to torture innocent people, if that is truly the only way to discover the location of a large bomb?


#2 PUBBY

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 10:20 PM

Here is the poll form based on the discussion in the study guide.

#3 Mistake Not...

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 10:55 PM

BTW, these questions are totally the plot of a movie I watched in the last year. So to get such answers isn't "Unthinkable".

Edited by Due_Diligence, 21 July 2011 - 10:57 PM.

Mistake Not My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Mere Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath.


#4 mrnn

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Posted 21 July 2011 - 11:10 PM

Great lecture. Bentham was right.


mrnn

"Republicans have been fleeced, exploited, and lied to by the conservative entertainment complex" -- David Frum, Former Bush Speechwriter and directer of Republican Jewish Coalition


 


#5 PUBBY

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 12:46 AM

BTW, these questions are totally the plot of a movie I watched in the last year. So to get such answers isn't "Unthinkable".


That we dramatize these types of scenarios is why the effort to understand the philosophies in play - the motivations of the actors and characters.

And while we'd cheer the CIA interrogator in the movie "Unthinkable" because he's seeking to save hundreds of thousands of lives from a terrorist bomb, we would likely react in horror if we started to torture wall street brokers to find the guilty party we could hand the crash of Lehman Brothers on.


Great lecture. Bentham was right.


mrnn


Bentham was thinking about how to decide issues and policies but the utilitarian philosophy, while it has valid points, is like everything else - imperfect. Utility is an important concept; just not the be-all, end-all that Bentham thought is was.

John Stuart Mill is credited with 'improving' Bentham's concepts by injecting the rational that individual rights were critical to judgments based on utilitarian analysis.

On the topic of the four men in the life boat, I had this thought:
---------------------------------------------

Those whose morality is based on utilitarian thought are apt to judge the scene of the four in the lifeboat much differently than those who are categorical moralists whose emphasis is on the law and the distinctions within it.

As is clear from the supplemental materials the two survivors were judged guilty of pre-meditated murder and sentenced to die, the justice coming from the mercy of the crown in commuting their sentences.

Lets assume a slightly different set of circumstances. Imagine, in the split second before (or even after) the pen knife was plunged into the neck of the cabin boy, the deck hand pulled out Maxwell's silver hammer and clubbed the 'murdering' first mate to death in an attempt to stop the murder of the cabin boy.

Under the law and categorical morality, the taking of a life to save a life being taken vainly is justified and morally correct.

Imagine then, for just a moment, the captain and his deck hand looking at the boat that once held four starving men but now ... or at least shortly ... it would hold two revived and two dead men ... or possibly just one had the deck hand acted just fast enough.

Who knows, had the deck hand acted quickly enough, the sustenance obtained from the now dead first mate might have been adequate to revive the cabin boy, he being young and presumably strong.

Indeed, I would recommend this scenario if you're ever trapped on a boat bobbing in the ocean with a minimal chance of survival if for no other reason, being the second most aggressive man, it may increase one's chances of survival to take out the man most willing to kill and cannibalize the others. Oh, and don't forget that if you are rescued, you will have a defense the most categorical moralist will applaud.

The beauty of the situation is that you know that sometime in that month adrift on the sea, one of your dingy-mates is going to invoke the 'gotta do what you have to do to survive' reasoning. By being the perpetrator, he earns the job.

pubby

#6 The Postman

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 08:37 AM

Even the Doctor himself has an opinion, of his own, which he did not give. Of course, I understand that!

I can give my opinion, because I am like a student.

I, after having watched the video, may see things differently than I would have before. I actually don't know my on attitude regarding the before and after situation.

I like to think I am persistent in by belief's, but I reserve the privilege of changing my mind.

The before and after feelings I experience in the scenario, combined, leads me to believe I would have sacrificed the the young man who had drunk sea water, because there is a big chance he was going to die, anyway. If that choice was not available to me then "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."

Abraham Lincoln did things fore his reelection, even if we like to think he did not. He okayed Sherman to continue his march all the way to Savannah, and up through South Carolina, when the Civil War was about to come to an end, anyway. My opinion, of course!
"The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. ... Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings." ~ The Chief Author of our Declaration of Independence

#7 Jessica Rabbit

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 11:11 AM

That we dramatize these types of scenarios is why the effort to understand the philosophies in play - the motivations of the actors and characters.

