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

Please sign in or register to vote in this poll.

360 posts in this topic

We decide this every day on some level when we feed our pets, but don't send food to a homeless shelter or to that starving kid on television.  However, that is not an immediate life and death situation. 

Yeah, it's interesting that one seems to get a different answer comparing the chronic situation to the emergency situation. In the chronic situation of the starving children in Africa, homeless people, etc, if you allow that to take precedence over any of your values, then you have established a principle that will eat you alive over time. Can't feed a cat until you've fed the world? Then you can't have anything except maybe the clothes on your back, the meagerest roof over your head, and a bow full of rice, because the world is a bottomless pit of needs. If it can trump your desire for a pet companion, it can trump any other "non-essential."

The emergency situation is different because it is limited to one single event, and it concerns immediate life and death. Also, the chronic situation has causes that will continue regardless of how much aid is given, because the people involved will continue their self-destructive behaviors and defeat any ameliorating effect your assistance might provide. If I knew that the drowning person was just going to jump back into the lake every time he was pulled out, I would rescue the cat and let him drown.

In view of an immediate need to act, I would try to save the human life first, but not give up on the animal's either.

Heheh. When I first read the question, I thought why not save them both? :)

So if any of you have a medium-haired grey cat with blue eyes that likes to lie around, be lazy, and will come over and snuggle with you, I had one too.  :)

I know that cat!! He likes to walk across your newspaper too, or get right between you and the book you're reading and stick his hiney in your face. I hate that! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Erskine wrote: "...The lifespan of a dog or a cat is about 8-12 years."

18-20 for (my) kitties. 15-17 for smaller dogs. That age span is for big dogs.

"Anyone who says he couldn't live without his pet has become far too attached to something that by its very nature is going to be gone from his life in a relatively short span of time. Pets have to be a replaceable value, or else it is very unwise to get attached to them in the first place."

Guilty.

Four-Feet

Rudyard Kipling

I have done mostly what most men do,

And pushed it out of my mind;

But I can’t forget, if I wanted to,

Four-Feet trotting behind.

Day after day, the whole day through—

Wherever my road inclined—

Four-Feet said, ‘I am coming with you!’

And trotted along behind.

Now I must go by some other round,—

Which I shall never find—

Somewhere that does not carry the sound

Of Four-Feet trotting behind.

"Add to that what I said about pet personalities falling within a fairly narrow range, and I think it's conclusive that pets are very replaceable."

I've owned cats all my life. Trained them to sit up, fetch, roll over, jump up into my arms; trained them to obey with the snap of my fingers -- to not go beyond a certain point; to attack upon command; etc.

For two, I voiced trained them to do all that -- and more.

Those 2 were waaaay outside the envelope of most of the cats I've owned. One died years ago. One is now sitting on my lap -- trying to type her response to you. LOL

There are extraordinary cats & dogs. And they can live longer than most marriages. :)

Indeed, thanks to the medical advances in veterinary medicine -- and proper care -- they can live approximately 1/3 of a human's life.

So, given today's culture, given the stranger whom I don't know who lives in that culture, given the joy my 2 especially remarkable animals have brought/bring me -- if my saving my cat in lieu of that stranger makes me immoral, make the most from it.

A spouse, though? That's a no brainer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PS. This question implies something I refuse to acknowledge as part of (my) life, and my response to that implied aspect is this:

"I don't believe in no-win situations."

Therefore, I would save both.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I was really trying to find out is: Do you have enough data to make that generalization, and, if so, what is it?

Ah, okay then. Here's some data. The lifespan of a dog or a cat is about 8-12 years. Anyone who says he couldn't live without his pet has become far too attached to something that by its very nature is going to be gone from his life in a relatively short span of time. Pets have to be a replaceable value, or else it is very unwise to get attached to them in the first place.

