Are we ever morally obligated to help others in an emergency situation? If so, such action might be a form of self-sacrifice, so what fundamental principle is at work here? (I've read a bit about metaphysical emergencies, but the whole concept seems somewhat murky to me.)
asked Aug 13 '12 at 13:57
The answer is yes.
But note that a moral obligation certainly does not necessarily imply a political obligation. Just because it might be right for you to help someone (and wrong for you not to) in a particular context, that doesn't mean anyone has the right to force you to help.
Here's an example. You are at a shopping mall, and you see an older man collapse to the floor, clutching his arm and chest. It would be morally reprehensible for you not to take out your cell phone and call 911, assuming you aren't already in the process of dealing with some important emergency of your own.
But you should not be arrested for not helping, if you choose not to. And if someone punches you to steal your phone to call 911, then he should be arrested.
There are many situations where there is no good reason not to help someone. There are also situations where there are very good reasons to help someone (not the least of which is if you've already been paid to help them).
In these situations, you are morally obligated to help. And, when you help, in these situations, it is never a self-sacrifice.