Live as a coward or die as a hero?

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Zoot
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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Zoot » May 8th, 2013, 9:14 pm

Londoner wrote:So, if say you are not morally speaking free to choose, why not? Where do you derive the moral code that dictates that you are obliged to help others (sometimes)? The reason I ask is that I find it hard to imagine an internally consistent moral code that would support both an obligation to help others and an attitude like:


(Nested quote removed.)
Firstly, I'm not sure where the inconsistency is here. My view, after all, is that though you have obligations, your obligations don't extend to putting your own life in danger. Choosing to let everyone else die so that you can have an extra day of life is perfectly consistent with this view - in a way, in fact, it's just a very extreme expression of it. A reductio of it, for some people.

More importantly, you seem to be conflating claims I've made about my general psychology with claims I've made about my moral views. Trading my the lives of every single person on the planet for just one day of life for myself would, in my view, be morally wrong. I'd do it because I'm not morally perfect. Far from it. I don't care much about morality: when I'm considering how to act, I give morality very little - if any - weight.

From where do I derive my moral code? From my head. I'm pretty much an emotivist on morality.

-- Updated May 8th, 2013, 9:25 pm to add the following --
Xris wrote:Zoot you changed the original question and said you would not put your life in peril. I have said I would put my life in peril but not to the point where it would be pointless. You have made a determined statement, you would not put your life at any risk.The fireman or any who serve the public would act the same.If there was a good chance I could save that child's life but risk mine, I would attempt to save that child. What would you do and why should a fireman die to possible save you? Firemen are trained to make an assessment of the situation and judge the consequences.
I did not change the original question. Here it is again:

"for the sake of simplicity let's say I know that either I have to let her die or kill myself to save her, of course I would choose to save her. Who wouldn't?"

That's what I was responding to in my first post on this thread.

Firefighters are employed to risk their lives - not simply "make an assessment of the situation and judge the consequences". Anybody can do that. One of the primary reasons we employ firefighters is so we have people to actually enter certain kinds of dangerous situation.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Londoner » May 9th, 2013, 5:11 am

Firstly, I'm not sure where the inconsistency is here. My view, after all, is that though you have obligations, your obligations don't extend to putting your own life in danger. Choosing to let everyone else die so that you can have an extra day of life is perfectly consistent with this view - in a way, in fact, it's just a very extreme expression of it. A reductio of it, for some people....

More importantly, you seem to be conflating claims I've made about my general psychology with claims I've made about my moral views.
On the contrary, I am trying to seperate them!

Are you just reporting something about yourself; like 'I hate spiders'? If so, then there is nothing more to be said. Or is this a proposition that should apply to others; like 'Eating babies is wrong!'? It has to be one or the other.

Your earlier response, saying that we should help others, appears to be a moral assertion. If you say 'should', you are saying that choices aren't just a matter of personal preference; that 'whatever you feel' is not a sufficient guide to correct behaviour.

So I was asking the principles behind your moral code, so that we could see if they fit with your opinion on this particular topic. (I think this is how we normally conduct moral discussions e.g. Fred says 'capital punishment is wrong'. We start by asking Fred; 'Is this because you think all killing is wrong? Or that mistakes might be made? Or that it is ineffective as a deterrent?')
Trading my the lives of every single person on the planet for just one day of life for myself would, in my view, be morally wrong. I'd do it because I'm not morally perfect. Far from it. I don't care much about morality: when I'm considering how to act, I give morality very little - if any - weight.

From where do I derive my moral code? From my head. I'm pretty much an emotivist on morality.
Emotivism is a way of understanding the nature of moral statements - it isn't itself a moral code. You cannot use it to justify a 'should'.

If you say 'Trading my the lives of every single person on the planet for just one day of life for myself would, in my view, be morally wrong' and you admit that your failure to live up to that is a sign of your own imperfection, that is not an emotivist approach, because it asserts a 'should' i.e. the superiority of a real ethical standard (even if you are aware you may not personally be able to meet it).

So I remain unclear about where you are in this thread. Are you saying 'I agree with the other posters that we should be prepared to put our lives at risk for others, but I'm sorry to admit that I'm just too weak to do it'.
In that case, there is no disagreement - you agree you should be a hero.

Or is it 'I wouldn't be prepared to put my life as risk because...I just wouldn't. There are no reasons why we should act against our personal preferences in such matters'. ? Fair enough, but in that case, you have no grounds for applying moral 'shoulds' to yourself, let alone other people.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Zoot » May 9th, 2013, 8:43 am

Londoner wrote:If you say 'should', you are saying that choices aren't just a matter of personal preference; that 'whatever you feel' is not a sufficient guide to correct behaviour.
Yes, that's what I was saying. That's why I used words like "should" and "obligation".
So I was asking the principles behind your moral code, so that we could see if they fit with your opinion on this particular topic.
For my view that we have an obligation to help others in need (just as long as we're not putting ourselves in danger), there are no principles behind it. It's a basic, foundational view of mine. It has no further justification.
Emotivism is a way of understanding the nature of moral statements - it isn't itself a moral code. You cannot use it to justify a 'should'.

If you say 'Trading my the lives of every single person on the planet for just one day of life for myself would, in my view, be morally wrong' and you admit that your failure to live up to that is a sign of your own imperfection, that is not an emotivist approach, because it asserts a 'should' i.e. the superiority of a real ethical standard (even if you are aware you may not personally be able to meet it).
(I only brought up emotivism because I misunderstood your question - hopefully my response above answers it better - so perhaps there's no need to explore this tangent, but anyway...) It's perfectly consistent with an emotivist approach. Emotivists are absolutely capable of asserting "shoulds"; it's just that they believe that "shoulds" are best understood as being simply expressions of a person's feelings ("abortion should not be permitted" = "abortion: boo!"). Further, it's unquestionable that a person's moral beliefs, and their actions, can be in conflict. That is, everybody can, for some action x, feel that x is wrong, while continuing to do x. No emotivist denies this.
So I remain unclear about where you are in this thread. Are you saying 'I agree with the other posters that we should be prepared to put our lives at risk for others, but I'm sorry to admit that I'm just too weak to do it'.
In that case, there is no disagreement - you agree you should be a hero.

Or is it 'I wouldn't be prepared to put my life as risk because...I just wouldn't. There are no reasons why we should act against our personal preferences in such matters'. ? Fair enough, but in that case, you have no grounds for applying moral 'shoulds' to yourself, let alone other people.
I wouldn't put my life at risk both (1) because I'm a coward, and (2) because in my view, I have no obligation to put my life at risk (of course, one can construct extreme cases where I do have such an obligation: as with the example of the genie offering the trade of everybody's lives for a single day of life for myself; in that case, I'd choose life for myself simply because I'm a coward).

Morally speaking, I hold others to exactly the same to which I hold myself. I'm obligated to help others, but my obligations don't extend to putting my own life at risk. They're obligated to help me, but their obligations don't extend to putting their own lives at risk. I don't think there's anything particularly unusual or difficult about this viewpoint.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Xris » May 9th, 2013, 9:22 am

So what do you call a risk? If you are drowning and I can swim, am I obliged to help you? What would you do in those circumstances?

The fire service do not request firemen to risk their lives. There may be risks involved but they are not expected to put their lives at risk. They judge the situation and take the appropriate action.If a building is about to collapse they will withdraw their firemen even if there are still casualties trapped.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Londoner » May 9th, 2013, 10:52 am

Zoot
Yes, that's what I was saying. That's why I used words like "should" and "obligation"...

For my view that we have an obligation to help others in need (just as long as we're not putting ourselves in danger), there are no principles behind it. It's a basic, foundational view of mine. It has no further justification.
I do not see how you can be obliged to do something without there being a reason; 'I must help others although I have no reason to think that I must help others'.

Nor can I see how you can hold an opinion without also having reasons to hold that opinion. I don't think such a thought would count as an opinion; it would just be a feeling.

We don't think of our personal feelings as being obligations - certainly not obligations on others, yet your remark slips between 'a view of mine' to 'we have an obligation'.
Emotivists are absolutely capable of asserting "shoulds"; it's just that they believe that "shoulds" are best understood as being simply expressions of a person's feelings ("abortion should not be permitted" = "abortion: boo!").
They are capable of saying the word 'should', (or of asserting it in the informal sense of just repeating themselves!), but if they believe the meaning of the moral 'should' is only an expression of their own feelings then they cannot consistently use it to put forward a claim about the moral nature of an act.

"Abortion should not be permitted" claims to tell us something about abortion. It is true or false, depending on the morality of abortion. "Abortion: boo!" only claims to tell us something about the feelings of the person who says it. It is true or false depending on whether it is a true representation of the feelings of the speaker.

Emotivists do not think "abortion should not be permitted" is interchangeable with "abortion: boo!" The first is inferior because it is misleading - it looks like a proposition but it isn't. Just as saying 'You should help others' if we really meant 'I might help others but I don't pretend there is any reason to do so' would plainly be misleading.

