[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 10 09:06:29 MDT 2010

>Really? We have to weight every relevant factor to make an ethical decision 
>not just all the factors that we know?

No, but you are missing the point. This is not a run of the mill ethical 
decision, but a life-or-death determination, absolutely irreversible and 
irremediable. If you are deciding who lives and who dies, you better have 
ALL the facts beforehand. Without those facts, you cannot decide ethically. 
People (or sentient beings) are not numerical units, nor are they 
abstractions. The track walkers are not all equal just because they are all 
(presumably) human (no zombies or vampires trolling the tracks). Who they 
are is a product of what they've done (karma). You are not (normally) the 
judge of their karma, but if you are making life and death decisions for 
them, without their knowledge or approval nor sanctioned to do so by any 
judicial authority whatsoever, you better know who they are. Otherwise, as I 
said, whatever you do, it would be unethical to pretend what you are doing 
is ethical.

Let's shift the example. Several people are drowning in icy cold water. You 
jump in to try to save them. You can only grab one and make it back to 
shore, but not all of them -- or else the cold water will disable you and 
you will drown as well. Which one do you grab? Answer: It doesn't matter. 
Whichever you can. Should that one turn out to be a reprehensible character, 
so be it. That you can't save the rest and didn't save someone perhaps more 
estimable than the one you saved is moot.

Why is this situation different from the tracks? And it is.


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