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

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?

1) Yes.

2) Hugging them might get you arrested. Giving them a friendly smile and a nod is kinda cool though.

That doesn't prove anything about the value of a pet vs the value of a human life. The stranger is an unknown, so he stands for the abstraction: individual man. You can't hug an abstraction, but when you save the individual man from drowning instead of the pet you are declaring your devotion to the value of individual man over the value of any particular animal. If you ran up and hugged a random stranger you would just be declaring that you have no sense of decorum. :)

Or to be even more concrete, have you ever had tender feelings for a pet

Yep. More than one, and the overwhelming majority of them are dead now. Pets come and pets go. It's a sad fact of life.

(btw cats aren't very smart, so you might want to look into dogs for some real animal companionship :))?

Shhh! Don't let Steven hear you say that. :)

(I have both a dog and a cat: Sara and Achilles. The dog is my daughter's, but I'm the one who takes care of it. The cat is mine. If the three of us were dropped into the middle of a lake, I would most likely drown while they swam safely to shore.) :)

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(The other one was Apollo, right?)

Apollo was just a fat cat who loved to be loved -- almost as much as he loved his food. :)

Rocky was the one. You never knew him. He was...well, he was beyond extraordinary. I could literally, in a normal speaking voice, tell him "No, don't scratch there, Rock." Then he'd look at me with those big, intelligent eyes, and I'd say, "You know where." And he'd go on over to his scratch pad.

I never had to tell him twice to do or not do anything.

No, he wasn't conscious as rational. But as an animal -- I was blown away.

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?

Weeeell, now it gets dicey. My answer would have to be: "More than likely -- but I would go for both." :) I'm still not going to accept Stephen's "rules." :)

:)

But I'm still not ready to recognize this scenario as imparting upon me a moral obligation.

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.

OK, guilty to the second. But as to the first, I still won't recognize the moral obligation here. As I recall, HB's example involved no such choice as laid out here; and it was just a matter of throwing a life preserver or some other act that would involve really no effort or investment. A simple flick of the wrist.

Now, absolutely, in that scenario, you don't flck your bloddy wrist to save a human being -- even in today's vile culture -- well, that is immoral.

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.

Granted. But morally obligated? I have done the saving bit once, at some minor risk. So I do know my "moods" wouldn't sway me in certain scenarios.

But that's still up to a point. And there's no moral obligation, in my mind, still.

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(btw cats aren't very smart, so you might want to look into dogs for some real animal companionship )?

That is a myth spread by doggies. :)

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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?"

And that is exactly the right way of examining your emotions, as you obviously know. (That kind of introspection is something I'm just now starting to break some real ground in. It's surprising how difficult it is for me to determine why I'm having certain emotions, but getting into that is really a whole different thread. I'll stay on topic here.)

Erskine made a statement that I interpreted as meaning: I feel this way. Now, I need to find an aspect of reality that would make this feeling completely justified in the present context. In other words, I thought he/she (which is it, Erskine is a hard name?) was skipping that step of identifying the facts that gave rise to the emotion and determining if those facts were relevant to the question at hand. I may have been wrong, though (I haven't read Erskine's response yet); it can be really difficult to come to conclusions about where someone else is coming from when there's no body language or tone voice to go by. :)

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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.

I apologize if you were not attempting to rationalize; I may have misinterpreted what I read. I still don't really understand why this reasoning has to be flawed. I am unable to find any reason it would be improper for someone to hold a pet as a very high value. And if the value at stake is the criteria by which one should decide how to act in this situation (I don't think anyone is debating this), then that is the crux of the problem.

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.

Certainly it would be hard to explain to a child; a child (unless he was a philosophical prodigy) could never understand the complex value-judgments you would try to explain to him. Should this be taken into consideration, though? You don't know that the stranger has any children - you don't know anything about him at all other than his species and (most likely) gender. Bringing a child (or any person dependent on the stranger) into the picture would change the situation tremendously.

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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.

To answer the last paragraph of your post first: I am going to argue against you, but my aim is not to convince you. I do not know of a way to convince someone that wants to argue about legitimate, optional values (or the hierarchy of such). You say that an absolute stranger is of more value to you (or potential, not really part of the point) than any pet you may own. I say my dog is of more value than any absolute stranger. What is there to argue about on that point?

But, you go on to say, the other side is wrong. Well, by what standard? I certainly would not act as you would, but I do not think you are wrong in your choice. I do not, however, think you should own pets! :)

Now on to paragraph #2. I certainly could imagine telling a child my dog (not a cat guy) was more important to me than her stranger of a mother. That is the actual truth. But why should I take your scenario into consideration? Should that be a guiding principle-think of what others would think? And why are we adding characteristics to this stranger? It is now not only female, but a mother as well? Is the child standing next to the lake crying for you to save her dear poor mother?

I trust that reaction more than I trust the reasoning process employed in saying the pet is the greater value.

Are you saying that you are not employing a reasoning process here, and are going strictly on an emotional response? And if you are employing a reasoning process (to anticipate your first paragraph) is it inductive or deductive? Is saying the pet is the greater value strictly a reasoning process devoid of value-judgement? Of course it sounds like a line of reasoning to you with no basis in value-judgement; it does not match your value-judgements!

Now, your first paragraph (I like to read as well as argue backwards). Of course its a deductive argument or process, but what is wrong with that? A deductive argument is nothing more than a logical series of generalizations (products of induction) to reach a particular conclusion. namely, in this instance, my particular hierarchy of values. I do not think my answer is the right answer regardless. And I certainly wouldn't think so simply because it came at the end of a deductive process. Is Leibniz here?

Summarily, I would love to see someone try to prove that either position here is objectively flawed.

I still emphatically disagree that my dog is not an irreplacable individual.

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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.

Well, here is your original question:

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, and granted that you do not know and cannot discern anything significant about the stranger, can you value your pet over the stranger and choose to save the animal?

Actually, I did answer that, if you read my answer. The short answer is yes. The long answer is that would be a rare situation. Like I said before, everything in life has a context, and an emergency situation has one, too. You will get into this situation, and then you will have 5 seconds to make a decision as to what to do. In that case, since you have no way to rationally consider the situation, you have to go with your best guess as to what is right, because NOT to act at all would be cowardly, if action is possible to you without sacrificing yourself. In essense, I think that if a person decided either way, they could be right. I still maintain that most people, even those who are adamant about their pets, if they were actually placed in this situation, would save the person first, all OTHER things being equal.

Don't mean to be insistant about the name, but I always assume a person's full name, unless they tell me a shortened version, or a nickname, Stephen.

Anyway, interesting question, and nice forum ya'll have put together, and I am enjoying it.

Edward Peyton

EDP Quote for today:

Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance.

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To answer the last paragraph of your post first: I am going to argue against you, but my aim is not to convince you. I do not know of a way to convince someone that wants to argue about legitimate, optional values (or the hierarchy of such).

The optionality is what is in question. If you can demonstrate that valuing a pet over a human life is optional, then I will concede the argument.

Are you really arguing that it is optional, though? You emphasize the point that this is an absolute stranger vs. a loved pet, which suggests that choosing the stranger is a sacrifice of an important value for something one can't possibly value. Then you go on to suggest that, feeling this way, I should not own pets. You seem to be saying that someone who really loves their pet ought to choose the pet over the human.

Regardless of which one of us is right about the proper choice, I don't think it can be optional. We're not debating the merits of dogs vs cats as pets. The choice is either between a loved pet vs. a complete stranger who has zero place in our values, or between a loved pet vs. individual human life as an abstract principle. How you view the choice determines which way you choose, but one can't simply say that the choice is optional or that there is no right or wrong way to frame the choice.

