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How can we justify that one life is more important than Another's?

  1. May 26, 2008 #1
    How can we justify that one life is more important than Another's?

    I've been wondering about this for a while now. I've tried tackling this from a religious and scientific standpoint.

    For religion I've looked at the Indian Caste system and at the Christianity belief that we should put others before ourselves(JOY- Jesus, Others, You)

    For Science, I looked at Alchemy, which really intrigued me since I just finished the series, Fullmetal Alchemist, and the belief that only a life can be exchanged for another life, nothing else.

    But what else is there? Is there a contemporary issue out there recently that falls under this like the current war or incidents that occur during the earthquake in Myanmar? Can we see this in a historical context or in specific art works throughout the century?

    Would slavery be appropriate? I'm on the fence with this one because the issue, in my opinion, isn't really a matter of life but the color of the skin and the belief that if one isn't a WASP then one is considered inferior. This leads to the issue of Tibetans and their want for independence, if they are equal then why can't they just be given the right to be independent?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2008 #2
    Alchemy is a pseudoscience.
  4. May 26, 2008 #3
    I know, but I'm looking at the concept of it, all sciences throughout the history.
    It has only been recent since it was declared a pseudoscience, but looking in context, many people accepted it B.C., such as China and India, mainly the East and the Orients.
    Which reminds me of the Chinese traditional belief of the Mandate to Heaven, which made the Emperor Godlike, but is his life really more important than any of the Warriors that did the actual fighting?
  5. May 26, 2008 #4
    You could take a utilitarian standpoint and decide that in the long run person X's survival will do more good than person Y's, so person X is the one worth saving. Perhaps this is why secret service agents will take a bullet for the president, or parents will sacrifice themselves for their children.

    Then again, I think it's usually emotional factors that would influence such a decision, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's "unjustified". Hume suggested that our passions are the best basis we have for moral decisions.

    I think the PC term is "marginalized practice" :wink:. While it's plainly outside the purview of today's science, it's interesting to look at how alchemy was so important to, say, Isaac Newton.
  6. May 26, 2008 #5
    So we can take account of experience and knowledge. That in my opinion certainly is important. But lets just say it was someone random, would person X's life still be more important than person Y's?

    Let's just look down at the basic, like abortion and the fetus. Isn't life still a life no matter what the case. The fetus contributes nothing, but do we have the right to deny it the experience of life?
  7. May 26, 2008 #6
    Ahh... I see what you're getting at :wink:.

    I think you bias the question by saying a foetus counts as a person.

    To me it seems that it is reasonable to consider a 24-week foetus to be conscious, and emotional considerations of empathy and sympathy make good sense.

    On the other hand, it seems to me highly unreasonable to say that an embryo is conscious - at least while maintaining that a plant or a mushroom is unconscious.
  8. May 26, 2008 #7
    I completely agree. I'm sure this question has been asked before in the past. Did Aristotle or others in Ancient Greece ever question this issue? What do you believe from an epistemological or philosophical stand point?

    Concerning the issue of the Tibetans and their fight for independence from China, Why can't the Chinese just let it go? Do they think they are more superior? I'm not trying to attack the Chinese, because I myself am Chinese, but it seems ridiculous to me. It's not like their lives are worth anymore than the Tibetans that they can just own them like property.

    Also, what about the war in Iraq? Many sons and daughters of families are in the war, why aren't Bush's children or any other presidents for that matter? Why? Because they are the children of the President? It just always seems that it's a "Rich man's war, poor man's fight." in this society, I mean is a wealthy person any more valued than a poorer person? An intellectual anymore than a mentally challenged? From a biological stand point aren't we all made of the same material? Do we not all possess a consciousness?
    Is our worth really a measure of our ability to contribute? Well if thats the case, are we not less valued than animal? Just look at the decline of the planet since the birth of man(not relating to evolution or any religion.) We hope to benefit ourselves at the cost of our home.
    How about animals, we assume they don't possess a consciousness but do they not feel? Of course they do, we can witness it through our eyes, through correspondence. We can tell when a dog is happy when it wags its tail or when a cat purrs.
    So what justifies that our lives are more significant than that of an animal?
  9. May 26, 2008 #8
    I think the bigger question with abortion shouldn't be if the fetus is conscious, but what are the sociological ramifications of accepting the fact that we can axe out a life or a possibility of life without much thought. What if this guy is going to be a scientist? What if this guy is going to be a major criminal? What can this life stimulate in our society? What is the alternative route going to lead to? It seems rather one dimensional, when all these questions are brought into play, that we only consider the consciousness of the organism of question.
  10. May 26, 2008 #9
    I don't think that is much of an issue considering how many people are in a population and the amount of children that population can spawn. If we eliminate a life from this world, and lets just say that fetus could have became the guy to discover cancer, it wouldn't affect the society very much overall. If we accept randomness as being true, then eventually someone else, maybe in a later time would fullfill the task that the previous guy was set out to do. Lets just use Newton for example. If he had been axed out, it wouldn't mean gravity would never have been fabricated, it would just mean, society would have to deal without the notion of gravity a little longer until somebody else "discovers" it. Of course, this would change the future, but we must consider the infinite possibilities.

    In addition, I don't think much of society puts much thought into that idea anyways, since many people, a majority of the population, lives only in the present, not for the future.
    Either way, moral still plays, IMO, significantly. Consciousness too is important, and I still think it is a factor to considered. We as human value our lives, and to be able to comprehend fear during certain situations will alter ones own judgement.

    Lets just say, there was a group of hostages, some children some adults. Whos life do you think is more valueable? The one who has more experience, the adult, or the one who has yet to experience enough of this natural world, the child?

    What characteristics do you, the audience, believe makes a person's life more important than anothers?
  11. May 26, 2008 #10


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    Staff: Mentor

    This isn't philosophy, moved to SS. This is more of a discussion of political and social values.
    Last edited: May 26, 2008
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