Sunday, March 17, 2013

Justice ~ #2a ~ Putting a Price Tag on Life

To answer these questions, view the first half of Harvard University's video:  Episode 2, Part 1.
According to the principle of utility, we should always do whatever will produce the greatest amount of happiness and whatever is necessary to prevent the greatest amount of unhappiness.
1.  There are times when the only way to prevent harm to a large number of people is to harm a smaller number of people.  Is it always permissible to harm a smaller number in order to prevent harm to a large number?

2.  Ten thousand innocent civilians live next to a munitions factory in a country at war.  If you bomb the factory, all of them will die.  If you don’t bomb the factory, it will be used to produce bombs that will be dropped on fifty thousand innocent civilians in another country.  What’s the right thing to do?


Bonnie Jacobs said...

What's a life worth? Do we have to adjust for inflation?

Shirley said...

Although the utilitarian method of decision making sounds like such an accurate method to use when making decisions, I am quite bothered with the idea of assigning values to lives or other intangibles. One instance of the use of this method was when payments were made to families of the victims of the 9-11 bombings the payments were made based on the "value" of each individual as if one person was more valuable because his/her income potential was higher. Even the less distasteful use of assigning numbers for pain levels seems to make the assessments seem more accurate than the actually are.

Shirley said...

1. It it always permissible to harm a smaller number in order to prevent harm to a large number?

2. ... What’s the right thing to do?

Assigning values to lives assumes an accuracy that is not true. The use of this method for business decisions such as comparing the profit potential of one product/marketing/etc over another one is a suitable use of this method. However, I find the method's use in situations involving the lives of people to be inappropriate. Instead of focusing on the either/or options, perhaps the focus should be to find a solution which does no harm.

caboose said...

What is a life worth?
My first thought was who life: a person with a disability who is mentally, physically challenged, young or old, healthy or sick, black or white, religious or atheist. Next would be who would reviewer the results. If everyone were equal then I would say the largest number of people. I do not believe we can put a value on life.

Do we have to adjust for inflation? On lives, I do believe those who asked nothing from our government are productive individuals the remainder of society is a burden. That thought frightens me who would be the judge and jury for the population of America.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I think we tend to think in numbers, but in real life I'm pretty sure that if I caused harm to one person or fifty, I would feel just as horrible. I was shocked to read about the Ford Pinto executives who chose to allow people to die rather than to fix a $11 part.