I'm not sure how this is supposed to answer the question dondigitalia posed to you. As I understood him, he said that he does not necessarily disagree with your statement that the life of a human stranger should be valued above the life of a loved pet, but he asked you to provide a rational basis for that judgment. Your argument above, even it were to be accepted, simply concludes that the pet should be considered replaceable to the person. But how does that relate to the question at hand? To the person making the decision about whom to save, isn't one human stranger also replaceable by another human stranger? If not, then you need to go further to complete your argument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm. Let's see what our teacher had to say about this.

From "The Ethics of Emergencies", The Objectivist, February 1963.

The proper method of judging when or whether one should help another person is by reference to one's own rational self-interest and one's own hierarchy of values: the time, money or effort one gives or the risk one takes should be proportionate to the value of the person in relation to one's own happiness.

To illustrate this on the altruists' favorite example: the issue of saving a drowning person. If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it: only a lack of self-esteem could permit one to value one's life no higher than that of any random stranger. (And, conversely, if one is drowning, one cannot expect a stranger to risk his life for one's sake, remembering that one's life cannot be as valuable to him as his own.)

Both can be right, depending on the person, and their values. If it were me, I would save them both, starting with the person. But if I had a panicked or suicidal person who started to try to take me down with him, I'd push him under and go after my dog. Or, more likely, my dog would be coming to help me.

Edward Peyton

EDP Quote for today:

"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed"

-Francis Bacon

"Man is neither to be obeyed nor to be commanded."

-Ayn Rand (The Metaphysical vs. the Man-Made)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hmmm. Let's see what our teacher had to say about this.

Both can be right, depending on the person, and their values. If it were me, I would save them both, starting with the person. But if I had a panicked or suicidal person who started to try to take me down with him, I'd push him under and go after my dog. Or, more likely, my dog would be coming to help me.

But that does not answer the question, Ed. The question was: "Would it ever be morally proper to love a pet so much as to value its life over that of a human stranger?" The choice you are given is that it is only possible to save one, not both. What is your answer to that question?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"Anyone who says he couldn't live without his pet has become far too attached to something that by its very nature is going to be gone from his life in a relatively short span of time. Pets have to be a replaceable value, or else it is very unwise to get attached to them in the first place."

Guilty.

:)

(Cool poem, btw.)

I've owned cats all my life.  Trained them to sit up, fetch, roll over, jump up into my arms; trained them to obey with the snap of my fingers -- to not go beyond a certain point; to attack upon command; etc. 

I remember them. :)

One is now sitting on my lap -- trying to type her response to you.  LOL

LOL! Tell her I said 'hi', and that it's only a silly hypothetical. :)

(The other one was Apollo, right?)

So, given today's culture, given the stranger whom I don't know who lives in that culture, given the joy my 2 especially remarkable animals have brought/bring me -- if my saving my cat in lieu of that  stranger makes me immoral, make the most from it.

Even knowing how much you love your cats, I'm inclined to think it's the state of the culture and your expectations about the worthlessness of the drowning stranger that are the main premise on which your argument rests. Wouldn't you agree that if the culture and people were like, say, 1898 New York City, you would rescue the stranger instead of the cat?

In my first post on the subject, I said that if one is morally obligated to rescue a drowning stranger, then one is morally obligated to choose the stranger over the pet cat. I think what you're saying is that you no longer feel any moral obligation to rescue the drowning stranger at all, cat or no cat, because people in general have become a disvalue.

While that may be your mood at times, I don't think it's the evaluation that would predominate if you ever found yourself in such an unlikely situation. There are enough good people out there to keep the default assumption in favor of humanity over felinity. The chance of letting a good person drown still outweighs the possibility of saving an evil person.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In my first post on the subject, I said that if one is morally obligated to rescue a drowning stranger, then one is morally obligated to choose the stranger over the pet cat.

But your conclusion does not follow. These are two different ciricumstances. If you come upon a drowning stranger and throw a line to him to save his life, you have done so without giving up anything of value, except for the short time you spend on this. But in the pet situation you would be giving up a high value, the life of your loved pet. So, again, you really need to justify your conclusion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
To the person making the decision about whom to save, isn't one human stranger also replaceable by another human stranger?

