4-3-12 questions and discussion

From: Jon A.
Sent on: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 5:14 PM
4/4/12 questions and discussion

1-how much free will do we possess?6
2-if you feel oppressed ought you do whatever it takes to win or what constraints should there be on your behavior?  7
3-is homosexual activity the result of a mental illness?4
4-is age a social construct?5
5-what is happiness?7
6-how much does "I'm doing my job" excuse?6
7-how do we know we're not a brain in a vat?2


what would you do, and why ("runaway streetcar" thought experiment)?8

Mike: this thought experiment is a test (among others) for determining if one is psychopathic. Not all psychopaths are serial killers. [there is a book on the shelves now -- a bestseller -- which claims the American occupations most likely to include psychopaths are #1. CEOs, and #2. Police officers]. A psycho would push the big man into the track. 

Danny: what is a psycho?

Mike: one who feel no guilt, and sometimes has a great ability to lead others. Suppose the five down the track are your neighbor's kids? What do you do?

Mike T. ; I say we ought not push the guy -- unless they were my kids! In order to have a society where people don't go off half cocked, not using the guy to save five is necessary.

Beth: this is about sacrificing someone without their vote or knowledge. Unlike asking, say, people to join an army.

Danny: the big question goes to free will. In exercising free will do you have the right to take away someone else's choices? I believe pushing the big man is wrong.

Jeremy:aren't you denying the five down the track their free will? Isn't denying them choice five times as bad?

Danny: it's no difference. I may not use my free will to sacrifice someone else I can only use it to sacrifice myself.

David: a researcher gives us official criteria for the definition of a psychopath: superficial personality, egocentric, a grandiose sense of self, lack of remorse or guilt , lack of empathy, deceitful, and shallow emotions.

Siva: there's a larger issue. The accident already happened once in the recent 
past, so why are the exact same details repeating themselves? I would secretly kidnap whoever is in charge/responsible for running the trains and keep on doing it until the system is made safer.

Jon: is that possible?

Siva: usually. When we are serving the greater good.

Jon: it seems like a german play I read in college (Brecht?) wherein a regular guy laments that he can find no "face for his fists"! The overlords are not clearly the ones responsible, even the less powerful, he sees, could themselves bear some responsibility for his misery.

Siva: that's an illusion. The powerful maintain control for power and money. One must act secretly against them or one'll be caught.

Kelly: how is power and money maintained?

Siva: safety costs money and they don't want to spend it.

Jon: what about OSHA?

Beth: there would be a huge lawsuit!

Danny: isn't killing/kidnapping the same as pushing the big guy into the path of the train?

Siva: it's worth it.

Jon: I hope I am in power anywhere near you! [uh oh, I just realized I'm the "power" here at this discussion].

Kelly: these are nature's way of thinning the herd. Assuming diabolical intent on the parts of those in power is wrong.

Mike: is that always true? For example, the recent mining disaster in Pennsylvania.

Kelly: sometimes someone is to blame. People get too excited about this, accidents happen. we're not guaranteed a harm free life.

Eric: people will conclude the first event's an accident and the second event of real concern. Because it establishes a bad pattern. The big man you pushed becomes a hero. To Mike's point: this is both ethics and psychology; what is in it for me? Will I feel good, whichever thing I do?

Danny: when is it ok to kill? We're killing the big guy. The train's killing the 5. Even throwing oneself is wrong. Killing is only ok for self defense.

Mike T.: I'm with Danny on the killing. I'm Confucian, obliged to family. Snidely Whiplash or Darwinian fate? Sometimes it is an accident but sometimes it's because clearly people in power do bad things to increase their power and wealth. There certainly are people who have been dastardly.

Jeremy: the question seems to be how we determine the value of life, comparing lives. We are blessed that this is hypothetical. I imagine there are people who have to make such choices in real life. Making it a numbers game is absurd when judging between two people . . . whatever choice I made I in this situation I would try to never find out stuff about the guy who died. Do politicians have to make such choices? I think so. I would hope they would remember how it can be a slippery slope. 

David: assuming you're not a psychopath!

Jeremy: well there are also shades of grey.

David: we've ignored one thing. the Stanford prison experiment wherein students were asked to play one of two roles for an extended period: prison guard or inmate. The experiment was stopped very prematurely because the situation quickly turned violent. This meant people when given power are at least tempted to abuse others.

Beth: the outcomes may not be true -- the experiment may have been flawed.

Eric: it hasn't been repeated and so we can't know the answer to that. The feeling of guilt comes in to this train thought experiment thing.  If I sacrifice myself I won't feel guilty. I know the story of man exonerated of his crime due to DNA evidence who went on to kill someone 2 years after his release from prison. There's no predicting  outcomes. 

Danny: [to Eric] what are the criteria for guilt?

Eric: it's a feeling; I have done something either deliberately or accidentally that I know is wrong.

Danny: how far can one go to save the largest number? When do we stop killing?

Beth: is it any different if we view it from the perspective of one of the other people? Can we ever actually know the motives for the pusher? Knowing is unreal. Life doesn't work that way.

Jessica: what if you are the big man would you want someone to push you? I would if it were kids down the track, but probably not grownup strangers.


A How-To List for Dysfunctional Living and Non-Critical thinking:

1. Surround yourself with people who think like you. 
2. Don’t question your relationships. You then can avoid dealing with problems within them.

4. If critiqued by a friend or lover, look sad and dejected and say, “I thought you were my friend!” or “I thought you loved me!” 
5. When you do something unreasonable, always be ready with an excuse.
6. Focus on the negative side of life.

7. Blame others for your mistakes.
8. Verbally attack those who criticize you. Then you don’t have to bother listening to what they say. 
9. Go along with the groups you are in. Then you won’t have to figure out anything for yourself. 
10. Act out when you don’t get what you want. If questioned, look indignant.
11. Focus on getting what you want. If questioned, say, “If I don’t look out for number one, who will?”

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