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# A Moral Dilemma with Probability?

You have a situation, the exact parameters of which do not matter.

You have a choice to make.

Choice A will CERTAINLY kill 15 people, and has the POTENTIAL to kill *UP TO* an additional 90 people.

Choice B will CERTAINLY kill 20 people, and has the POTENTIAL to kill *UP TO* an additional 75 people.

You do not know probabilities for these potentials; it could be only 1 or 2, it could be 65 or 70, it could be the full respective 90 and 75.

What do you do, and why??

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### Replies to This Discussion

But then I'd be dead...plus there's no option for that. Hell, we don't know whether or not one of the choices is to kill yourself, and then you'd still end up with blood on your hands.
You have not explained what compels me to make this choice nor the parameters of the problem. The parameters ALWAYS matter. Problems, for the creative, often have unforeseen solutions.

In this scenario, assuming the situation that caused the crisis was not of my making, the only unethical (or, at least, cowardly) choice is to do nothing or commit suicide.

(note - I realized in this exercise that this particular response makes too many assumptions. See my real answer below.)

Since there is no information given that makes me in any way accountable for the nature of the outcome as long as I do something (whatever A and B are), if there are more than 105 people in peril, I will have saved a life or lives. If there are fewer than that, I will, at least, have attempted to save lives. In either case, I am a hero and have done the right thing.
Ya know - this is the WORST hypothetical I have seen in a long time. You have not told me what happens if I do nothing at all. In fact, you used the word 'killed' in reference to both cases as a result of me taking action. You did not say if any would die at all if I did nothing at all. I can always take no action at all. Therefore, your proposition is preposterous. The correct answer is 'none of the above'.
Well Dunn, get some.

You have to choose in MY scenario. Must. It is not possible to fail to choose between TWO, and only TWO, options.

Also, suicide is not a presented option. I have, by my "poor wording", boxed you in. In fact, I wonder why anyone would at all try to complicate this situation; I've presented you with two options. You choose one or the other. If you don't like this, then perhaps you shouldn't answer it or even try. I fully support your right to call it poorly worded, and encourage you to express that opinion here.

I didn't tell you what would happen if you did nothing at all because doing nothing at all was not a presented option. Perhaps I was being inconsiderate in not clarifying that from the start....I mean for responders to take the question "as is" and not start considering things "outside the frame" of the question. If this presents a problem for you, whether rational or emotional, then it's easy to say "I really just can't/won't answer this question". Otherwise, I here and now tell you to remain within the established frame and make your considerations there within.

Howard, there are not "clearly" more than two choices because I didn't provide you with those choices; the way I have framed this does not provide you with more than two OR the opportunity to just "make up what you want", as if someone would write in their own answer on a multiple choice test. When YOU post your own question, you can decide how you want to frame it and the number of choices you'll give to the readers; you can then construct your own limitations; that's where your "I can always take no action at all" belongs. Here, there is no capacity to "find a solution C"; the premise is "You will take action, it being impossible to fail to do so". Love it or hate it.

Admittedly, there are problems when considering questions like this in an amorphous vacuum; there is no context, and while parameters would help a person make the choice (are you or AREN'T you accountable to someone else for this choice?), I have provided you none, the idea being to keep this very raw, undiluted. It was pointed out to me by a friend that this question is highly unrealistic, not corresponding to any likely real-world scenario; I knew that before I even started typing. But it's a curious question, one that simply arose amidst dark, morning ponderings. I didn't say if the persons in question are infants, related to you, or cannibals who routinely murder for pleasure as well. This brings to light another question that, either of these three being the case, would it matter? Is life still of the same value no matter how innocent, close, or guilty the lives in question may be? Another interesting question meant to reveal moral thinking.

Note, however, this question is ENTIRELY answerable without any other information; it can be readily answered as I've presented it here, as other responders have already demonstrated. I really did think that how we would choose to dispose of life would constitute a question about how we think about it and value it....didn't realize that wouldn't be a 'moral' issue; Maybe we just have different operational definitions, then.
Doing nothing at all is either an option or my will is not part of the equation and my morality (or lack thereof) in either course of action is not in question. Since the consequences of doing nothing are not described, I cannot determine if that would be the moral choice. For Larry's benefit, BTW, had sacrificing myself for the survival of the group been an option.

