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Your favourite moral dilemmas and quandaries

ruby sparks

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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.
 
Last edited:

Underseer

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My current favorite is: is it wrong to have toddler concentration camps?

For most, this is a very easy moral question, but apparently Christianity lacks the moral language to explain why this is wrong, so this is a deep and difficult moral question for most of America.
 

fast

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My current favorite is: is it wrong to have toddler concentration camps?

For most, this is a very easy moral question, but apparently Christianity lacks the moral language to explain why this is wrong, so this is a deep and difficult moral question for most of America.

Sometimes.
 

ruby sparks

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The trolley problem...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWb_svTrcOg

... with a twist.

The first crash was amoral. The second crash was morally questionable.

If you mean that the situation was not of the subject's making (he had no responsibility for it) and that his merely not doing anything about it one way or the other the first time is amoral, but that choosing to do something about it the second time means it's questionable....I'm not sure the issue divides into passivity and activity like that.
 

ruby sparks

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And then there's this one:

red_pill_blue_pill-copy3.gif


Blue Pill: Security, happiness, beauty, and the blissful ignorance of illusion.
Red pill: Knowledge, freedom, uncertainty and the brutal truths of reality.

An interesting version of which has been presented in various film ('Vanilla Sky' is my favourite).

220px-Vanilla_sky_post.jpg
 

DrZoidberg

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The little 4 year old girl. That was easy. Next.

Yeah... not much of a dilemma. You need to be a insane loony fringe Christian to find that dilemma challenging.

- - - Updated - - -

And then there's this one:

View attachment 19281

Red pill: Knowledge, freedom, uncertainty and the brutal truths of reality
Blue Pill: Security, happiness, beauty, and the blissful ignorance of illusion.

It's a false dichotomy. Even if we take the Red Pill we don't know that the knowledge is actual knowledge. The so called "Red Pill" movement is just a bunch of morons getting stressed about nothing.
 

ruby sparks

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And then there's this scenario, here described by wikipedia, from a 1973 short story, which is a bit blue pill/red pill:

The story begins by describing the first day of summer in Omelas, a shimmering city of unbelievable happiness and delight. In Omelas, the summer solstice is celebrated with a glorious festival and a race featuring young people on horseback. The vibrant festival atmosphere, however, seems to be an everyday characteristic of the blissful community, whose citizens, though limited in their advanced technology to communal (rather than private) resources, are still intelligent, sophisticated, and cultured. Omelas has no kings, soldiers, priests, or slaves. The specific socio-politico-economic setup of the community is not mentioned, but the narrator merely explains that the reader cannot be sure of every particular.

Self-admittedly, the uncertain narrator reflects that "Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time. Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all."

Everything about Omelas is so abundantly pleasing that the narrator decides the reader is not yet truly convinced of its existence and so elaborates upon one final element of the city: its one atrocity. The city's constant state of serenity and splendor requires that a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness, and misery.

Once citizens are old enough to know the truth, most, though initially shocked and disgusted, ultimately acquiesce to this one injustice [because it] secures the happiness of the rest of the city. However, a few citizens, young and old, silently walk away from the city."


The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ones_Who_Walk_Away_from_Omelas

- - - Updated - - -

It's a false dichotomy. Even if we take the Red Pill we don't know that the knowledge is actual knowledge. The so called "Red Pill" movement is just a bunch of morons getting stressed about nothing.

In the scenario, the red pill does what it says it does. Just stick to the scenario. :)
 

ruby sparks

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The little 4 year old girl. That was easy. Next.

I wonder what your reasons are.

If on the grounds of suffering versus non-suffering (which might not have been your reasons) I'll change it so that there will be no suffering, at all, for the girl*. I'll also say that she is an orphan and has no family who will mourn and that the biological parents of the embryos are unknown. Literally no one suffers, at least not from dying in the burning building. Does that make a difference? Open question.

