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The Watchmen Dilemma

 
 
Night Ripper
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 05:35 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah wrote:

Also, one other thing about this debate. As an analogy, imagine you are cooking noodles. But the only thing you acknowledge is that it's "bad to not cook them long enough". I then argue that it's possible to overcook noodles. If you say that we don't need to think about overcooking noodles because we can follow the instructions on the box exactly, or have some deus ex machina device that tells exactly when they are cooked you are actually agreeing with me 100%.


Who said we don't need to think about anything?
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  3  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 06:58 pm
@Jebediah,
My thoughts on this are basically:

If I'm absolutely certain that I must kill 20 million to save all humanity ... then I'm insane and I should not press the button. (You could make the argument that in the Watchmen, Adrian is a homicidal megalomaniac without to much difficulty.) I don't think this violates the premise of the original question. It posited two positions: kill 20 million or let all of humanity die, but I think the third, unspoken but always possible consideration is that you are insane, deluded into believing that your intellect is capable of extrapolating all the variables of human interaction and drawing a valid conclusion as to what the future holds. If my next door neighbor told me that he's become absolutely convinced that he needs to kill his wife to protect mankind from destruction, I would not tell him to push the button.
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 04:03 pm
@engineer,
Quote:
If I'm absolutely certain that I must kill 20 million to save all humanity ... then I'm insane and I should not press the button. (You could make the argument that in the Watchmen, Adrian is a homicidal megalomaniac without to much difficulty.) I don't think this violates the premise of the original question. It posited two positions: kill 20 million or let all of humanity die, but I think the third, unspoken but always possible consideration is that you are insane, deluded into believing that your intellect is capable of extrapolating all the variables of human interaction and drawing a valid conclusion as to what the future holds.

You cannot simply label us as insane because we've gone through a clear and rational though process that lead us to the conclusion that we must push the button. The whole point is that this is a hypothetical situation to help identify your moral compass. If you want, I can change it for you. There is six minutes before the launch of the nuclear warheads, and canceling the launch takes five minutes. Neither side is aware of the others launch, and so has no idea it would destroy the world. You know both are, and unless you provide immediate action it is inevitable that we shall die.
Quote:
If my next door neighbor told me that he's become absolutely convinced that he needs to kill his wife to protect mankind from destruction, I would not tell him to push the button.


The difference being is that we can go through a clear and rational thought process that details why we think it is both rational and moral to push the button.
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Tue 22 Jun, 2010 04:15 pm
@engineer,
Very well said. These are false dilemmas that play well unto megalomania.
0 Replies
 
SammDickens
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Jun, 2010 01:07 pm
@Sentience,
I will not push the button. I do not see that pushing the button will reliably eliminate the potential for nuclear holocaust in my lifetime, although it may delay the event for months or years. I realize those people will die anyway in one week, but at least they can see it coming. I'd want that for myself, so I'll give it to them. Meanwhile, I'm going out with a gun and a bad temper to kill me some moron politicos before they can push their buttons. It's the least I can do.

Samm
0 Replies
 
SammDickens
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Jun, 2010 01:12 pm
@Sentience,
Sentience wrote:

You would let the only truly species capable of understanding the marvels of our incredible universe die out simply because you lack the spine to kill one or many?

Yeah. Capable of understanding the universe. And capable of killing every lasting one of ourselves just because we can and because we have to show the world that our balls are as big as their balls. Oh yeah, I'm gonna save that species...when pigs fly.

Samm
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Jun, 2010 01:12 pm
@Sentience,
Sentience wrote:
The difference being is that we can go through a clear and rational thought process that details why we think it is both rational and moral to push the button.

Not really that much of a difference. Your rationale may be clear to you, but then people convince themselves of all kinds of crazy things, like buying lottery tickets.
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Jun, 2010 05:18 pm
@SammDickens,
Quote:
Quote:
You would let the only truly species capable of understanding the marvels of our incredible universe die out simply because you lack the spine to kill one or many?

Yeah. Capable of understanding the universe. And capable of killing every lasting one of ourselves just because we can and because we have to show the world that our balls are as big as their balls. Oh yeah, I'm gonna save that species...when pigs fly.


I find the 'when pigs fly' statement somewhat rhetorical now that we know it's possible that, one day, pigs will have changed evolutionarily to allow them to fly. But I see your point.

Your statement is one big contradiction. You would let something die, thinking of it as a positive action, because it might kill itself, which is a negative action? Either way, it's the same thing. You would let it die because it might kill itself? By that logic, you might as well murder children who show signs of depression, because it's capable of killing itself just because it can and it wants to show the world how much it hurt him?

The entire idea behind pushing the button is to evolve mankind mentally to the point in which they realize how stupid their squabbles are when faced with a real enemy, even if it's a false one.
0 Replies
 
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Jun, 2010 05:23 pm
@DrewDad,
Quote:
Quote:
The difference being is that we can go through a clear and rational thought process that details why we think it is both rational and moral to push the button.
Not really that much of a difference. Your rationale may be clear to you, but then people convince themselves of all kinds of crazy things, like buying lottery tickets.