But, you go on to say, the other side is wrong. Well, by what standard?

That's a good question. The standard has to be life, my life in particular. The thing I haven't been able to do yet is draw a clear and convincing line from valuing my life to valuing individual human life as a principle.

It might be helpful to look at an analogous case: Because I value my freedom, I have an interest in protecting the freedom of other people within my society. If I see the freedom of another citizen being threatened, I have a moral obligation to myself to do as much as I can to help.

Here's another hypothetical situation to illustrate the choice. I think this one is a little more realistic than the drowning pet scenario:

Imagine that you're on your way to the vet because your pet has a life-threatening injury. As you're driving down the street, you see someone being kidnapped, forced into a van by men wearing hoods. If you call the cops and follow the van, you can help free this person but your pet will probably die. Shouldn't your moral obligation to defend freedom outweigh your devotion to your pet?

If you answer yes to the above scenario, then why isn't individual life just as important as individual freedom? Imagine that trip to the vet again, but this time you come up on a car accident. You're the first person on the scene and quick action by you could save lives. Will you help these people even if it means that Fluffy might die? Do you want to live in a society where pets are more important than individual freedom and individual life? (Sounds like France. Haha!) :)

But why should I take your scenario into consideration? Should that be a guiding principle-think of what others would think?

No, but when you think of trying to justify your actions to the person affected by them, it can help put things in perspective. If I switch it around and put myself in the position of the person who has lost a loved one, it still sounds like a poor argument. Woe betide the person who tells me he couldn't be bothered to save one of my children because he was too busy saving his pet.

And why are we adding characteristics to this stranger?

The characteristics are being added after the fact. Prior to making the decision, we know nothing about him except that he was a human being. Afterwards is when we get to find out that he was a man of superlative rationality and character with family and friends who loved him passionately. That's when we get to ask ourselves why we treated him like he was a skid row bum of no consequence to us. Good people are of consequence to us even if we never meet them, or socialize with them. They add value to our society even if we never know anything about their lives.

Is the child standing next to the lake crying for you to save her dear poor mother?

No. Would that make a difference in your decision? Let's add a crying child to the scenario. Would you be able to ignore the child crying pitifully for someone to rescue its mother, and still rescue your pet? If not, then why assume that there won't be a child crying pitifully after the fact? The chances are very good that someone loves the person.

Are you saying that you are not employing a reasoning process here, and are going strictly on an emotional response?

No, I'm employing a reasoning process to try to understand my emotional response. Emotions are not irrelevant. They tell us what our values are. The fact that I would feel guilty after the fact tells me that there might be a problem with the action. Alternatively, maybe I'm just not selfish enough to place something I value above another person's values. I've considered that, but I don't think it's the case. I can imagine some values that I wouldn't give up to save the person, but they are up on a higher level than beloved pets. They are up on a level where I don't think pets belong.

Of course it sounds like a line of reasoning to you with no basis in value-judgement; it does not match your value-judgements!

I didn't say that the other line of reasoning has no basis in value-judgments. My contention is that another less obvious but more important value is being ignored. The pet is a concrete value. The stranger represents an abstract value: individual human life. I think the latter should trump the former. I would like to see the other side actually grapple with the question of whether the stranger does represent a more abstract value, or whether he is to be treated simply as a concrete. I think that if it is the latter, then he can't be of any value to us at all because we know zilch about him.

Of course its a deductive argument or process, but what is wrong with that?

Nothing is wrong with a deductive argument, unless it yields nonsense. Then you have to go back and look at the premises and the reasoning at each step. You don't just accept the end result uncritically. I won't call the end result here nonsense, but it does bother me. I don't see how it could be right to let people die while saving a pet.

Summarily, I would love to see someone try to prove that either position here is objectively flawed.

