## Fire Fighter’s Dilemma (ethics exercise) Philosophy

gatorsf80
5 - 11

1

gatorsf80
Feb 02, 2011
Case #1
Here is the scenario:

You are a Fire Fighter, you rush to the burning building that is about to collapse. There is not enough time to wait for reinforcements. In front of you are two people that need your help of savings: Person A & Person B. There is only enough time to carry one person. Carry both and three of you die.

By choosing to save one you are essentially condemning the other to die, as there isn't enough time to get the other. Who do you choose?

Person A is lighter, and has been inhaling smoke for longer period of time. Person B is heavier but only recently started to inhale smoke.

If you choose Person A, you can escape the burning building faster, but there is less chance of persona A surviving

If you choose Person B, there is better chance of him surviving, but it will take you longer time, and there is higher probability that both of you may not survive

There is no right answer, only better argument, Which person would you choose to save and why?

gatorsf80
Feb 02, 2011
Case #2
You choose Person A, Therefore i Choose B.

because dilemma may depend on circumstances let's look it mathematically. If the purpose is to maximize net lives saved. Both choices are equal.

Let F = Fire Fighter
A = Person A
B = Person B
X = Outcome
F=A=B=1 -- (all life is equal)

Two options:
1st: F+A-B=X=1
2nd: F+B-A=X=1

Let's introduce probability (for the purpose of the exercise we will assume uniform distribution in gaps):
the probability of most likely saving a life is 1.5
the probability of likely saving a life is 1.25
the probability of somewhat likely to save a life 1
the probability of less likely saving a life .75

1st: 1.25F+.75A -1B=X=1
2nd: 1F+1B -1A=X=1

Note: 3rd option where fire fighter saves only himself
1.5F -1A-1B= 0.5 -- which is why 3rd choice is inferior in terms of getting net life saved (and though frequently taken in practice is not mathematically sound)

In order to choose 1st option, and to get net gain in lives saved -- the life of the fire fighter has to be more important than the lives he saves.

My question is Why?
(Feel free to challenge the math)

gatorsf80
Feb 03, 2011
Case #3
If we're still talking about probabilities than, he would be more safe in choice A, but less likely to save someone else. Perhaps fire fighter is bad choice of an example b/c we see them as indifferent about the life they save. if Person A & B were his children per say, will he still choose Child A ? or we will he try to save both of them and fail?

Saving Child B, and having a father present seems like the moral choice i would choose, but it's a slightly different scenario...

gatorsf80
Feb 07, 2011
Case #4
in order to salvage this debate, let's assume the father was outside the house coming back to the house.

1
Persona A

James.Hoggatt
Feb 02, 2011
Case #1
This actually is a relatively easy question to answer. As there is no reason for the firefighter to assume either of the individuals have more or less worth than the other, and the firefighter has a primal obligation to his own existence the clear position is to save person A.

As the scenario gives the highest percentile of survival to saving person A, that is the moral choice of the Firefighter.

As is true with the jumping in the pool to save a drowning child if you can't swim, a person cannot be morally compelled to sacrifice themselves.

Saving person A is the moral choice because 1. it allows the fire fighter to meet his moral obligation to himself 2. It meets the obligation of attempting to save a person within reason and 3. it gives the highest probability the firefighter will be able to save individuals later.

The firefighter does not have to succeed at saving either to act morally.

James.Hoggatt
Feb 03, 2011
Case #2
The firefighter has a more primal obligation to save himself above saving anyone else. The man cannot be morally obligated for instance to save both people if doing so has a high probability of him dying.

My argument is not wholly utilitarian, and a simple moral calculus cannot be used to validly uphold one side. The Firefighter must first assess the likelihood of his own death before being morally compelled to act. Your moral calculus is invalid at that point. Also the math is arbitrary as to the numbers you create for yourself- another reason that a moral calculus is an inferior mechanism for choice.

Much like I argued in my first point, one cannot morally compel a person who cannot swim to try to save a drowning child.

The firefighter does not have an objectively higher life worth, however; the firefighter cannot be compelled to value his life less by endangering it when he currently is safe. Your scenario however, makes it clear he will be safe if he saves person A, meaning the greater moral good is that choice.

James.Hoggatt
Feb 06, 2011
Case #3
At that point it would be a completely different scenario than the one posed. The question would also be whether the father was outside the house and was risking his life going back in, or if he is in the house himself already.

James.Hoggatt
Feb 14, 2011
Case #4
Then my answer would remain the same. Biological similarity does not change moral compulsion.