Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is it wrong to eat a sandwich in front of a starving person?

  1. Jun 2, 2007 #1
    Q1: If you have two sandwiches, and you are in the presence of a starving person, are you morally obligated to give at least one sandwich to that person?

    Q2: If you a billionaire, and starving human beings exist, are you morally obligated to contribute millions of dollars to feeding them (since you can afford it)?

    Q3: In general, is it wrong to not share your wealth?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2007 #2
    depends on where you get your morals. if you get them from the bible or something yes its wrong in both cases to not share. if you get your morals from an ayn rand book then no it's not wrong, it's right to not share
  4. Jun 2, 2007 #3
    Let me clarify, I'm not asking these question so I will know how to conduct my life. I'm asking them because I am curious about the personal moral code of members of the forum.
  5. Jun 2, 2007 #4


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    What kind of answers do you actually expect?
  6. Jun 2, 2007 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    First I'd be asking myself how I could be eating a sandwich in front of a starving person. Why is this person starving? Were they locked up by some deranged person and had no access to food and I just happened to stumble upon them and happened to be eating a sandwich?

    Ok, I'm being facetious. I wouldn't eat my sandwich in front of a starving person, I'd call for help, then I'd eat my sandwich, because if a person is really starving, suddenly eating solid food could make them ill. They need to be assessed by a medical team and given proper nutrients and fluids.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2007
  7. Jun 2, 2007 #6
    Maybe the situation has arose from them not liking the sandwich I am eating in front of them.
  8. Jun 2, 2007 #7


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Could be! Perhaps they may be allergic to what is in my sandwich and it could put them into anaphylactic shock.
  9. Jun 2, 2007 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    That would depend on how you look at life, morals differ by culture.

    No, or see answer to above.

  10. Jun 2, 2007 #9
    Yes. You must stand to the side.

    No. Your moral obligation is only proportional to your relative masses.

    Yes, if you are a billionaire, but not if I am.

    No, if you had shared it then it would not be your wealth.

    My curiosity is more about their sense of humor. :biggrin:
  11. Jun 2, 2007 #10
    lol (wtf minimum post requirement)
  12. Jun 2, 2007 #11
    A1. Yes. You are morally obligated to give them both of your sandwichs. The exception would be if you, yourself, were also starving. You're saying that the person might seriously die from starvation, right?

    A2. No. You could use your money to do any number of things that could be just as or even more helpful. Also, sometimes attempts to help can cause harm. This might be the case if the starvation was caused not by lack of food, but by lack of infrastructure.

    A3. As Evo said

  13. Jun 2, 2007 #12
    I don't believe in individual responsibility. I'd say it's the our moral obligation to force the billionaire to share. Though, that's dumbing it down. Reading that back to myself I realize I come off as a Socialist, I'm very different from a Socialist. Socialists are boring.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2007
  14. Jun 2, 2007 #13

    You guys are taking the questions too literally. I don't necessarily mean "sandwiches"... and when I say "contribute millions of dollars to feeding" that does include developing infrastructure.

    I am always amused at how people incorporate "proximity" into their personal moral code.

    By the rationale of many... if you know that someone is starving, and you simply avoid being in the presence of that person, then you are not morally obligated to give them a "sandwich" (and I mean that figuratively). Likewise, if you are a billionaire, and you simply avoid taking any trips to Somalia (or another place where people do not have enough to eat), then you don't have to worry about giving anyone anything.

    So, I conclude that charity has more to do with how a person feels about themself than the concern that person has for the well being of others.
  15. Jun 2, 2007 #14
    No, you sound more like a French revolutionary, from the proletariat, to me.
  16. Jun 2, 2007 #15


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    That's probably fairly accurate.

    A lot of wealthy people give money to charity for tax write offs, to gain populartity in their social circle or to gain access to a social circle, as a publicity stunt, or because they have way too much money and don't know what else to do (rich celebrities). That doesn't mean that some don't actually have the desire to help, it's just usually not the driving force.

    And sometimes what on the surface seems the right thing to do (handing a sandwich to a starving person), can be the worst possible thing to do. :redface:
  17. Jun 2, 2007 #16
    sounds like rousseau to me
  18. Jun 2, 2007 #17
    Yeah, like that time Madonna tried to adopt an African baby in order to out-do Angelina Jolie and adopting of a Chinese baby.
  19. Jun 3, 2007 #18
    I haven't read any responses yet, this is my initial take on the questions.

    Q1 - Morally, Yes. Is it wrong not to? No, but very mean, IMO.
    Q2 - Morally, Yes. Is it wrong not to? No.
    Q3 - No, it is not wrong. It is your wealth, yours to do what you will.

    Interesting set of questions. It made me think. I appreciate it, it allowed me to make some definitions for myself.
  20. Jun 3, 2007 #19


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Interesting questions/hypotheticals.

    A1. If I were to encounter a starving person, I would be obliged to help. I certainly would not eat in front of them. Along the lines of Evo's comments, giving a starving person a sandwich may not be good for them at the moment.

    A2. Even without being a billionaire, I am obliged to relief to those who suffer. Certainly with billions of dollars, one could develop a program to provide assistance to those in need. Whether or not it would be effective is another question.

    A3. Is it wrong to be selfish?

    Personally, I have no need of great wealth. I don't particularly care for expensive luxuries. I prefer a modest lifestyle.
  21. Jun 3, 2007 #20


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Logical fallacy: faulty analogy.

    Show that eating a sandwich is analagous to having lots of money.
    Show that handing a sandwich to a starving person is analagous to giving money to them.

    There are plenty of assumptions in there.
  22. Jun 3, 2007 #21
    He's taking a poll... there's no analogy.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook