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Lifeboat Ethic by Garret Hardin

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In professional and personal daily life, people often face conflicting situations or dilemmas that require decisions. The need for this decision-making occurs in the face of dilemmas that arise when there are two or more alternatives that present conditions of uncertainty to act well. Because there are different factors that influence people’s decision making, choosing the best decision can become a conflict. Probably a choice that a person considered the best, for others could prove to be the worst. There are different experiments that have been carried out to make people reflect and discover how they would act in certain situations.

A clear example is an experiment popularized by Garret Hardin in his essay Lifeboat Ethics. This metaphor talks about 50 people who are in a lifeboat which has space for another 10 people, but in the ocean, there are 100 swimmers begging for admission to their boat. Probably, to decide how to choose the 10 people, some individuals would think about what is morally right to do, what is most convenient for everyone, or what God’s will is.

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Because a factor that influence people’s decision making is culture, one of the men in the boat might suggest to rescuing only men since in their culture they taught him that men have more rights than women. This would be a case of cultural relativism because he believes that his decision is morally right for the simple fact that he was raised that way. No one could say that he is acting in an incorrect way because good and evil are not determined by people or by society. Cultural relativists believe that all cultures are equal in value and dignity, and all cultures are equally legitimate expressions of human existence. Thus, he could choose to save only men and would not be judged because there is no universal moral norm. This means that what is considered moral in one society can be considered immoral in another.

In another point of view, a different person would take God into account in order to decide what is morally right to do. In this situation, the divine command theory would be applied since these people think that morality is intimately linked with religion. And that something that is considered right or wrong, good or bad, is so for the simple reason that God has ordered it to be so. If the person who decided which people to save were Catholic, he might feel the need to help children and the elderly. Because Jesus Christ preached that children are our example since they are innocent and therefore free from all sin, the believers would agree to save the children. For this person, taking this decision would be the right thing because God would have wanted it that way. A person who really has faith in God will not question his commands, will not try to manipulate his words and draw conclusions where there are none because he believes that everything related to God is good. Furthermore, the Catholic Church tends to raise awareness about helping the elderly as Jesus Christ did, in order for other people to follow suit. For this reason, this individual would feel committed to helping both children and elderly.

However, another way in which a person can decide what is a morally right action is by choosing what is most favorable to oneself. In this case, the person would be implementing ethical egoism since his main goal is to maximize the good. Considering the objective, the egoist could choose to save people who weigh less to prevent the boat from sinking. In this way, the probability of arriving safely at their destination would be greater because the boat would not be under so much pressure. The theory of ethical selfishness affirms that the moral correctness of an action is justified and based only on the greater well-being it provides to people. Thus, the egoist would justify actions based on their good consequences, regardless of the damage they may cause to other people.

Cite this Lifeboat Ethic by Garret Hardin

Lifeboat Ethic by Garret Hardin. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/lifeboat-ethic-by-garret-hardin/

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