And while we'd cheer the CIA interrogator in the movie "Unthinkable" because he's seeking to save hundreds of thousands of lives from a terrorist bomb, we would likely react in horror if we started to torture wall street brokers to find the guilty party we could hand the crash of Lehman Brothers on.




Bentham was thinking about how to decide issues and policies but the utilitarian philosophy, while it has valid points, is like everything else - imperfect. Utility is an important concept; just not the be-all, end-all that Bentham thought is was.

John Stuart Mill is credited with 'improving' Bentham's concepts by injecting the rational that individual rights were critical to judgments based on utilitarian analysis.

On the topic of the four men in the life boat, I had this thought:
---------------------------------------------

Those whose morality is based on utilitarian thought are apt to judge the scene of the four in the lifeboat much differently than those who are categorical moralists whose emphasis is on the law and the distinctions within it.

As is clear from the supplemental materials the two survivors were judged guilty of pre-meditated murder and sentenced to die, the justice coming from the mercy of the crown in commuting their sentences.

Lets assume a slightly different set of circumstances. Imagine, in the split second before (or even after) the pen knife was plunged into the neck of the cabin boy, the deck hand pulled out Maxwell's silver hammer and clubbed the 'murdering' first mate to death in an attempt to stop the murder of the cabin boy.

Under the law and categorical morality, the taking of a life to save a life being taken vainly is justified and morally correct.

Imagine then, for just a moment, the captain and his deck hand looking at the boat that once held four starving men but now ... or at least shortly ... it would hold two revived and two dead men ... or possibly just one had the deck hand acted just fast enough.

Who knows, had the deck hand acted quickly enough, the sustenance obtained from the now dead first mate might have been adequate to revive the cabin boy, he being young and presumably strong.

Indeed, I would recommend this scenario if you're ever trapped on a boat bobbing in the ocean with a minimal chance of survival if for no other reason, being the second most aggressive man, it may increase one's chances of survival to take out the man most willing to kill and cannibalize the others. Oh, and don't forget that if you are rescued, you will have a defense the most categorical moralist will applaud.

The beauty of the situation is that you know that sometime in that month adrift on the sea, one of your dingy-mates is going to invoke the 'gotta do what you have to do to survive' reasoning. By being the perpetrator, he earns the job.

pubby


Brillant Pubby! Thanks for posting! This stuff reminds me of undergrad. My philosophy teacher was much like this one. Ahh fond college memories of 4 hour debates and merciless resourcefulness :)
I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way.

#8 PUBBY

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 11:59 AM

Jessicarabbit:

It is fun to think :)

I had a philosophy class but I don't recall my prof being quite as good. I'm sure there are a bunch of good professors out there but the idea of top profs' putting their courses online - essentially for free (they were paid and supported by sponsors so the sponsors deserve some credit too) - is one of the brighter promises of the Internet being fulfilled.

I do sense that the presentations - there are twelve episodes in the lot - will find us disagreeing with our own preconceived notions more than once.

The other anticipated lesson is that what is right and wrong is never as clear as we think. Possibly folks will recognize that the differences of opinion that exist are not as divisive and that if all answers are compromises, then compromise represents a valid path to resolution.

pubby

#9 The Postman

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 12:13 PM

Jessicarabbit:

It is fun to think :)

I had a philosophy class but I don't recall my prof being quite as good. I'm sure there are a bunch of good professors out there but the idea of top profs' putting their courses online - essentially for free (they were paid and supported by sponsors so the sponsors deserve some credit too) - is one of the brighter promises of the Internet being fulfilled.

I do sense that the presentations - there are twelve episodes in the lot - will find us disagreeing with our own preconceived notions more than once.

The other anticipated lesson is that what is right and wrong is never as clear as we think. Possibly folks will recognize that the differences of opinion that exist are not as divisive and that if all answers are compromises, then compromise represents a valid path to resolution.

pubby


This is not just deserving of appreciation because it's free, and from a well educated Doctor of Philosophy, PUBBY. It is also deserving of appreciation because you brought it to us.

If you want to know the reason "I love me some P.com;" it's because you care enough about your members to provide such quality entertainment as you have done, here, and all through the years.

With that said, I want people to know that I don't work for you, and any adversity that I have caused them has nothing to do with p.com's business matters.
"The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. ... Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings." ~ The Chief Author of our Declaration of Independence

#10 ca2ga

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 06:40 AM

Last night a fellow from Harvard Michael Sandel was on the Colbert report.