I reckon I already know what Pyramidhead might say if and when he reads this. :)


* I just realised that I can't say that, because she is already suffering and that therefore an answer on grounds of suffering could easily be justified on grounds of alleviation (at least in the short term).

Ok....so...how about I make it that the girl is unconscious, knows nothing of the fire and will not wake up if not rescued?
 
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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.
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.
 

ruby sparks

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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?

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.
 
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DrZoidberg

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The little 4 year old girl. That was easy. Next.

I wonder what your reasons are.

If on the grounds of suffering versus non-suffering (which might not have been your reasons) I'll change it so that there will be no suffering, at all, for the girl*. I'll also say that she is an orphan and has no family who will mourn and that the biological parents of the embryos are unknown. Literally no one suffers, at least not from dying in the burning building. Does that make a difference? Open question.

I reckon I already know what Pyramidhead might say if and when he reads this. :)


* I just realised that I can't say that, because she is already suffering and that therefore an answer on grounds of suffering could easily be justified on grounds of alleviation (at least in the short term).

Ok....so...how about I make it that the girl is unconscious, knows nothing of the fire and will not wake up if not rescued?

That's like saying that every time you walk by a person of the opposite gender and don't have sex with them you are murdering potential life.

Ditching any number of embryos will never we a worse crime than spilling a glass of milk.

If the girl won't wake up if rescued she's dead already. But there's no way of knowing that. So it's still the girl.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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The little 4 year old girl. That was easy. Next.

Yeah... not much of a dilemma. You need to be a insane loony fringe Christian to find that dilemma challenging.

- - - Updated - - -

And then there's this one:

View attachment 19281

Red pill: Knowledge, freedom, uncertainty and the brutal truths of reality
Blue Pill: Security, happiness, beauty, and the blissful ignorance of illusion.

It's a false dichotomy. Even if we take the Red Pill we don't know that the knowledge is actual knowledge. The so called "Red Pill" movement is just a bunch of morons getting stressed about nothing.

Thank-you, Doc!

I think that without seeing everything as a binary choice some people are unable to function. I'm beginning to think this is more than cognitive inequality but bordering on a psychological disorder.
 

PyramidHead

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I reckon I already know what Pyramidhead might say if and when he reads this.
Am I allowed to deliberately break the embryo container?
 

Cheerful Charlie

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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.
 

abaddon

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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?

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).
 

Rhea

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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).
 

steve_bank

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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.
 

OLDMAN

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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.
 

ronburgundy

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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.
 

ronburgundy

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[insert religionist whining about atheists having moral dilemmas here]

Atheists are the only one's who deal with moral dilemmas. Theists just have to decide which action their unquestioned authority commands they take, because obedience is the only definition of morality under theism.
That is why morality evolves and progresses in direct proportion to the decline of theism and its influence.
 

Kharakov

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Should I say this to get 8000th post in this subsection or not...
 

WAB

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And then there's this scenario, here described by wikipedia, from a 1973 short story, which is a bit blue pill/red pill:

The story begins by describing the first day of summer in Omelas, a shimmering city of unbelievable happiness and delight. In Omelas, the summer solstice is celebrated with a glorious festival and a race featuring young people on horseback. The vibrant festival atmosphere, however, seems to be an everyday characteristic of the blissful community, whose citizens, though limited in their advanced technology to communal (rather than private) resources, are still intelligent, sophisticated, and cultured. Omelas has no kings, soldiers, priests, or slaves. The specific socio-politico-economic setup of the community is not mentioned, but the narrator merely explains that the reader cannot be sure of every particular.

Self-admittedly, the uncertain narrator reflects that "Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time. Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all."

Everything about Omelas is so abundantly pleasing that the narrator decides the reader is not yet truly convinced of its existence and so elaborates upon one final element of the city: its one atrocity. The city's constant state of serenity and splendor requires that a single unfortunate child be kept in perpetual filth, darkness, and misery.

Once citizens are old enough to know the truth, most, though initially shocked and disgusted, ultimately acquiesce to this one injustice [because it] secures the happiness of the rest of the city. However, a few citizens, young and old, silently walk away from the city."


The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ones_Who_Walk_Away_from_Omelas

- - - Updated - - -

It's a false dichotomy. Even if we take the Red Pill we don't know that the knowledge is actual knowledge. The so called "Red Pill" movement is just a bunch of morons getting stressed about nothing.

In the scenario, the red pill does what it says it does. Just stick to the scenario. :)

Walk away from Omelas. Easy peasy. Where is the moral dilemma? :shrug:
 

Speakpigeon

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Blue Pill: Security, happiness, beauty, and the blissful ignorance of illusion.
Red pill: Knowledge, freedom, uncertainty and the brutal truths of reality.
Well, for most people, I think life is really starting off with the blue pill and moving on with more and more of the red one and less and less of the blue one, until you get really old and stare at the naked truth. We can't choose.

Some people seem to go on the blue pill until very late in life. Some get the red pill treatment immediately that they are born. Ideally, you would want the reverse. Start off with knowledge and decide on the rational basis provided by knowledge whether you'd be better off with the blue pill.

Having to choose prior to possessing knowledge puts you in an impossible situation. You can't decide on any rational basis until you know the truth but to get that, you have to take the red pill and that's it, no going back to the blue pill. I'm not sure how it is at all a moral choice.

Your decision would inevitably depends on what you believe, which likely would be essentially wrong. Still, putting aside the fact that you would have no good reason to trust that the effects would be as advertised, assuming the truth of the premises, so to speak, I think I would go for the red pill. But if I could wait, I would wait until I'm no longer fit for purpose and I would take the blue one.

And then, what? How is that a moral dilemma?
EB
 

Speakpigeon

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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.

I just love little girls so I save her if only to feel good about myself. Embryos don't really inspire me at all. They're not people.

If we are free to do as we please, then there's no real moral dilemma for me. There would be a moral dilemma for me if the political regime in place required us to come up with a moral code applicable to all citizens. Elaboration of the code would require having to think about having to make everybody happy rather than just myself, and I guess that's where the moral would come in.

One moral dilemma we can still choose to ignore is whether we sacrifice the well-being of people alive today to improve the odds that future generations inherit a better world. The moral dilemma is that we are necessarily part of the equation. Are we ready to make sacrifices ourselves for the benefit of people who don't even exist yet.
EB
 

fromderinside

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And then there's this one:

View attachment 19281

Red pill: Knowledge, freedom, uncertainty and the brutal truths of reality
Blue Pill: Security, happiness, beauty, and the blissful ignorance of illusion.

It's a false dichotomy. Even if we take the Red Pill we don't know that the knowledge is actual knowledge. The so called "Red Pill" movement is just a bunch of morons getting stressed about nothing.

The moral dilemma, actually many, seem to be for the one offering the choice.

The one choosing already has a presumed moral decision tree in place so the choice would be more or less automatic. The one creating and or providing the 'choice' needs to step back from her God position as one getting another to choose among predetermined outcomes to justify her apparent arrogance. She is being amoral when she assumes she is God.

I'm an ameteur so have at it.
 

rousseau

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Blue Pill: Security, happiness, beauty, and the blissful ignorance of illusion.
Red pill: Knowledge, freedom, uncertainty and the brutal truths of reality.

Is there such a thing as blissful ignorance, though? Looking back, some of the most painful times in my life were that way because of lack of perspective. What weren't really problems seemed like they were because I didn't know better. Whereas now, with perspective and knowledge under my belt, almost nothing seems like a serious problem other than financial or relationship troubles.

Honestly, I'm convinced the whole problem of 'existential angst' is overrated, and real, material problems like drug addiction and financial insecurity are way, way underrated. I can attest to the fact that being aware, financially secure, healthy, and in a good relationship is actually quite pleasant.
 
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