Lately, I have been contemplating some philosophical questions – and I would love some feedback from all of you.
When I was a teenager, I read a story (I don’t know if it was fiction or not, but that is irrelevant to the philosophical questions it poses) about a woman and her children, stranded in the frozen North, far from help and food. The woman resorted to trying to fish with an improvised fishing rod to keep her children from starving – but, the fish would not respond to an un-baited fishing rod. So, she used bits of her own flesh to bait the hook in order to catch the fish to keep her children from starving….
I found that story deeply inspirational and, then and there, I knew I would do no less to ensure the survival of my progeny.
As I read more ‘stuff’, I encountered stories of sons and daughters sacrificing themselves to save their mothers or fathers – and these had infuriated me to no end….and I could not understand the reasons for such depth of rage and revulsion these stories had evoked in me.
It took me years to mature enough to realize that my subconscious reactions were the product of my genetic programming: we are but vessels for our genes and their immortality – through our progeny. Thus, stories of parents’ sacrifices to ensure the survival of their progeny (genetic immortality, if you will) inspired me while stories of children sacrificing themselves for the parents (the reversal of the ‘genetic immortality vector’, if you will) enraged me.
Yet, over the years, I have found that not everyone is as subject to their genetic vector programming (for lack of a better term) as I am – and that in some people’s ideas, it influences the ‘first principles’ they consider ‘core’ or ‘basis’ of their reasoning.
Which, of course, makes peoples’ answers to some ‘classical’ philosophical questions very different: different ‘core’ leads to different ‘weighted values’ and all that.
And that is why I’d like you to indulge in some reflection on your own core values and see how you would answer the following questions:
Say you are stranded somewhere far from help and food – perhaps a plane crash in an inaccessible place – and the only potential food source around is the corpses of other people. Would you cannibalize them in order to survive?
Same situation – but everyone survives. One person, grievously wounded and not likely to survive long enough for rescue to come, volunteers to be killed and eaten. Would you kill them and cannibalize them to survive?
Question 2b: What if the volunteer was perfectly healthy – and others were wounded. Would you kill the healthy volunteer to feed yourself and the injured?
Same situation, again, with everyone surviving. One person is grievously wounded and unconscious (unable to give consent), but is the only one hurt so badly they will not likely survive…yet to wait for their natural death would mean everyone else would starve. Would you kill them and eat them to survive?
That grievously wounded person (the only person not likely to survive) is conscious but refuses to agree to be killed and eaten – yet everyone else, perfectly healthy and likely to survive, would die unless somebody is killed and eaten now. Do you kill the injured person and eat them, even against their will?
Same as in 3b – but the deadly wounded person says they don’t want to be eaten… and then succumb to their injuries. Do you eat them to survive?
Same situation, but everyone survives without any major injuries. Starvation knocks on the proverbial doors. Do you draw straws to see who gets killed and eaten first?
Same question, everyone survives – and someone suggests drawing straws to see who gets killed and eaten first. This divides the group into two – those who want to draw straws, take their chances and hope to survive through cannibalism, and those who don’t. So, the first group draws straws, on person is killed and cooked….and, now, some from the other group ask to share in the food, promising to take part in future straw-drawing. Do you share food with them?
What if there are children in the situation: too young to give informed consent. Do you include them in the straw-drawing?
Same situation as Question 5: the group is divided and some choose tp participate in straw drawing, some don’t. Do you share the food with the children of the people who choose not to participate in the draw?
Same situation, all are healty. There are sevral adults, each with a different number of children. Only the adults will participate in the draw, yet everyone will eat. Do you assign the amount of food to be proportional to the number of lots (as in, if there are 5 adults participating, do you divide the food among the 5 families, regardless of the number of children, because the risk was equal 5 ways) or to the number of ‘mouths to be fed’? How would you accoun for the children of the early casulties in subsequent draws?
What does it do to society when you regard other members of it as potential sources of spare parts?
Is that any different than cannibalism?
And does somebody’s ‘volunteering’ to be cannibalized make it morally OK to benefit from it?