I find this idea extremely tiresome, as I could just as easily say 'no your insane!' and our intellectual debate boils down to a toddler's shouting match.

I find your example rather funny in this context, as it involves taking the chance of losing versus the chance of winning compared to the cost to enter to make a rational decision as to whether or not you should by lottery tickets. The actual math would show you it's illogical. This seems to support consequentialism, where we do the exact same thing.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Jun, 2010 06:30 pm
And still people are trying to turn The Watchmen Dilemma into one which they find more amendable to their way of thinking.

It is what it is, Sentience set the ground rules and you can chose to play within them or not.

It's certainly valid to suggest the dilemma is not realistic (it's not!) but it is what has been presented. Attempting to job it by insisting that the certainty that Sentience has imbibed it with is actually insane delusion is silly and arrogant.

If you would not push the button in the world constructed by Sentience, the laws of that world hold that you know 6 billion people will die.

This stark choice is not without significance.

Some people who understand that in the Watchmen world the choices presented are certain, are still able to answer the question with sensible reasoning. While I may entirely disagree with the notion that the button shouldn't be pushed because humanity deserves to be wiped off the face of the earth, that choice; for that reason at least comports with the rules Sentience has established for us.




0 Replies
 
J Ambler
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 04:20 pm
The ideas presented in "The Watchmen Dilemma" are contradictory in that killing some to prevent killing all is still...KILLING! Of course you shouldn't take it upon yourself to destroy people and places as if you knew exactly what the result would be. That kind of knowledge is not available.

Logically, all approaches to this kind of decision making would have already been foreseen and there would be failsafe methods in place.

The button would not work, you see.
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 04:29 pm
@J Ambler,
Yes, my thread is brought back to life!
I dislike the idea of moral absolutes (killing is wrong), because the idea of pushing the button revolves around the idea that it is right to kill to save. So yes, while it is still killing, so what? It's killing for a moral purpose.

Okay, so let's break my certainty a bit. Yes perhaps pushing the button to save humanity would not work, and they might all die anyways. 50-50 chance on either.

Our choices are between:

1) Killing twenty million --> May save six billion and stop human extinction OR human extinction may be inevitable anyways. Total deaths: 50 %twenty million / 50% six billion.

2) Killing no one --> Human extinction is inevitable, six billion die. Total deaths: 100% six billion.

So even if pushing the button might not work, if it doesn't the same amount of people still die, and if it does many less will die. So statistically, from a consequentialist point of view, the moral choice would still be to push the button.
Night Ripper
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 08:43 pm
@Sentience,
Sentience wrote:
I dislike the idea of moral absolutes


How is "do whatever produces the most happiness" any less of a moral absolute than "don't kill"?
laughoutlood
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 Jul, 2010 09:00 pm
@Sentience,
Quote:
instantaneously massacre twenty million people worldwide, and destroy some of the greatest cities on earth


Which cities, and can I push the button 300 times, oh and should I wear white or black?
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 07:15 pm
@Night Ripper,
Ahh, you make a good point, and so I shall restate my opinion. I dislike the idea that any action is inherently wrong.
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 07:19 pm
@laughoutlood,
Whichever cities are necessary to unify everyone, so theoretically at least one city in every country possessing weapons of mass destruction. You do not have the required materials to push it more than once. It depends, which do you look better in? Personally, I look much better in black.
0 Replies
 
Night Ripper
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 Jul, 2010 08:41 pm
@Sentience,
Sentience wrote:

Ahh, you make a good point, and so I shall restate my opinion. I dislike the idea that any action is inherently wrong.


I don't know if saying "we shouldn't initiate violence" is doing that? After all, you're saying "we shouldn't let everyone die if we can save them by killing a percentage". In either case we're acting according to a principle, a moral absolute. They're just different principles. I think that the only alternative to acting according to a principle is to act arbitrarily and that seems even worse. At least tyrants are consistent.
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 07:30 am
@Night Ripper,
Yes, I do have a moral absolute, but it's form differs immensely. For example, while you might say "killing is bad," I believe we should consider the morality of everything on a case by case procedure, where everything is isolate from everything else. Thou shalt not kill is stupid.
Night Ripper
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 09:02 am
@Sentience,
Sentience wrote:

Yes, I do have a moral absolute, but it's form differs immensely. For example, while you might say "killing is bad," I believe we should consider the morality of everything on a case by case procedure, where everything is isolate from everything else. Thou shalt not kill is stupid.


Thou shalt not sacrifice the whole for the part is stupid. Or whatever it is you subscribe to. It cuts both ways. You still haven't convinced me that you're doing anything qualitatively different than I am. You have a principle that guides you case by case as do I. I wouldn't initiate violence and you wouldn't allow everyone to die. Same difference.
Sentience
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 Jul, 2010 06:19 pm
@Night Ripper,
While I agree we both have moral absolutes, it differs immensely, in that by not initiating violence violence to occur, and the violence ends negatively. What is the point of not initiating violence but to not initiate hurt, so what is the point of not initiating violence if by doing so you get people hurt. It's counter-productive.
 

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