Qua stranger, yes. As an individual human being, no. Each person is a unique individual, whereas cats are cats. They all have the same basic instincts and behavioral habits, and given the same influences, will have roughly the same personality. The unique thing about a highly trained cat is the owner who was able to train it. What he did with one cat, he can do with another. Pets, especially the more intelligent ones, mold themselves to mesh with the personality of their owners. What the owner values, he rewards; and what he rewards, the pet does. There are differences between breeds, especially with dogs, that have to be taken into account, but the principle stands: pets can be replaced, an individual human being cannot.

Which leads to the question: Why should one care whether that particular individual can be replaced or not? If he's a stranger, an unknown quantity, how can he be a higher value to me than my cat? I think the answer is that individual human life is, in the abstract, an important rational value. A particular individual might be a low-life, but in the scenario as you set it up, I'm not being asked to judge between a particular individual and my pet cat. I don't have enough information to make that judgment. I'm being asked to judge between a human life and a pet. Human life is more important to me than the life of a pet.

It's possible for an individual to be such a scumbag that I would prefer to save my cat and let him drown. I might even want to toss him a nice heavy rock. That's not what I think one should assume about a stranger in our culture though. If it ever becomes proper to make that assumption, then there's no moral obligation at all to save a drowning person, pet or no pet, minimal risk or not.

I'll reiterate what I said in my first post on this topic: if there is a moral obligation to save the life of a human being in situations where the risk is minimal to oneself, then there is a moral obligation to save him even if it means the death of one's pet. If one maintains that there's no moral obligation to let the pet die in favor of saving the human, then I think one is committed to saying there's no moral obligation to save the human at all. If we have to know something about the particular individual before we can place him above a pet, then we have to know something about him before we can place him above making our dinner date on time, or just enjoying a stroll in the evening air. As a particular individual, the stranger cannot have any value whatsoever, because he is a complete unknown. Only when considered in the abstract, as an individual human life can he have a value.

(Forgive me if this is not well written. I was thinking it through as I typed. I could probably make the argument tighter if I had time, but it's past my bedtime.) :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I know there are people who will argue that their particular cat is an irreplaceable value, so I'll go ahead and say now that I disagree. Cats have 'personalities' within a certain range of behaviors, and there are good cats and bad cats, but within the very broad category of good cats, one is as good as another. The same is true of dogs, hamsters, canaries and goldfish.

This sounds a lot like the "there are a lot of other fish in the sea" argument. Do you get your pets from "Plato's Pet Planet" store? I suggest Aristotle's Cuddly Friends store where each one is a seperate individual.

It is the interaction with the human that sets a particular pet's personality, not just the animal qua animal considered in a vacuum. From your approach, sure, one is like any other, but live with a dog for its entire life and say it is not irreplaceable. You are looking at the animal, what about the human bond with the animal?

Would you say the same about jobs? There are good jobs, and there are bad jobs, but within the very broad catagory of good jobs, one is as good as another. The same is true for spouse, where you live, food, clothing.

You certainly would have to, if you are going to leave man out of the equation. That is, individual, actual, men with their own particular values and interests, and their individual experience of the world. That includes one's ability to form bonds with non-human creatures and the relationships-particular, individual relationships- that are not replacable with a million others.

To prove my position, I only ask you to go take someone's beloved pet and simply swap it with another. If it really makes no difference, they won't mind. Or, if they do, are they then delusional?

Signed,

Thoyd Loki, a man completely in love with his precious cocker spaniel, Missy, who was rescued from an abusive home by his wife, and suffered from parvo as a pup, so that at 14, she still has an adorable puppy face. Totally and utterly irreplacable!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Qua stranger, yes. As an individual human being, no. Each person is a unique individual, whereas cats are cats. They all have the

But in the scenario you do not get to value him as an individual; he remains an unknown stranger.

... I'm not being asked to judge between a particular individual and my pet cat. I don't have enough information to make that judgment. I'm being asked to judge between a human life and a pet. Human life is more important to me than the life of a pet.