I'm doing my best. :)

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I didn't say that the other line of reasoning has no basis in value-judgments. My contention is that another less obvious but more important value is being ignored. The pet is a concrete value. The stranger represents an abstract value: individual human life. I think the latter should trump the former. I would like to see the other side actually grapple with the question of whether the stranger does represent a more abstract value, or whether he is to be treated simply as a concrete. I think that if it is the latter, then he can't be of any value to us at all because we know zilch about him.

Nothing is wrong with a deductive argument, unless it yields nonsense. Then you have to go back and look at the premises and the reasoning at each step. You don't just accept the end result uncritically. I won't call the end result here nonsense, but it does bother me. I don't see how it could be right to let people die while saving a pet.

I think you have worded your view quite well.

My answer to Part A of the original question: I love my pet more than human strangers.

My answer to Part B of the original question: In a life or death situation I would save a human stranger before I would save my pet because I value human life (not necessarily the stranger) more than I value the life of my own beloved pet.

Various analogies have been written in this thread, but here is my own example:

If my son were drowning in a frozen lake at the same time as someone else’s dog, and the dog’s owner saves his dog rather than my son because he values his dog more than my son because my son is a stranger.

How would I judge the man who could have saved my son?

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Actually, I did answer that, if you read my answer. The short answer is yes. The long answer is ...

It was not clear to me what your answer was, which is why I asked. But, a "yes" is quite unequivocal, so I am quite happy to stick with that without getting involved with the long answer.

Don't mean to be insistant about the name, but I always assume a person's full name, unless they tell me a shortened version, or a nickname, Stephen.

Yes, you are right.

Anyway, interesting question, and nice forum ya'll have put together, and I am enjoying it.

Glad to have you here.

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I think you have worded your view quite well. 

My answer to Part A of the original question: I love my pet more than human strangers.

My answer to Part B of the original question:  In a life or death situation I would save a human stranger before I would save my pet because I value human life (not necessarily the stranger) more than I value the life of my own beloved pet.

I'm confused by this answer. Isn't love a response to what you value? If so, if you love your pet more than a stranger, then don't you value the pet more than you value the stranger?

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I'm confused by this answer. Isn't love a response to what you value? If so, if you love your pet more than a stranger, then don't you value the pet more than you value the stranger?

I've had to put a lot of thought in to this question, and still ended my response with a question.

While I love my pet more than I value a particular human stranger, I value human life more than I value my pet.

I care for, spend time with, talk to my pet (in my case - my cat). I would rather spend time with my pet more than I would like to spend time around most human beings. Therefore, to me, I love and value my pet more than I value human strangers.

However, facing a life or death situation I am certain I would save the life of a human stranger before I would save my cat. So maybe I am chopping up the question more than necessary? Perhaps it does boil down to potential. If the situation with my pet were reversed and he had the option to save me versus a stranger - he would not be able to. He is not human, he is a cat - he will save himself and if I'm not there the next morning to feed him, hopefully someone else will be.

What I have been trying to consider is how I would judge another (and why) who would save the life of a pet rather than a human stranger.

Pointers for checking my premise?

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Pointers for checking my premise?

I think you should be clear on the distinction between an actual value and a potential value. My toaster is an actual value to me in the service of my life, but I judge its value less than the potential value of a human stranger. The question you need to answer is, can you value the actual value of a pet above the potential value you place on a human stranger?

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Note: I didn't see writeby's and dondigitalia's responses this morning. Missed them somehow. I think I answered their points in my response to Thoyd Loki, so I won't bore everyone by repeating myself. I just wanted to respond to some miscellaneous things here. If you guys think there's something else I needed to respond to, thwok me over the head with it.

Rocky was the one.  You never knew him.

I think I did meet him when we were doing the tapes at the store. He was black and white too, but thinner than Apollo.

Weeeell, now it gets dicey.  My answer would have to be: "More than likely -- but I would go for both."  :)  I'm still not going to accept Stephen's "rules."  :)

:)

Heheh. :)

What about the scenarios I came up with in my response to Thoyd? Does it work better?