A hypothetical is one thing - but when something that is always an option (such as doing nothing) is said to be 'not an option', the scenario has no applicable value whatsoever. Asking me my favorite color will tell you more about how I value life.
Good then. What's your favorite color>? Oh, and BY THE WAY, what's your answer to the question?
When one person CANNOT fail to act, yet has two choices, you're telling me they've no free will? Seriously? And how is knowing what result inaction will produce related to determining if a choice is moral or not?

Even the man falling through open air has free will, just extremely limited free will...he can still bellow, whistle, or, assuming he's skydiving, "swim" through the air in various manners. Hell, he could even pray if he was so inclined.

So your will is part of the equation, divided into two outcomes. Not knowing AT ALL still wouldn't relieve you of having to choose. I like to think of certain decisions that military commanders, especially Field Artillery, have to make, though generally they're considerably more well-informed than this......though not always. Of course, suicide is an option for them because that's the real world. I'm not sure I would necessarily call it arbitrary, however.

"A hypothetical is one thing - but when something that is always an option (such as doing nothing) is said to be 'not an option', the scenario has no applicable value whatsoever."

Demonstrably incorrect. You have fallen into a gigantic funnel. The laws of physics are in operation; you have no places to grip to stop or slow your slide down towards the output end of the funnel. This is a special funnel; it has TWO output valves. And though you are sliding down and can do nothing to stop this, you are in a position to control which of those two output valves you fall through. NOW: this is another hypothetical, but could it be arranged? Yes. And whichever valve you were to fall through would bring about a certain consequence; you know this beforehand. Doing nothing is 'not an option', as you said, but you can think of plenty of applicable values from this. And you still have free will, albeit extremely limited: you still can choose which valve
to go through.

That's sort of what I'm doing to you here.

By the way, since you asked, if I went ahead and gave you the choice of doing nothing, then told you that if you did nothing, everyone would die, and that all potentiality became actuality.....If I give you that, what say you?
Eh? None dead is less than one. Simple arithmetic. There is NO indication that killing yourself will save anyone in this scenario. I do not see how suicide prevents any other deaths but I do see how it causes at least one. 0<1 You frikkin suck up whatever you want.

And I ain't your frikkin son.
Meanwhile, I agree this is not a moral question. It is a poorly thought out hypothetical that offers two choices when there are, clearly, more than that.
Putting aside the fatuous nature of the hypothetical.

In principle there is no moral dilemma for me. I would choose the greater good/ lesser of two evils based on whatever evidence I had. That's is pretty much how I make decisions in real life. The one constant is self interest.
Yes - but this scenario doesn't present a lesser of two evils. It attempts to - but it fails. It's like asking if I would choose to believe in god or burn in hell. It is a false proposition.
I'm sorry, but "false" ? "False", as in there's some truth-value to this question now? Or are you employing that word in a different way? I wasn't aware the question I was asking you could be conceptualized in the realm of "true" or "false". I'm not asking you whether water freezes at -332 Fahrenheit is true or false. Hell, Jared said the best answer would be the one that killed THE MOST people. Can't say I agree, but that's his answer and, in certain contexts, maybe more valid than others. Although as I already (I thought needlessly) said, I've stripped this of contexual discriminators. And you can say that without them, the question might as well be dealt with by the flip of a coin, and you wouldn't be wrong; I just ask you to acknowledge that, aside from saying the outcome is as good as a blind, random choice, there are other ways of answering it (two as I've presented) and reasons that can be given for those choices, as we've already seen.

And I submit it is your OPINION as to whether this scenario "attempts" to present a lesser of two evils. If morality is relative to certain constructs, the answer then could be different depending on contingencies. Here I am simply asking about the chances people would be willing to take in order to maximize or minimize the outcomes of saving or destroying life.

Being asked to choose between believing in god or burn in hell isn't itself a false proposition; that's a bad example to use. You can answer it as it is, considering it a hypothetical. Like, would you rather be a fandangled snozzwuggle or a tripteteptic ainchweyer? Meaningless, because the words themselves have no reference to any real thing we can or do commonly agree upon or understand. But still an answerable question. Would you rather be a falcon or a wolf? Answerable, but still purely a hypothetical. Not entirely meaningless, however; it can reveal something about you, depending on your answer, however silly or irrelevant or impersonal that something may be.
There is no moral dilemma. If either option will kill some people, take the one that will kill more. If you're in a position to make a choice that will kill some people, chances are that the people that would get killed are of low value anyway, so kill as many as possible.

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