Yes, I understand that that is your position. But, again, what is the reason that justifies your position? In answer to the original question, you are saying that it is never rationally justifiable to value the life of a loved pet, over that of a complete stranger, one for whom you cannot discern anything of significance. Your conclusion may be right, but the question remains: Why?

I'll reiterate what I said in my first post on this topic: if there is a moral obligation to save the life of a human being in situations where the risk is minimal to oneself, then there is a moral obligation to save him even if it means the death of one's pet. If one maintains that there's no moral obligation to let the pet die in favor of saving the human, then I think one is committed to saying there's no moral obligation to save the human at all. If we have to know something about the particular individual before we can place him above a pet, then we have to know something about him before we can place him above making our dinner date on time, or just enjoying a stroll in the evening air.

How can you compare a "stroll in the evening air" to the love for a pet? Afterall, you were the one arguing that a pet is replaceable as compared to a human being. With "replaceability" as the standard, clearly a "stroll in the evening air" is lightyears behind a loved pet, wouldn't you think? A living entity as opposed to a walk. (Not that I buy into the "replaceability argument. I do not accept that as a proper standard.)

(Forgive me if this is not well written. I was thinking it through as I typed. I could probably make the argument tighter if I had time, but it's past my bedtime.) :)

Me too. I am going nitey-nite right now! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But that does not answer the question, Ed. The question was: "Would it ever be morally proper to love a pet so much as to value its life over that of a human stranger?" The choice you are given is that it is only possible to save one, not both. What is your answer to that question?

It is not only morally proper, but I can't imagine a situation where someone could love a stranger more than one's beloved pet. Of course one LOVES and VALUES the pet over a particular stranger. But that was not your original question.

In this situation, it is morally proper to DO either, or nothing, depending on the context. I don't think you can make a flat commandment about it. Despite a desire to create a hypothetical situation that has no context, there is context in everything in life and reality. And since this is an emergency situation, you have little time to reationally consider the situation. You have to go by how you feel about it, and make a quick decision, with little informaton. If I come along later and want to morally judge you for what you did, I would have a hard time doing it, no matter what you ended up doing.

Honestly, though, I doubt there is any decent person that could stand by and watch ANY human being die, without trying to do something about it, if possible. There are people who risk their lives every day to save people, NOT becuase they are altruists, but because they could not live with the thought of watching a human being die without doing something about it. If I just imagine myself in that situation, my first thought would always be to save the person, if possible, all things being equal. It may not be that I value that stranger more than the pet, but I don't see myself letting a person die, and then being okay with it later. This is NOT about the value of this particular stranger, but the value of human life itself. Can you imagine youself watching a human life be snuffed out, when there is something you can do about it? This is a Human Being after all!

That doesn't mean that I could not see myself saving the pet instead, depending on the context. Maybe the guy jumped off he bridge and wated to kill himself, and if I try to save him, he'll try to pull me under? Maybe he is someone who used to be a guard at a concentration camp? On the other hand, maybe he is someone who will discover the cure to the rare disease that I will get someday? I mean there are a thousand contexts imaginable, and you will know what the context is only when you are there, and you will have about 5 seconds to make a decision.

EVEN given that, I don't think there is a MORAL obligaton to save either one, if it involves significant risk to your own life. It is hard to imagine an emergency situtation where there is NO CHANCE of risk to oneself, when one is contemplating saving others from death. You do the best you can, and hope for the best. The best MORAL principle is to get OUT of the emergency as soon as possible, and then consider what to do next.

Please don't reply asking me to answer your question again, LEAVING out any context. There is no point in trying to literally answer a non-contextual hypothetical question. My first thought is always to check the pemise of the question. After all, the hypothitical is by definition that which does not exist. The only interesting thing about trying to answer this question is checking the premise of it (The premise is an impossible situation, anyway), and debating possible contexts, oher ethical questions (if any), etc.

Edward (Not Ed) Peyton

EDP Quote for today:

"A gentleman is one who never inflicts pain."

-Cardinal Newman

"...unintentionally."

-Oscar Wilde

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Please don't reply asking me to answer your question again, LEAVING out any context.