It is like saying; I think astrology is nonsense. But I am a Sagittarian. You can, but you shouldn't!

So, if you take an emotivist approach, I do not see how you can say;
Morally speaking, I hold others to exactly the same to which I hold myself.
Why? Why should others have to conform to your emotions?

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Zoot
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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Zoot » May 9th, 2013, 10:41 pm

I do not see how you can be obliged to do something without there being a reason; 'I must help others although I have no reason to think that I must help others'.

Nor can I see how you can hold an opinion without also having reasons to hold that opinion. I don't think such a thought would count as an opinion; it would just be a feeling.
Okay. And? Call it what you like. It's my view, and it has no further justification. It's foundational.
We don't think of our personal feelings as being obligations - certainly not obligations on others, yet your remark slips between 'a view of mine' to 'we have an obligation'.
I've already stated that I'm an emotivist. My view is that morality just is feelings. Hence, there is no "slip".
They are capable of saying the word 'should', (or of asserting it in the informal sense of just repeating themselves!), but if they believe the meaning of the moral 'should' is only an expression of their own feelings then they cannot consistently use it to put forward a claim about the moral nature of an act.
On emotivism, "the moral nature of an act" just is how an individual feels about it (it will be different for different individuals, obviously).
"Abortion should not be permitted" claims to tell us something about abortion. It is true or false, depending on the morality of abortion. "Abortion: boo!" only claims to tell us something about the feelings of the person who says it. It is true or false depending on whether it is a true representation of the feelings of the speaker.

Emotivists do not think "abortion should not be permitted" is interchangeable with "abortion: boo!" The first is inferior because it is misleading - it looks like a proposition but it isn't. Just as saying 'You should help others' if we really meant 'I might help others but I don't pretend there is any reason to do so' would plainly be misleading.
I'm not sure where you're getting your information, but "abortion: boo" is precisely how an emotivist would interpret the sentence "abortion should not be permitted". This is the fundamental idea of emotivism (hence why it's sometimes known as the "yay/boo theory").

According to emotivism, ethical sentences are neither true nor false. You can't be correct or incorrect when uttering a sentence such as "abortion should not be permitted" (although, of course, you can be honest or dishonest about your feelings).
Why? Why should others have to conform to your emotions?
(I just realized that the part you quoted should read: "Morally speaking, I hold others to exactly the same standard to which I hold myself.")

Why should they conform to my emotions? Because I say they should.

-- Updated May 9th, 2013, 10:46 pm to add the following --
Xris wrote:So what do you call a risk? If you are drowning and I can swim, am I obliged to help you? What would you do in those circumstances?

The fire service do not request firemen to risk their lives. There may be risks involved but they are not expected to put their lives at risk. They judge the situation and take the appropriate action.If a building is about to collapse they will withdraw their firemen even if there are still casualties trapped.
It depends on the circumstances. If the sea's calm, I'm reasonably close to the shore, there are no sharks swimming around (etc etc), then you're obliged to help. If it's stormy, if I'm a long way out, if the sea's full of deadly creatures (etc etc), then you're not.

I don't know what part of Cornwall you're in, but where I am, firefighters are expected to enter dangerous situations. Of course, there are limits; I never denied that.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Londoner » May 10th, 2013, 3:50 am

According to emotivism, ethical sentences are neither true nor false. You can't be correct or incorrect when uttering a sentence such as "abortion should not be permitted"
So when you said that 'we should help each other' that was not a proposition. There was nothing to agree with or disagree with. If I responded; 'we should not help other', those two statements would not contradict each other.

I will take your word that this unusual meaning of 'should' is what you meant, but I trust you will agree that it might have been better to make that clearer! For example it crops up again here:
Me: Why? Why should others have to conform to your emotions?

Why should they conform to my emotions? Because I say they should.
But you don't! You have just explained that your ethical/emotional utterances, your 'shoulds', don't assert anything as true, so there is nothing for them to conform to.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Xris » May 10th, 2013, 6:06 am

Zoot you are starting to be less of coward and more of realist.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Trinity » May 10th, 2013, 12:31 pm

Xris wrote: (Nested quote removed.)

For me it me it is about overcoming my fears.Facing my demons.
Apologize for the very late reply. With the exception of facing personal demons, your answer is very close to my own.