But I'm still not ready to recognize this scenario as imparting upon me a moral obligation.

If you read my response to Thoyd, I'd be interested in your thoughts (and don's) on what I came up with regarding valuing human life as an abstract principle.

In other words, I thought he/she (which is it, Erskine is a hard name?)

He. :)

It rhymes with fur skin, btw. I think people only get confused about the gender when they try to pronounce it so it rhymes with machine.

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The question you need to answer is, can you value the actual value of a pet above the potential value you place on a human stranger?

Thank you Stephen! Accepting the difference in terms, my answer is that I value human potential, even though I value my cat more than a toaster or a material object.

If the answer comes down to personal judgment and hierarchy of values, then there would not be a right or wrong answer to whether or not it is moral to save the life of a pet versus a human stranger?

What is the difference between understanding the concept of hierarchical values and whether or not an answer to an ethical question is subjective?

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It might be helpful to look at an analogous case: Because I value my freedom, I have an interest in protecting the freedom of other people within my society. If I see the freedom of another citizen being threatened, I have a moral obligation to myself to do as much as I can to help.

I see a difference here. What threatens another person's freedom -- a controlling government or crooks on the loose -- is a threat to my freedom too, but a personal emergency is personal to somebody else and doesn't threaten me.

It is like the difference of the US having a bad government and Cambodia having a bad government. There is a compelling selfish interest for an American to do something about the former but not so for the latter.

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I think you should be clear on the distinction between an actual value and a potential value. My toaster is an actual value to me in the service of my life, but I judge its value less than the potential value of a human stranger. The question you need to answer is, can you value the actual value of a pet above the potential value you place on a human stranger?

I would like some clarification of what is meant by "potential value." I've avoided that phrase in my argument, because I don't really know what it means. On the face of it, it seems to mean that the person must be potentially more valuable than the cat. Well, potentially, the person could turn out to be the love of your life, or the best friend you ever had. That potential is there in any stranger that you meet. Surely, anyone of us would save his spouse or best friend over his pet, so if we're talking of potentialities, then the stranger is the winner hands down. His potential value is immeasurably large. For all we know, he could be a real-life John Galt. (Please don't respond that John Galt wouldn't be flailing about helplessly in the water. Imagine another hypothetical more suitable, like the one I suggested about a car accident.)

But then maybe along with the potentiality you have to assign a probability of the potentiality being actualized. If you would only want to save the person if he was someone you could fall in love with, or become best friends with, you might count the probability of that as being pretty low, and not worth the 100% certainty of losing the pet. I don't understand how these potentialities and probabilities are reckoned, though, so I don't know how to use any of that in an argument.

I think I would understand their position better if the people arguing in favor of saving the pet would tell me what would have to be true about the human in question before they would consider saving him instead.

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Before thinking of a response, I'd like to point out that I have seriously tried to avoid a 'lifeboat' situation where you have to choose between a dying human and a dying animal. That's not a very comfortable hypothetical there, and I think it confuses the issue. So I propose we stick with a regular ethical situation where you have to choose between a dearly loved pet and a perfect stranger.

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Before thinking of a response, I'd like to point out that I have seriously tried to avoid a 'lifeboat' situation where you have to choose between a dying human and a dying animal. That's not a very comfortable hypothetical there, and I think it confuses the issue. So I propose we stick with a regular ethical situation where you have to choose between a dearly loved pet and a perfect stranger.

I don't follow that. Choosing between a dearly loved pet that's drowning and a perfect stranger who is drowning is choosing between a dying human and a dying animal. I think you meant for this to be qualified more, but I'm not sure what to add to correctly understand it.

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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, and granted that you do not know and cannot discern anything significant about the stranger, can you value your pet over the stranger and choose to save the animal?

