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These 100 lives are those of individuals you have no relation with. They are strangers.

asked Mar 10 '11 at 13:38

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦

edited Mar 10 '11 at 14:07

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

This is really tricky stuff to assess so abstractly... Here's what I'm picking out implicitly from the question: Your use of the term "allow" seems to be indicating that I am not responsible for the mortal peril of the 100, though I am both aware of it and in a position to intervene and save them. Then you also seem to be indicating that I will die unless I act to save my own life. Finally, you seem to be indicating that saving my own life means that I can't also intervene to save the 100. (This last introduces the flavor of classic "lifeboat ethics" tests, which are discussed in this earlier question.)

The bottom line is that if intervening to save the strangers amounts to suicide, then such intervention would be deeply immoral because it constitutes a clear sacrifice. I noted the lack of responsibility implied in the question, because were one responsible for their deaths this would raise the question of whether one is sacrificing others to oneself, which would also be deeply immoral. Objectivists reject all human sacrifice as fundamentally wrong; it doesn't matter whether it involves sacrifice of self to others, or of others to self, of the individual to group, or vice-versa -- nor even whether it is voluntary or coerced sacrifice. Human sacrifice in its countless forms is flatly rejected by Objectivists as evil.

I have to add, though, that if this is not an arbitrarily-forced "lifeboat ethics" question, then so as long as I'm not sacrificing myself, intervening to save the strangers could actually be an affirmation of my values, and therefore positively good, perhaps even morally mandatory despite the risk/trouble/expense to myself. (This was explored nicely in another, earlier question: "Should you help a man who's dying in front of you?")

answered Mar 10 '11 at 15:37

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

You captured the essence of my question precisely. Thank you.

(Mar 10 '11 at 16:13) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

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Asked: Mar 10 '11 at 13:38

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Last updated: Mar 10 '11 at 16:13