Okay, I will not ask you again to directly answer the question. But please do not imply that the question cannot be answered as it is. It can, and has already been answered by a number of people whose positions fall on both sides of the issue. I will also note that Ayn Rand had no difficulty answering this sort of question. For instance, she once answered a lifeboat-type question as to whether she would kill an innocent stranger to save her own life. She did not ask for nor did she provide any additional context; she answered the question as a matter of principle. She stated that she probably would not kill an innocent stranger to save her own life, but she would kill ten strangers to save the life of her husband.

Edward (Not Ed) Peyton

I'm sorry. My mistake. I know how annoying that can be. My name is Stephen, but I am sometimes called Steve, Steven, or other things that I cannot even mention in polite company. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But in the scenario you do not get to value him as an individual; he remains an unknown stranger.

So because I haven't met him, he's not an individual human life? I said later in my post that individual human life is a value in the abstract.

Yes, I understand that that is your position. But, again, what is the reason that justifies your position?

That's what I'm trying to work out. There has to be a reason, because I know that I find it unacceptable that someone could choose the pet in that situation. I'm trying to reason my way through it. If you have the answer already, you might help. :)

Let me try this. Let's say that I do know a little bit about the stranger. All I know is that he's hard working, competent, reasonably intelligent and well loved by his friends and family. I don't know anything about his philosophy, or his politics, just those few things. Suddenly, he and my pet are in the water drowning. I know enough about this individual now to say that he is definitely a higher value than my pet. If I am confronted by the same situation, but with a complete stranger, my working assumption is that he is at least as valuable as the average Joe I described above and might be much more valuable. For all I know, he might be one of you guys. In a rational society, other people are a value even if you don't know them, and might never interact with them other than pulling them out of a lake.

In answer to the original question, you are saying that it is never rationally justifiable to value the life of a loved pet, over that of a complete stranger, one for whom you cannot discern anything of significance.

I thought I had modified that to the context of the society in which one is living. In Soviet Russia, I rescue my pet and to hell with everyone else. So to adjust my answer, it is only moral to value your pet more than another human life, if you live in a society where humanity has sunk so low that one cannot reasonably expect a stranger to be a rational human being (and I mean rational in a loose sense, not necessarily an Objectivist).

How can you compare a "stroll in the evening air" to the love for a pet?

I wasn't. I was comparing both to the value of a particular individual that you know nothing about. If you have to know something about the individual, other than the fact that he's a human being, in order to value him, then knowing nothing about him means he's no more valuable than a nice stroll in the park. If you can place a value on him as a human being, then the question is, what value is due to another person as an individual human life. Somewhere between a stroll and a pet cat is what we have so far...

Afterall, you were the one arguing that a pet is replaceable as compared to a human being. With "replaceability" as the standard, clearly a "stroll in the evening air" is lightyears behind a loved pet, wouldn't you think? A living entity as opposed to a walk. 

A living entity as opposed to a walk? Well, as long as we don't talk about the living entities I stepped on while I was taking the walk. They certainly aren't more important. Maybe a squirrel, or a rabbit... I have to rate mammals higher than all those little things crawling around under my shoes; and of mammals, my pets rank higher than all other mammals, of course; but rational mammals rank higher than them. Oh, wait. Those are humans! :)

(Not that I buy into the "replaceability argument. I do not accept that as a proper standard.)

Maybe replaceability isn't the right word for it. We place a very low value on bugs and such because their level of consciousness is such that they are essentially interchangeable. We don't want to get rid of bugs altogether, because we need the bugs to feed the spiders, and we need the spiders to feed the birds, etc. But we don't need any particular bug, or any particular species of bug. One is as good as another.

The same is still true of higher order animals. I put bird feeders behind my house, because I enjoy watching the birds eat and hearing them sing. My enjoyment doesn't depend on any particular bird, just on birds in general. I don't think anyone on this board would say that there's a species of bird or mammal that is more important than human life.