The fearless and unafraid, IMHO, are not "given" heroes. The fearless and unafraid might be worthy of admiration and esteem, and especially wonder, but IMHO, the hero is the person who is fearful and afraid and does the deed despite his/her being fearful and afraid.

AND, IMHO, cowards at one moment in their lives might well become heroes in some other moment. Seen it. At some level and degree, from elementary school to applying for social security, might have been both.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Zoot » May 11th, 2013, 9:35 pm

Londoner wrote:So when you said that 'we should help each other' that was not a proposition. There was nothing to agree with or disagree with. If I responded; 'we should not help other', those two statements would not contradict each other.
Of course you can agree or disagree with it. "We should not help others" clearly expresses disagreement with "we should help others". It's not that there's nothing to disagree with: just because a sentence isn't true or false, doesn't mean it has no content, period. Two different feelings on a matter, even when those feelings are not truth-apt, are sufficient for "disagreement" in the usual sense; I can only assume that you're using a more technical definition of "agreement/disagreement", which you'll need to explain.
You have just explained that your ethical/emotional utterances, your 'shoulds', don't assert anything as true, so there is nothing for them to conform to.
That's just a complete non-sequitur. Consider, for example, any other imperative sentence: "pass the salt", "have a good trip", "take your clothes off when you dance", and so on. Very arguably, such sentences are neither true nor false. Granted, some of them certainly depend on sentences that can be true or false: it would be silly to assert "pass the salt" if there's no salt nearby, so "pass the salt" is in some sense dependent on something such as "there is salt on the table". (Do all of them exhibit this kind of dependency? It's not clear that "take your clothes off when you dance does".) But it would be difficult, and counter-intuitive, to argue that "pass the salt" itself can be true or false.

However, people can clearly conform to such sentences. Perhaps you don't want to ruin the friendly atmosphere of the party, so conform to my request to pass the salt. On the other hand, you don't want the atmosphere to get too friendly, so you don't conform to my request to take your clothes off when you dance.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Londoner » May 12th, 2013, 6:16 am

Two different feelings on a matter, even when those feelings are not truth-apt, are sufficient for "disagreement" in the usual sense; I can only assume that you're using a more technical definition of "agreement/disagreement", which you'll need to explain.
On the contrary, I think yours is the unusual understanding of disagreement. It restricts the meaning of 'disagreement' to 'failure to correspond'. As in red 'disagrees' with green. I do not think this is common usage and even when it is used this way it is about objective phenomena, i.e. it can be true or false.

A disagreement surely usually implies an argument. But how can we have an argument about something that is entirely subjective? Even an argument on the improbable lines of; 'When you say you don't like cheese you are wrong' could only be conducted by reference to something objective ('you just haven't tried nice sorts of cheese') or by objectifying the feelings ('you would like it but your sense of taste is defective').

But even if we accept this interpretation of the word 'disagreement', it would still be the case that according to your emotivist approach 'we should help each other' and 'we should not help other' would not 'contradict' each other. There would be no logical incompatibility between the two statements - they could both be as true (i.e. equally meaningless) at the same time. I do not think it is too technical to ask if you can really 'disagree' about something if you admit that the opposite view may be equally true, not even in that weak sense of 'disagreement'.
Me: You have just explained that your ethical/emotional utterances, your 'shoulds', don't assert anything as true, so there is nothing for them to conform to.
That's just a complete non-sequitur. Consider, for example, any other imperative sentence: "pass the salt", "have a good trip", "take your clothes off when you dance", and so on. Very arguably, such sentences are neither true nor false. Granted, some of them certainly depend on sentences that can be true or false: it would be silly to assert "pass the salt" if there's no salt nearby, so "pass the salt" is in some sense dependent on something such as "there is salt on the table". (Do all of them exhibit this kind of dependency? It's not clear that "take your clothes off when you dance does".) But it would be difficult, and counter-intuitive, to argue that "pass the salt" itself can be true or false.
Do you see any difference in meaning between 'pass the salt' and 'you should pass the salt'? I do; I think the first asserts something about you: 'I want salt'. The second asserts something about the person it is addressed to; it suggests they have a moral or practical requirement to comply. Again, I think that is the common usage.

Similarly, when you have said of others 'They're obligated to help me', I think most people would understand that as you asserting a claim on them, beyond expressing a simple desire that they will do what you want.

But as I have said before, if you tell me that your use of words like 'should' or 'obligation' have no such implications, that they are just intensifiers, verbal foot stamping as in; 'I WANT THE SALT!!!!' then I must accept that. I just think you ought to make it clearer!