What surprises me is people actually rely on shows on a comedy channel like the Colbert Report and the John Stewart show for news. Just shows an overall lack of orginal thought and critical thinking IMO.
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#11 The Postman

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 01:07 PM

People who need to have the approval of others, may never have reach adulthood in some ways. Our choices in adult life should be much less oriented toward pleasing others. Whether or not the decisions we make, and the actions we take, please others should have little affect on the way we please ourselves. The reason I say that is because if the tendency is too powerful, just think how deeply ingrained pleasing other people has become.

A FEAR of displeasing others, rather than a philosophy of questioning and requiring justification for how things are, like you do ca2ga, can be a huge life choice that has people not even being aware of having made a choice to please other people; and not themselves.

Conforming to other people's beliefs and behavior patterns works in a society, only to a certain extent.

I don't think, however, that the guys you mentioned is in the business of controlling other people. It seems to me that they are just trying to promote awareness. They are not control freaks, like the guy that killed 93 people in Norway.
"The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. ... Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings." ~ The Chief Author of our Declaration of Independence

#12 ca2ga

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 01:21 PM

People who need to have the approval of others, may never have reach adulthood in some ways. Our choices in adult life should be much less oriented toward pleasing others. Whether or not the decisions we make, and the actions we take, please others should have little affect on the way we please ourselves. The reason I say that is because if the tendency is too powerful, just think how deeply ingrained pleasing other people has become.

A FEAR of displeasing others, rather than a philosophy of questioning and requiring justification for how things are, like you do ca2ga, can be a huge life choice that has people not even being aware of having made a choice to please other people; and not themselves.

Conforming to other people's beliefs and behavior patterns works in a society, only to a certain extent.

I don't think, however, that the guys you mentioned is in the business of controlling other people. It seems to me that they are just trying to promote awareness. They are not control freaks, like the guy that killed 93 people in Norway.


Those other people are merely liberal kook activists masking as comedians. And the weak minded who are unable to facilitate original and critical thought lap it up.

Just like Joesph Goebbels said, you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will believe it's true. Progressivism in a nutshell.

Edited by ca2ga, 26 July 2011 - 01:22 PM.


#13 The Postman

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 01:34 PM

Those other people are merely liberal kook activists masking as comedians. And the weak minded who are unable to facilitate original and critical thought lap it up.

Just like Joesph Goebbels said, you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will believe it's true. Progressivism in a nutshell.



I just couldn't see that, ca2ga!

It sounds like you have critical opinions about these people's thoughts. But, I understand. If I were you I would have the same critical opinions. :drinks:
"The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. ... Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings." ~ The Chief Author of our Declaration of Independence

#14 Jetasmom

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 05:25 AM

Don't really have time to watch the video now, but hope to soon.

I took a, I guess you would call it a morality quiz, in high school and came up as middle of the road as you could get.

What I would want to do versus what I THINK I would actually do, were very different. A person looking drunk sprawled out in the middle of the road. Check on him, call for help, or walk around. I would want to check on him, but, at the time, I figured I would just call for help. Now, I know I would probably check on him (I have done it)

You never really know what you will actually do when the time comes. I put "other" in the worker versus bus. I don't honestly know what my "scared" reaction would be. I don't follow vehicles too close, just so I can avoid these types of things.

I don't believe I would ever torture, bomb, shoot anybody for any reason, but again, until I am in the actual situation, I don't know.
Formally Jetsmom - edited to finally include the final baby's initial. ;)

#15 PUBBY

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 06:20 AM

Those other people are merely liberal kook activists masking as comedians. And the weak minded who are unable to facilitate original and critical thought lap it up.

Just like Joesph Goebbels said, you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will believe it's true. Progressivism in a nutshell.


What a crock.

Yea, liberalism, which has its roots in the enlightenment and had the audacity to suggest that government should be instituted by the consent of the governed - the ideas that were the foundation of this nation - is the big lie.

Again, what a crock.

pubby

#16 The Postman

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 10:48 AM

What a crock.

Yea, liberalism, which has its roots in the enlightenment and had the audacity to suggest that government should be instituted by the consent of the governed - the ideas that were the foundation of this nation - is the big lie.

Again, what a crock.

pubby


Typical conservative view, PUBBY!

Not all conservatives see it that way, but the greedy ones do, it is the fearful conservatives who fall victim to this kind of propaganda. :drinks:
"The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. ... Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings." ~ The Chief Author of our Declaration of Independence




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