We place a particular value on our pets, and single them out from all other animals, but I think that when it comes to setting them next to a human life we have to maintain our perspective. They are still animals, and human life is more important. Our happiness might be enhanced by having a pet, but it shouldn't depend on one particular pet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
if there is a moral obligation to save the life of a human being in situations where the risk is minimal to oneself, then there is a moral obligation to save him even if it means the death of one's pet.

I still don't see how this follows. You are attempting to create a syllogism where no syllogism is possible between your terms.

Human life is more important to me than the life of a pet.

(emphasis mine)

Then, in your case, saving the human would be entirely proper. I think most of us are looking for a more universal answer, though. Such an answer depends on whether or a pet can be a greater objective value than the life of a stranger to any valuer at all. Your personal value-judgements are, for the most part, irrelevant to a universal answer, but they are THE essential to how you (personally) should act in this situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's what I'm trying to work out. There has to be a reason, because I know that I find it unacceptable that someone could choose the pet in that situation.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but here is how I perceive your dilemma. You have a gut feeling that it is wrong to chose the pet, and are searching for aspects of reality to support your feeling. If this is, in fact, the case, it's skirting pretty close to rationalizing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stephen, answering your reply from the second page:

You cannot discern anything significant about the stranger, so all the talk about bums and the like is not relevant. And, the question is, would it ever be morally proper, so your choice is: 1) No, it can never be morally proper, or 2) Yes, it can be morally proper, or 3) I don't know. I take it from all else that you said, your answer would be "2."
Yes that would be my answer, not that it always is proper to rate an actual value of a pet over a potential value of a human stranger, but that it can be proper to do this in certain cases. Thoyd Loki made a good example of what one's pet can mean to a person; imagine another hypothetical situation where your dear favorite German shepherd saved you from drowning, and then carried your newborn babies out of a burning house. How can you not value this angel of a dog over a perfectly random stranger? :) Would you not want to buy it some delicious biscuits and hug it all day? How many random strangers get that treatment? Does anyone here, who is in favor of the human stranger vs a dog, ever feel like hugging a stranger and confessing to them desperately, "I love you, my wonderful potential human?"
I asked if anyone could conceive of a real, specific, concrete object that they would value over the life of our stranger. You've already said yes, you could conceive of such an object, so I just wanted to know what specific inanimate object would that be.
I am far too young to really expect to have such an object in mind, i.e. not just something that I care about, but something that I would value over a human being. I can certainly imagine someone like you having such an intense attachment to an object of absolutely irreplaceable value, like the only existing/remaining copy of Newton's Principia, or some other object of intensely personal scientific value. I guess even in my case I can imagine some hypothetical examples too, such as valuing the only remaining existant copy of Atlas Shrugged anywhere in the world, as opposed to valuing a random human stranger. But as I said, I haven't lived long enough to have a non-convoluted, non-hypothetical example.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Erskine Fincher,

I think that despite your statement that you've owned numerous pets in the past, that you simply don't understand the pet owner's mentality. Your comments about pet "replaceability" are also rather ominous. Why have pets at all, if you can just exchange them one for another and not notice the difference? What are they, drones with a fixed number of meaningless reactions, or can they cry, be happy, be sad, comfort you, need to be comforted, etc?

For the record, I don't own a pet now due to other circumstances, but I my family did have a pet once, and I know people who have pets, such as a large but very friendly boxer with whom I regularly engage in tug-of-war battles, competitions and chasing matches.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you have the answer already, you might help.  :)

What is interesting (to me) is that asking a simple question forces people to think about their value system and its hierarchy, and to question upon what that hierarchy is based. So this is not really a test to which an answer is given, but rather a means for each of us to explore our values and sense of morality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Does anyone here, who is in favor of the human stranger vs a dog, ever feel like hugging a stranger and confessing to them desperately, "I love you, my wonderful potential human?"

You do have a way with words. :) But, actually, to tell you truth, there are some days when I am feeling even more happy than ususal, so much so that my joy extends out to embrace all that is around me. I don't think I ever walked up to a stranger and said it the exact way you describe, but there are times when I extended to strangers a benevolence and sense of friendship that I ordinarily reserve towards those closest to me. Heck, quite honestly, I have even spoken to inamimate objects expressing my great affection towards them.