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Narin » May 12th, 2013, 10:29 am

Live as a coward or die as a hero?

- If we start to live life, in a means to become a hero, we can easily submit ourselves to the IDEA of a hero, rather than the virtue that hides within the character of a hero.

It is important to understand what "Hero" means, why it is necessary to entertain the idea of being one, if it is necessary at all to become a hero, and where the "hero complex" comes from within us - why should we be heroes and do all of us possess an inner strength to be a hero?

You compare being a “coward” to become a “hero”- yet, they are merely the opposite of each other. Think about it.

What is it to be a hero, what qualities do you have to own?

Is it to put you in physical danger? Is it to stand for something other than the "typical" standard of a society? Is it to wear a mask and run around in a uniform, or does that mask stand for a metaphor of something higher, larger than the title “Hero” - justice, TRUTH?

Is the society ready, to have a hero? Or are you only summiting yourself to the ideal standard of a “Hero” (a firefighter) to be recognized as something within the matrix? Do you want to earn recognition, or are being a hero, about standing for something without necessarily earning recognition?

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Quocthai » May 14th, 2013, 7:49 am

About this issue, I think we need to examine it a little bit closer to the definition of hero and coward. They both are relative terms that other people assigned. I never think that we are relative or dependent to other people. What I surely know is that alive is better than death. But we should do thing that pleasure us, if alive give us less pleasure than other view you as hero, then death is your choice. But I do not believe in relative answer, because to had a relative-ness in heroic issue, there has to be a standard, and I do not believe such thing exist.

PS: I am a moral nihilist

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Grotto19 » May 15th, 2013, 2:08 pm

Narin wrote:Live as a coward or die as a hero?

- If we start to live life, in a means to become a hero, we can easily submit ourselves to the IDEA of a hero, rather than the virtue that hides within the character of a hero.

It is important to understand what "Hero" means, why it is necessary to entertain the idea of being one, if it is necessary at all to become a hero, and where the "hero complex" comes from within us - why should we be heroes and do all of us possess an inner strength to be a hero?

You compare being a “coward” to become a “hero”- yet, they are merely the opposite of each other. Think about it.

What is it to be a hero, what qualities do you have to own?

Is it to put you in physical danger? Is it to stand for something other than the "typical" standard of a society? Is it to wear a mask and run around in a uniform, or does that mask stand for a metaphor of something higher, larger than the title “Hero” - justice, TRUTH?

Is the society ready, to have a hero? Or are you only summiting yourself to the ideal standard of a “Hero” (a firefighter) to be recognized as something within the matrix? Do you want to earn recognition, or are being a hero, about standing for something without necessarily earning recognition?
Yes!!! Defining the terms is so important. Unfortunately words like Hero and Coward conjure up very different images in different peoples eyes. And also unfortunately the discussion has evolved to pit them as opposites which they are not.


In my mental lexicon Hero relates most readily as an individual who will significantly more often than average be willing to risk sacrifice to him/herself for the betterment for another. The opposite of this is not cowardice, though cowardice would inhibit one from acting as a hero in many cases. The opposite (if we must consider all things in a polarized manner) would be a Villain. A villain is an individual who will more often than average be willing to sacrifice others for the betterment of him/herself. To me the pivotal point is who is being sacrificed and who benefits.


Now the Coward does not have to be driven by his own self gain, nor another’s loss. His drive comes from the fear of the outcome. If one more frequently than average allows fear to suppress his actions he is a coward. The opposite of the Coward would be the Brave. Brave meaning not necessarily an absence of fear, but simply the ability and willingness to proceed despite it. If one can continue on the desired path despite fearing the outcome more than the norm then that individual is brave.


From the above it is easy to imagine a Brave Villain (drug dealer/ gang banger) or a Cowardly Hero (a meek altruist). From the above I can also say it is always better to be brave than a coward, as bravery only allows you to do what you wish, it does not require challenging danger you do not wish to. However is it better to be a hero or a villain depends on how self centered one is.


In my country villains are idolized as captains of industry or savvy brokers/politicians. So I can say it has a great deal to do with perspective. No doubt these men do not think themselves villains; in fact many boast their “achievements” openly in print. Conversely many here regard heroic sacrifice as being foolhardy and self destructive. This is not my view, but it is quite prevalent.

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Re: Live as a coward or die as a hero?

Post by Trinity » May 15th, 2013, 2:53 pm

Thank you for the civil discussion which ignored my post.

You guys and gals, apparently, from my point of view, don't have a clue.

Thanks.

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