By: Nicholas V.
Amorally Mortal Mind
On the night of April 20, 1841 fourteen men and two woman were sacrificed for the survival of others on a long boat that was flooding with water due to occupancy weight. At first, the people on board were trying to pale some water out of the long boat to mediate the time they had before the boat could give in and possibly sink. The man who was put in charge by the captain, Holmes, made a decision to stop the paling of water as it didn’t seem to be of an effect in the long run. Eventually the boat plug came out and the weight was too much causing the boat to begin sinking. Holmes then decided that he order his men to throw people overboard for the sake of saving more lives then lost. His orders were to not separate married couples and no woman were to be thrown overboard either, there were no children on board. Many men pleaded for there lives but Holmes would not allow them to remain on board. One man, by the name of Frank Askin, offered Holmes money to spare his life. Holmes replied that he did not want his money and tossed him overboard as well. The two woman that gave their own lives were Frank’s sisters whom chose not to live after their brother had died, and so threw themselves overboard. Another man named Charles Conlin just asked for 5 minutes to say his prayers before being thrown. The first to go, of these men, was Riley, who was asked to stand up by Holmes and then thrown off. This decision was based solely on one man, Holmes, who held no remorse for those lives sacrificed at the time of it occurring. There was no vote held for the passengers.
Utilitarianism suggest that a moral decision is declared right or wrong under the circumstances of how much happiness is given to, or taken away from, the people. The decision is considered morally right if it produced more happiness in more people. Holmes decided to sacrifice the lives of others to save the lives of others. It is a challenging effort to decipher the morality of a situation that seems so balanced in right and wrong due to the happiness, and lack there of, on both sides of the equation. We have those that got thrown off the boat, and those that didn’t. Depending on what makes people happy, I’d assume that living would be a dominate factor for happiness. However, guilt doesn’t cater to the pleasant thoughts of living. Especially, if that guilt developed from having not been the one thrown overboard. This would take away from how morally right Holmes was since there wasn’t really happiness to be alive much less there was a reason to be happy for not being tossed overboard. Had everyone died, the tragedy would have affected the family and friends of all lives lost. This amount of lives lost would not compare to the unhappiness each loved one felt for the fourteen men and two woman, including the guilt of the other remaining passengers that are not exactly jumping for joy for not being thrown in, and are more likely to be mourning for those lives sacrificed. We can’t exactly say that Holmes himself was happy for doing what he felt he had to do, and in the manner of which he did it was by decision of who lived and who died, which is a decision Holmes has no authority of making. According to Utilitarianism, the morally right answer was not abundant in this situation. Holmes had created a more devastating event then there was an exciting aspect of the event that occurred that night. People feel the grief of this story, that which doesn’t express any happiness for those who lived and only sadness for those who were sacrificed. The manner in which the event unfolded was clearly immoral according to Utilitarianism because there was no room to be happy for even those who lived, due to the guilt of being happy for being alive whilst others died.
There is a difference between killing one, or a couple of people, for the sake of many others to live. For example, in World War Two the immoral actions of Hitler and his trusted inner circle against the millions of Jews that had lost there lives is something so immoral that it should be stopped by any means necessary. The end of Hitlers rain led to an over all happiness across the globe and very less unhappiness. However, the actions of Holmes was mainly done for the sake of himself most likely then for just the woman and the entire boat. There was no equality of vote or any remorse for those got thrown over board. This event was driven solely on Holmes decision of who lived and who died, himself was included as one who lived.
Is it morally right to fight? Why is it morally right to defend yourself and immoral to be the one attacking? I guess this depends on the manner of which the fight is occurring and the extent of which it was taken too. It’s immoral to throw the first punch with intent on hurting someone that did nothing immoral. It’s moral to defend that attack in order to prevent from being hit. Then if you had no choice but to attack as a counter to how much you’re being attacked then it would be morally right to disable the attacker in this regard. Both sides are dealing equal amount of pain and happiness. However, a situation like this is one is balancing heavily on being immoral and moral, and is most likely going back and forth on the two. At some point one or both of the fighters will get even more aggressive and care less about how much pain the deal on the other fighter. This could grow to be even greater amount of pain when one of them has the upper hand and instead of stopping they continue to attack the person that’s clearly beat and knocked on the ground. It then turns into an immoral situation because there’s no need to keep fighting when one is down. Now it just became a beating that deals more unhappiness then it does to neutralize the situation. I’m n any case, we all know the more morally correct thing to do in a possibly fight breaking out would be to try and talk it out first.
Kant’s theory of Categorical Imperative suggest that moral actions are not necessarily doing something right that makes others or your self feel good about it. Instead, the Categorical Imperative theory is based off doing something right because it is right and there is no other alternative. This is acting in the sense of what one believes they must do. If ones duty to act is in accordance with a principle one holds. This action is considered morally right in the scope of Categorical Imperative. So lying, in the scope of Categorical Imperative would be considered immoral if one knows that the right thing to do is to tell the truth. However, in some sense the morally right thing to do would be to lie if it meant that it was right to do so based of the persons principles. Even when compared to Categorical Imperative, Holmes decision to just start tossing people overboard is immoral. He didn’t feel like what he had to do was right, yet he did so anyway because of his want to live. There’s nothing that says Holmes decision was intrinsically correct. The immorality of the situation is clear. Holmes felt he had an obligation to save as an at lives as possible. This would ultimately mean to him, and his principles, that in order to save lives some lives must be sacrificed. Although, obligation could be seen differently here, and if it can then the situation contradicts itself because it’s not necessarily considered the right thing if the there could have been another way. There is always most likely another way. Holmes decision doesn’t really support Categorical Imperative because it is singular and doesn’t include the decision of others whom also have principles and morals they live by. Holmes act d individually and this created a controversy and contradiction of his decision to be the grim reaper. The one who decided who lives and dies. Holmes acted in a way of believing he was right to no regard for the men. Being gentlemen for allowing the woman to live is not the same as being morally right for sacrificing the men, because men are people too. Everyone on that boat had principles as well, and in regards to Categorical Imperative, there principles may have suggest that the right thing is that we all live. So this points out even further of how immoral Holmes actions were that night. Just because it can be seen as being the right thing to do doesn’t make it moral. Things happen because they happen, without question of its morality. This would be one of those situation we’re across the board the entire situation is wrong, but it had to be done in some sense. This doesn’t entropy support the idea that it was right no matter what. For example, if one feels like it’s entirely right to steal then it would make that person moral correct to do so according to Kant’s Categorical Imperative theory. Kenya theory also describes one being treated as one treats others. Holmes had no intention of throwing himself overboard as one of the non married men on board. He instead was only considering his own life in the decision he made to sacrifice others to save the woman and himself. Holmes wasn’t exactly acting on his duty to do so because his duty wasn’t to make the decision of who lived and who died. His duty was to save everyone’s life no matter, what or fail to do so. If I had principles that stated that what I do is right as long as I felt it was right in my duty to do so it wouldn’t become a question of morality, it would be an act of ones own choice to do what their best judgement says to even if it produced the least amount of happiness. This doesn’t make something morally correct, it only makes the event a tragedy, no one could live morally in the question of what they did was right for some and wrong for others. It’s a tough hand dealt for Holmes and I’m sure he could have come up with a better solution but as far as Kant’s theory of Categorical Imperative goes, nothing could been seen as the right thing to do versus the most desperate thing to do. Holmes wasn’t thinking above his fears and selfishness. This wasn’t an act of duty. It was an act of survival. He tripped the man running with him, away from the bear, in order to survive the bear while the bear got the other man. Kant’s theory does not support Holmes’ decision to throw those men overboard. He only actors in a sense of desperation to live.
Holmes decision to throw people overboard was immoral. He made his decision based off of fear for his own life. He was only acting as a gentlemen for allowing the woman to live over the men. He gave up on the effort to empty the boat with water because it became difficult to do so, especially since the boats plug had come loose and it would begin to sink. But instead of seeing another way where everyone could survive he immediately responded to his fear of dying and desperation to live and made the demand to throw men off the boat, with no regard for tethers principles. Some may say that he was moral in that it meant some could live versus all of them dying. However, those who lived are not exactly going to be happy for being alive being that others had died for them. This would also produce some sense of guilt for having been chosen by the man I charge, Holmes, to be left alive. This doesn’t make a person happy to be alive for all those that died. Others may even say he was morally right because his sense of duty said that he had the authority to make the a call like that for the sake of as many lives he can save as possible. This doesn’t make it right either. Holmes rejected his duty when he began to think for himself and the woman. Duty was absent in the situation since the instinct to survive became dominant in the decision he made so immorally. Nothing about that decision he made was moral and in another sense it wasn’t immoral either. It was his nature to act instinctively by choosing to play the dictator of who lived and who died versus trying to think morally and save even more than just the woman and himself. Or even so, he doesn’t include himself as one of the men that should be tossed overboard. This makes it clear how selfish he was being and in no way showing how right or wrong he was. It just leans more towards him being wrong in the manner of which he went about deciding the fate of others and it his own. This is why believe Home s action was immoral and to be fair to Holmes I believe there was no option but to be immoral in this situation. Maybe sometimes being immoral is the right call.
Bedau, Hugo A. "Making Mortal Choices":Three Excercises in Moral Casuistry, Oxford University Press, 1997. 123 Pages