A question, A question for all here at ILP

Utter nonsense. There’s not a culture in the world, master or slave, where it wouldn’t be shameful to ignore a drowning child. The reasoning might change, but the outcome wouldn’t.

There’s a certain brand of Nietzschean that assumes saying unpleasant things is the same as revealing unpleasant truths. It’s sloppy at best; mostly it’s attention-seeking.

That’s a weighty claim to make. When talking to people looking to shock and provoke; it is wise to avoid hyperbole.

The fact its that there are examples in history where the presence of a drowning child did not invoke shame, and it takes only one example for you too lose the point. It depends on which tribe of group the child belongs to and the POV of the person who has the power to intervene.
I doubt that even Erik would be so hateful and ashamed of his Christian upbringing to allow the child to starve, but who knows.

Even a moral nihilist is not immune to his biological programming. The only difference is that he accepts the responsibility to Choose in his own terms, and not because some God has decided what is the best course of action.

When it comes to a moral nihilist he makes his own choice about what to do.

When it comes to God, the choice is made elsewhere; usually be a priest, or by some interpretation of the Book.

When God flooded the world, he demanded that Noah and his family ignore the thousands of drowning children from all over the world, lift up the ladder on the ark and watch them drown.

So much for Judaeo-Christian ideology, which can give licence to allow the drowning to occur.

Given the context of the question - posed to readers of ILP - and the present tense of my reply, that’s not really relevant. Given that the master/slave dichotomists generally slavishly follow Nietzsche in glorifying ancient Greece as a master culture par excellence, with its emphasis on public acts and honour, it’s not really relevant.

In any case, given the good point you make in your following post, it’s hardly as though Judeo-Christian culture is uniquely or even especially in favour of saving drowning children.

That is somewhat disnegenous of you to say that.
allow me to remind you how you expanded the debate to include far more than the narrow context of ILP…
You said’“There’s not a culture in the world, master or slave,”
The "world is a very big plae, so I stand by my statement, and would continue to argue my point in the spirit of the thought that there are no moral absolutes as you seem to suggest; not even on the most obvious seeming situations.

Not sure why you are taking it down this road. There is many an ancient Greek that would not cross the road to save the life os a drowning Persian child. In ancient Greece it was common policy to expose unwanted children on the side of the mountain. Children were not considered part of the family, not human, until the appropriate rituals were in place.
Which only serves to underline my point.

Indeed not. God is famous for allowing the first born to be slain as a plot device, to be sacrificed in some instances, as well as the story of Noah (of which I am told 40% of Americans accept as literal truth).

I don’t think it’s disingenuous when you bring history and tribal morality into it. But if your argument is solely born of a subjective-morality hobbyhorse, very well: there may somewhere be people who walk insouciantly by when they see children drowning. There are no major cultures that do so. There is a very small fraction of the world who would find it acceptable, and that fraction has nothing to do with its remaining uninfected by “Judeo-Christian slave morality”, as there are literally billions of people, now and past, who have no significant cultural contact with Judeo-Christian morality, who would find it abhorrent.

Sure, people make specific arguments regarding all of these issues. My point though is that many then insist others are morally obligated to think like they do. To behave as they do. Why? Because they are convinced that how they think and act reflects the most rational manner in which to think and act.

I like to bring these discussions down to earth in order to illustrate this point.

It is only a question of how large any particular consensus in any particular human community might be.

With regard to the drowning child the consensus will no doubt be overwhelming: save her.

But is that the same thing as demonstrating that we are morally obligated to save her?

I don’t think so. You may have personal reasons for wanting the child to drown. And your moral narrative might be entirely narcissistic. From your perspective right and wrong might revolve entirely around what brings you satisfaction.

