Gulfstream, ethics and dialectics

James Daly james.irldaly at
Sun Dec 8 09:32:11 MST 2002

My apologies to Gilles -- it was not he but Ben who created the thread title
"Gulfstream, silly ethics -- and dialectics?"

But : Could I *its still* ask Gilles to explain what he means by

And no, the world I dream of has nothing to do with utilatirianism and
submarine's hatches.

(And by the way does he agree that the liferaft and submarine hatches
examples were simply silly?)

Ben writes: -- First, re the above quotes: behind the diametriclly opposed
principles (apparently utilitarianism vs conscience or something like that)
I think the examples are silly. In a life-threatening situation, people do
horrible things (like the submarine captain) and may not be happy about it,
but wouldn't they feel even worse if they let *everyone* die?

I did not choose silly examples of ethical problems for the sake of it.
Analytic philosophers, who are nearly all utilitarians (and utilitarianism
not only claims to be a moral philosophy -- i.e. to have a conscience -- but
has wide influence among a great variety of people including "Marxists") use
the liferaft scenario to prove that nobody really believes "life is sacred"
or that the end does not justify the means, because we all accept that the
first person on a liferaft-for-one has the right to beat everybody else off.
It is precisely I who want to get away from such "hard (but not silly --
think of the Titanic) cases" because they encourage the idea that ruthless
selfishness is moral -- an apologetics for Wall Street.

However, I wanted to show Mark that I am aware that sometimes hard choices
have to be made. In fact I do not think the submarine captain does a
"horrible thing", though it might be a "terrible thing" to have to do. To
whom, Ben, is the question "wouldn't they feel even worse if they let
everyone die" addressed? Surely not me, since I have already *said* it would
be morally justified. By the way, I think it is important to keep ethics
rational, so that it is not a question of *feeling* good or bad, but of
*judging* something to be good or bad, right or wrong.

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