Before answering Stephen's question, I would like to state the following points :

1. Firstly, when you take on a “cat” or a “dog” as your pet, what is "irreplaceable" about it and how it is different from other cats/dogs, is that it is <i>your</i> pet. In "my pet dog" for eg., the emphiasis is on 'my'. You take on a responsibility, you take on to care for it, you take it under your protection. The fact that you saved its life or could not save its life is reflection on how you did on a commitment or a promise to yourself.

There would be a definite, strong, emotional, psychological, limited and known loss in face of not saving your pet and losing it to save a stranger.

2. Secondly, you never made any commitment towards a stranger and you now find yourself in a situation that you can save a stranger. What do you do ?

3. Would you give up a definite, limited value for a potential, unlimited value ? Would you be content saving a known value and not let the thoughts of a “probabililty” haunt you later ? Are you the “one bird in hand is better than two in a bush” kind ?

My answer is : any choice one makes in such a case is proper. So long as one has foreseen consequences and is ready to accept the consequences of the choice one has made, any choice is proper in such circumstances.

I think this was a trick question by Stephen :) . He knows anything you choose in emergencies is not subject to being evaluated “morally”. He asks his question by saying “Would it ever be morally proper to…..”

Yes it would be morally proper but I should add…because it would not be morally improper to. :)

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If the answer comes down to personal judgment and hierarchy of values, then there would not be a right or wrong answer to whether or not it is moral to save the life of a pet versus a human stranger?

The original question as stated: "Would it ever be morally proper to ..." (emphasis added). So sure there is an answer. In fact, some people have answered "yes," and some people have answered "no."

What is the difference between understanding the concept of hierarchical values and whether or not an answer to an ethical question is subjective?

I suppose the difference is whether values are rationally chosen, or chosen otherwise.

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I think you should be clear on the distinction between an actual value and a potential value. My toaster is an actual value to me in the service of my life, but I judge its value less than the potential value of a human stranger. The question you need to answer is, can you value the actual value of a pet above the potential value you place on a human stranger?

I would like some clarification of what is meant by "potential value."

A potential value is a value that has not been actualized. The potential value you place upon a stranger depends upon your view of man and the world in which you live. There are some actual men whom I value much less than my toaster, and some actual men upon whom I place an enormous value. So the potential value of a stranger is somewhere between less than a toaster, and being of inestimable value. As to where exactly we place that potential value, in the context of all that we do value, is what my original question is all about.

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I think poojagupta made some very interesting points, but there is one general thing that I question.

I think this was a trick question by Stephen  :) . He knows anything you choose in emergencies is not subject to being evaluated “morally”. He asks his question by saying “Would it ever be morally proper to…..”

I do not think that emergencies per se negate moral judgments. I think that there are certain extreme emergencies to which morality does not pertain, but morality still pertains to emergencies in general.

Yes it would be morally proper but I should add…because it would not be morally improper to.  :)

I disagree. If you properly value one above the other, it would be moral to save what you value most, and immoral to do otherwise.

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3. Would you give up a definite, limited value for a potential, unlimited value ? Would you be content saving a known value and not let the thoughts of a “probabililty” haunt you later ? Are you the “one bird in hand is better than two in a bush” kind ?

I don't put much weight on this "potential value" idea. There is no shortage of strangers; they pop into existence by the millions every day. No, the reason one wants to save a stranger is empathy, not logic per se. It is useless to quantify the value of a stranger's life, as I tried to point out with a bit of humour in an earlier post. We evolved with empathy as a survival instinct, and it is that instinct that makes us imagine being in the place of the stranger. We identify our own life with his, more than we do with a pet's. In terms of "value", we let humans die of starvation while we feed Fido because they are not conditions of emergency we ourselves may encounter.

Why on earth is a human life worth more just because it is involved in an emergency rather than a chronic situation? Why sacrifice Fido for the former, but not even Fido's dinner for the latter? I think my explanation makes more sense than a "value" one, the explanation of -empathy.

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