Yes, and I think for most this would be an instinctual response. It’s not about morals or obligation or moral obligation. It’s a simple matter of survival of the species. Many creatures feel a sense of dread upon seeing one of their own kind in mortal peril and respond accordingly, like it’s a hard-wired response. Having been in panic-inducing situations myself, I can attest that there is no thought about whether what I am doing is a moral obligation or not. My body responds to threats instinctively, and in the situation I recall in which a child was in potential danger and I was present, that instinctual response was to find said child and ensure their safety. I did not stop to consider what I was doing, my adrenaline kicked in and I acted.

Just my perspective/experience.

Yes, we are conditioned/hard-wired with certain impulses. But these impulses don’t need to be acted on in every scenario. Evolutionary theory can be used for more primal, fundamental explanations for why we do what we do, but what would be your conscious explanation? Empathy? Morals?

Is that your interpretation of me?

If everyone agreed, then it would demonstrate the moral obligation for you?

As it is, if a billion people independently reason and arrive a one particular conclusion, and there is one person who thinks differently… you will claim that his conclusion negates the reasoning of the others. You will claim that the correctness of their reasoning cannot be demonstrated.


I suppose that speaking realistically, that answer can only be based on upbringing - the way in which one has been raised to “believe” or has come to “believe” on one’s own, that all life is sacred or at least worthy of being saved. You needn’t be only a christian to feel that way. It’s still an emotional reasoning albeit also an intellectual one but more so the former.
I don’t think though that in “reality” there is any moral obligation except for that which has been taught and embedded within our brains. I’d say that whoever drew up the Ten Commandments did so out of an awareness to have some moral structure to adhere to so people would not go around killing one another. Not only a moral imperative, but an evolutionary one too.

In some states, it would be a legal obligation to save a life.

Philosophically speaking, what is both wise and true, would reside side by side with what is moral and ethical within our minds and beings…and that depends on the particular individual. Until residing within living flesh, it is all just human concept/construct.

Duty is such a cold word sometimes. Policemen, firemen, soldiers, do their duty but it is for a much deeper reason that they actually do it - unless it is only about the money for them…perhaps in some cases.

I don’t think there’s a clear-cut answer. Certainly just the thought of watching a child drown and standing by, perfectly able-bodied, brings up many negative emotions. Empathy is present, for the parents of the child – I’ve seen what a parent who has lost a child looks like, and there is no words for that kind of grief. Sorrow at the idea of a young, potentially world-altering life being ended. Anger at the idea of a child being hurt, for while I don’t necessarily like them all that much, the inherent innocence of children brings out the protective mother-hen side of me.

I feel it’s too easy to say, “This is the reason I would or wouldn’t act.” Humans are complex.

That’s certainly one way to look at it. But over the centuries there have been any number of conflicting and contradictory moral and political narratives regarding the most rational manner in which the species can survive. And, if it does survive, any number of conflicting and contradictory moral and political narratives regarding how to sustain that survival with respect to “rules of behavior”.

There are folks who insist that if we think about human interaction really, really hard we can in fact derive the most rational rules. And then they equate the most rational rules with the most moral. We can, it is argued, prescribe rules that reflect moral and political imperatives – obligatory behaviors for all truly rational human beings.

As a moral nihilist, I don’t believe this. I don’t believe moral duties and obligations are demonstrable by ethicists. I believe they are more reflective instead of the subjective narratives of individuals interacting ambiguously [problematically] in a world of conflicting goodness ; a world of contingency, chance and change in which our points of views are ever subject to change over time.

After all, with regard to the drowning child, there are any number of folks who approach abortion in the same manner. From their perspective there is a holocaust unfolding around the globe. Human babies are being murdered by the millions year in and year out.

And they are just as convinced that saving them is really no different from saving a child [already born] who is drowning.

The innocent children are dying. In or out of the womb. We are obligated to save them.

And yet, in my view, without God, mere mortals do not have within their grasp the philosophical [or scientific] tools to reduce these normative conflicts down to either/or.

Or, rather, I have not come upon an argument [of late] that convinces me otherwise.