I am far too young to really expect to have such an object in mind

So value is a time-dependent function? :) Actually, in many ways I think you are right.,

i.e. not just something that I care about, but something that I would value over a human being.

How about an original painting for which no prints were ever made.

Free Capitalist, I really appreciate your answers, as I appreciate Erskine while struggling with this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Correct me if I'm wrong, but here is how I perceive your dilemma. You have a gut feeling that it is wrong to chose the pet, and are searching for aspects of reality to support your feeling. If this is, in fact, the case, it's skirting pretty close to rationalizing.

I don't think so at all and, in fact, I look for aspects of reality to support my gut feelings all the time. I ask myself, "What did I just see or hear that makes me feel this way?"

Usually, there is a darn good reason that I feel a certain way and it is much better to be consciously aware of it than not. If it turns out that the reason isn't true or, more commonly, is irrelevant in the current context, being aware of that helps me deal with my emotional reactions rationally.

One example I often give is of my first reaction to seeing Ayn Rand on television after reading her novels. I experienced an immediate and strong dislike! I then asked myself what facts gave rise to the reaction and identified that she was about the same age, of similar appearance, and had exactly the same accent as my two value-hating, misery-worshipping Russian-Jewish immigrant aunts. I then realized, "That's not Aunt Molly. That's the author of The Fountainhead," and the negative feeling disappeared.

It would only be rationalizing if I had defended my emotion by ignoring or evading the facts on which my emotion was based or their relevance to the current context.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Correct me if I'm wrong, but here is how I perceive your dilemma. You have a gut feeling that it is wrong to chose the pet, and are searching for aspects of reality to support your feeling. If this is, in fact, the case, it's skirting pretty close to rationalizing.

Actually, I think the opposite is the case. Other people are arguing from the premise that their pet is a high value to them and they know nothing about the stranger, so he can't compare in value to the pet. When they end up in the position of saving an animal and letting a human drown, they say that it has to be the right answer regardless, because they've followed a deductive process to arrive at it. I am questioning the conclusion and saying that there has to be a flaw in the reasoning.

Try to imagine yourself explaining to a small child that your cat was a higher value to you than his mother. "Yes, I could have saved your mom, but I've had this cat a really long time..." When I put myself into the situation of having to justify the action after the fact, the argument sounds hollow. I would feel like a louse. I trust that reaction more than I trust the reasoning process employed in saying the pet is the greater value. If I justified an action with a line of reasoning, while ignoring my emotional evaluation of the act, that would be rationalism.

It might turn out that I'm wrong, and that my emotional evaluation of the situation is based on a flawed premise. Or it could turn out that I'm right and the reasoning really is flawed. Right now, I think it's the latter. Someone might be able to convince me otherwise, but I'm not convinced yet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think that despite your statement that you've owned numerous pets in the past, that you simply don't understand the pet owner's mentality.

That would be odd, since I am a pet owner. Maybe it's that I don't understand the mentality of some pet owners. Or maybe it's that I do understand it, but disagree with it. :)

Your comments about pet "replaceability" are also rather ominous. Why have pets at all, if you can just exchange them one for another and not notice the difference?

I don't understand your point. Why does the replaceability of something make it undesirable? I didn't say, though, that you wouldn't notice a difference. My position is that the difference is insignificant compared to the value of a human life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So this is ... a means for each of us to explore our values and sense of morality.

OH! That's what this is all about! And here I thought it was just a way to get more traffic into the forum :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Erskine, I'll try to make this as concrete as I can:

1) Is it ever proper to hug a dog and have tender feelings for it?

2) Is it ever proper, barring Stephen's bouts of benevolence (:)), to go and hug random strangers and have tender feelings for them?

Or to be even more concrete, have you ever had tender feelings for a pet (btw cats aren't very smart, so you might want to look into dogs for some real animal companionship :))? And have you ever had tender feelings for a stranger whom you knew nothing about, and could gather no information about based on their looks, etc?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites