Stephen Speicher

Life and Values

Would it ever be morally proper to love a pet so much as to value its life over that of a human stranger? Given a scenario where both are drowning and you can only save one, can it be moral to save the pet instead of the stranger?   68 votes

  1. 1. Would it ever be morally proper to love a pet so much as to value its life over that of a human stranger? Given a scenario where both are drowning and you can only save one, can it be moral to save the pet instead of the stranger?

    • Yes - it could be morally proper to save the pet over the stranger.
      45
    • No - it couldn't be morally proper to save the pet over the stranger.
      17
    • Am not sure.
      6

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360 posts in this topic

Whether I would sacrifice my pet for a total stranger would depend on my identifying with the person in trouble, not on how much value he has to me. It is the human connection that I don't want to lose, and I am prepared to pay a certain price for it, depending on the situation.

Hello Arnold,

I am unsure what this means. What is entailed by "identifying with the person in trouble", assuming that one has no other information but that he is a man? What is "the human connection"? Is it a recognition of your common humanity? But this tells us nothing -- for a rational being, value is achieved, it is the product of one's choices, fundamentally, in regard to the method by which one operates one's mind.

Well, you partly answer this for me in your next post when you say:

"To me, "identifying with the person in trouble" means feeling that it could just as easily have been me. If, in my judgment, the person was in trouble through some bad choice that he made, I would evaluate it as being "his problem", not mine."

The way I see it, the 'value' is not the person himself (he may never feature in your life), but the concept of assistance. It is a value to all, when all are inclined to help one another. By not helping, you may (depending on circumstances) feel that you have given up the expectation to ever expect help in an emergency. For me this would be a negative emotion in contrast to the benevolence one should feel toward others.

This is a difficult issue but if it serves no other purpose than to make us focus on why we act and feel a certain way, it justifies attention. My position is different from most, in that I assume no value in the stranger himself, but place it on the way I relate to other humans.

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Whether I would sacrifice my pet for a total stranger would depend on my identifying with the person in trouble, not on how much value he has to me. It is the human connection that I don't want to lose, and I am prepared to pay a certain price for it, depending on the situation.

Hello Arnold,

I am unsure what this means. What is entailed by "identifying with the person in trouble", assuming that one has no other information but that he is a man? What is "the human connection"? Is it a recognition of your common humanity? But this tells us nothing -- for a rational being, value is achieved, it is the product of one's choices, fundamentally, in regard to the method by which one operates one's mind.

Well, you partly answer this for me in your next post when you say:

"To me, "identifying with the person in trouble" means feeling that it could just as easily have been me. If, in my judgment, the person was in trouble through some bad choice that he made, I would evaluate it as being "his problem", not mine."

The way I see it, the 'value' is not the person himself (he may never feature in your life), but the concept of assistance. It is a value to all, when all are inclined to help one another. By not helping, you may (depending on circumstances) feel that you have given up the expectation to ever expect help in an emergency. For me this would be a negative emotion in contrast to the benevolence one should feel toward others.

This is a difficult issue but if it serves no other purpose than to make us focus on why we act and feel a certain way, it justifies attention. My position is different from most, in that I assume no value in the stranger himself, but place it on the way I relate to other humans.

No worries :( -- the post that contained "To me, 'identifying with the person in trouble' means feeling that it could just as easily have been me...." was by Laure, not by me.

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I am unsure what this means. What is entailed by "identifying with the person in trouble", assuming that one has no other information but that he is a man? What is "the human connection"? Is it a recognition of your common humanity? But this tells us nothing -- for a rational being, value is achieved, it is the product of one's choices, fundamentally, in regard to the method by which one operates one's mind.

Not to speak for Arnold, but personally it would make a difference to me if the human in trouble was evidently, by simple observation and assessment, a drunken homeless bum (or worse, say Al Gore or Janet Reno), vs. a normal looking civilized person.

Hello Phil,

It would make a difference to me as well, or, I think, to any rational individual; once one introduces potentially meaningful information, the numbers shift. A drunken, overweight bum in tattered clothing, soaked in his own bodily fluids, calls up a _much_ different value probability than a lovely, lean, woman of erect posture and proud bearing dressed in a business suit. In at least some cases, I imagine even one glance at the face alone could potentially introduce meaningful information.

John

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I found this grand thread, while thinking about my recently deceased Maine Coon cat Sam.

It helped me greatly to better understand what Sam meant to me.

One thing I still want to belatedly contribute to the subject of the value of a pet, and that is that, when I value my pet, the value differs over time. The process of valuing my pet develops over time as the mutual visibility between my cat and me results in a gradually more valuable man/pet relationship.

It comes from simple developments like my cat starting to ask for food from me, instead of just walking up to a bowl or asking another member of our household. My pet gradually develops habits that are solely foscused on me, which makes me happy as I see one of my greater values react positively to me. As an opposite of what could happen: if my pet would snarl at me instead without reason, that would diminish his value. Sam never did so unless I accidentally scared or hurt him, but instead he actually got more talkatative, rubbed more against me, followed me exclusively everywhere, lay down om my arm to be as close to me as possible etc.).

In a situation of weighing the life of a stranger against such a developed 'value relationship' with my pet, I will put my pet first. It means that I have put a lot of my time, my life, into developing this special relationship, this value, and I am not willing to unnecessarily throw that investment away and start allover again.

This is also why, when my wife and I talk about the loss of Sam (our Maine Coon), we talk about us now having 'a hole' in our life. We lost part of our life, when we lost Sam.

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This is also why, when my wife and I talk about the loss of Sam (our Maine Coon), we talk about us now having 'a hole' in our life. We lost part of our life, when we lost Sam.

I'm sorry and I understand.

Some people wonder whether, considering the pain of loss, it is worth it to care so much about a pet. Of course it is! Deal with the reality of your loss and grieve. In time the pain will fade but the wonderful happy memories will remain forever.

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Thanks for sharing that process, Betsy. I learned a lot from what you wrote.

You're right. Never should a fear of loss of a value interfere with pursuing and keeping that value. Our relationship with Sam was great and unique. The memories of that relationship will always remain with us and it will make us strive for a new same or better relationship with a new pet in the future. We both want that back. So we are now looking again for Maine Coon breeders who have a new litter.

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Bill O'Reilly on Fox just addressed the question of this thread (8/21/13). He pronounced that since we are "Judeo Christian", which holds that every human being has a "soul", we have a have to (i.e., have a duty to) save the person regardless of the value of the pet to its owner.

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I probably have the strangest response. If the stranger were a child, I would save them. If the pet was the dog I had to put down a couple years ago I would save the dog unless the stranger were a child. If it was some other pet, I would save the stranger. My last pet, a beautiful, intelligent Aussie cattle dog, was a very special animial. I've had many pets but he was the only one who was like a child to me. We were very close. I miss him every day, still.

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If the pet was the dog I had to put down a couple years ago I would save the dog unless the stranger were a child.

What if the dog were a puppy?

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If it was some other pet, I would save the stranger.

Even taking into account the odds that the stranger voted for Obama?

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