No. It is, however, reflective of actual flesh and bloods folks who live amongst us. From my perspective any human behavior can be rationalized. Either from a cognitive or from a psychological perspective. In the absence of God all things are thus permitted. It is then only a matter of being able to or not being able to talk yourself into it.

It would seem to me that philosophers seeking to understand the relationship between what people think and do [in any particular context] and what people ought to think and do [based on arguments said to generate moral imperatives] are not going to find “consensus” to be answer.

A consensus will always be derived from a particular context in a particular world understood in a particular way by a particular community of people. But it is never a world that stays the same year in and year out. Things change. New technologies. New ways of thinking about things. New calamities that reconfigure a community in any number of ways. Think of a moral narrative before and after an asteroid reduces America [where I’m from] down to something out of, say, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

All you have to do is to bring this down to earth with respect to a moral conflict like abortion or gun control or human sexuality or the role of government. How would a one-size-fits-all moral prescription be constructed here?

And even regarding extreme contexts like the drowning child, what if [for whatever personal reason] someone wants this child to be dead. Again because, as far as she is concerned, what SHE wants and needs IS the basis for right and wrong behavior.

Is this true? I decided to google it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duty_to_rescue

Regarding my own country:

In the United States, as of 2009 ten states had laws on the books requiring that people at least notify law enforcement of and/or seek aid for strangers in peril under certain conditions: California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. These laws are also referred to as Good Samaritan laws, despite their difference from laws of the same name that protect individuals that try to help another person. These laws are rarely applied, and are generally ignored by citizens and lawmakers.

My emphasis

The first thing that always pops into my head are all of the endless circumstantial variables that can be involved. Suppose for example the child is drowning in a rip current – and attempting to save her could put your own life in danger? Suppose that you suffer from aquaphobia? Suppose you are on the way to an emergency of your own?

But just because there may be no law requiring you to rescue the child does not mean there won’t be plenty of consequences. For one thing, you will almost certainly be osctracized or held in contempt within the community. After all, beyond the law there are always going to be rewards and punishments any given community has at its disposal to nudge [or compel] citizens to behave in certain ways.

And then if you believe in God there is always that motivation.

Philosophers believe that they can use logic and reason to think their way to a satisfactory answer. You, on the other hand, will only accept a stone tablet dropped from heaven by God.

IOW, there is no way to demonstrate anything to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s being discussed on skyhooks or down on earth.

And the really odd thing is that you accept some stuff as ‘objective facts’ like : Mary had an abortion. Yet, if you were consistent, then even these objective facts would dissolve in eternal doubt because of solipsism, brains is vats, faulty mental processes, etc arguments. Maybe there is no Mary and no abortion that can be demonstrated.

Still, you make a leap of faith in one area and not the other.

I cannot swim

You have a good skill in writing that I admire.
Whislt being insulting, within the rules, you manage to maintain an aggressive, though “acceptable” level of debate, at the same time avoiding engaging with the mistake that you made, and the face that you lost.
And in the same breath you impose your moral superiority, and a grossly inaccurate and non-evidential assertion on an issue of anthropology you have no warrant to suggest.

What I find puzzling though, it you seem to be tarring me with a Nietzschean brush even though I did not bring it to the argument.
Maybe you think I am someone else?

It is human nature to react to a struggling child; but according to our culture and our personal relationship to this child we will chose to eat, ignore or help - or help to die.
A culture that is in the habit of leaving a child exposed on the hillside, as a form of contraception is well know to us though the writings of their own, as I mentioned (ancient Greece). And infanticide has for most of history has been the most common method of “contraception”. Children are not so sacred as you would like to believe. In many places it is still seen as acceptable. Obviously cultures that are to poor to offer a child for adoption do not qualify as “human” to you.

But imbued with your peri-christian morality, you prefer to ignore the evidence of history and anthropology, and react with moral indignation and prefer to lash out with arrogance and horror.