Gulfstream, ethics and dialectics (answer to James Daly)

Gilles d'Aymery aymery at
Sun Dec 8 16:00:53 MST 2002

[James Daly wrote:]
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?)

Thank you for the questions. Before answering I wish to say that I will
stay away from the list until December 16. If you or any member wish
to contact me please do it off-list. Thanks.

No, I did not and would not qualify the examples as 'silly.' I actually
struggled with them as I always do when confronted with moral
issues. If I recall correctly you used three examples -- the liferaft,
Sartre's resistant-son dilemna, and the submarine hatches. Each of
them are awfully complex and very theorical. I followed your
reasoning in the first two but took exception with the third one
(submarine hatches). Leaving aside that one does not know how one
would *actually* behave or decide and that our moral judgements are
dependent on cultural values, I found the third example reduced to an
either-or proposition, and I objected to the decision making process.

Why the choice between saving the ship and presumably the sailors
left inside at the cost of losing some of the crew left outside? Why not
evacuate the ship, get the crew on liferafts, and let her sink? In other
words there was the possibility of a different outcome that was
omitted in the example. This was not an either-or scenario and it made
me think of the current scenario regarding Iraq when the issue is
presented as to what's the best choice, go to war *or* inspection
regime? (Why not leave Iraq alone and stop the sanctions?)

Furthermore I was disturbed by the fact that the captain or anyone
was in charge of the decision. I understand that time was of the
essence and consultation among the crew could not take place but I
considered, particularly within the context of the thread, that this is the
kind of example that is often used to legitimate decisions made by the
few on behalf of the many (subcontext: the 'elites,' those who know

Utililitarianism, in my opinion, invariably leads to stampedes of a
majority over a hapless minority (and I am not refering to elite minority
here). In the context of the thread, I wondered who would make the
decision to 'sacrifice populations,' whether the 'to-be-sacrificed
populations' would be consulted and whether they would agree to the
decision being made by others according to the ethical judgement that
what counts is the greatest good for the greatest numbers. That I
know, the decision makers tend to not select themselves for this type
of 'ultimate sacrifice'!

Perhaps should I add that within the 'now sacrificed populations' was
an individual who was on the verge of finding a solution to the

Complex issues indeed!

"Nothing human is alien to me." Marx... That encapsulates it all, no?

In solidarity,

Gilles d'Aymery

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list