# The Price of Life

First I would ask what do you think is the price of a life? (more specifically a human life)

It can be finite, infinite, or indeterminate (which is perhaps what priceless means)

But say you have a set of three people and a set of 1 person… and one of the sets must die or you could say you can save one of the sets of people.
Which set would you save? Most I would think would say they would save the set of three. But if all people are of infinite value or even indeterminate value there is no means of saying one is more then the other… you would think. So then must we not put a price on life that we can say a set of three is more then a set of one?

Or is it as I personally expect, that there happens to be a means as evidenced by the human capacity to make this choice, to nonetheless evaluate infinities as being of different…weight?

If the set of 1 is your child and the set of 3 are threatening its life then you would probably save the set of 1, no?
And probably the same if the 3 were Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin, and the 1 was just some random schmo.
But if you were the 1 and you were North Korean and the 3 were Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-Un and Kim Il-Sung you would probably save them.
If you were North Korean and part of the 3 with your two children, and the 1 was Kim Jong-Un, you would probably save him.
If the 3 were enemy troops and the 1 was your general, you would probably save your general.
If the 3 were enemy troops and the 1 was a soldier fighting for your country you would probably save your own guy.
If the 3 were you and your mother and father, and the 1 was your child you would still probably save your child.
If you were the 1, and the 3 were terminally ill cancer patients, you would probably save yourself.
If you were the 1, and you were healthy, and the 3 terminally ill cancer patients were your children, you would probably save them.

I could go on.
As for if the 1 and the 3 were all randomers that you know nothing about, who live in a place you never heard of, yes you’d probably save the 3.

Obviously my point is that the “price” of humans depends on their relationship to yourself in all kinds of ways, whether genetic, fearful, loyal, out of obligation, whether that person is going to die soon, whether the person is still unborn (to pro-choicers), though all things equal - people do seem to side with saving the higher number.

All this suggests that people have finite value. The value of different lives can be compared though it will be different depending on who is valuing the life. As to what specific “price” this equates to (its trade equivalent), this is more elusive than the fact that executive decisions can be made when it comes to life and death. People have been bought and sold throughout history, so they certainly have a price in the minds of their traffickers - this is an instance where specific “price” is more clear. It is therefore possible to give a specific price, though I doubt most people would want to do this. Even family have sold members of their family, though mostly it is counter to the instinct to NOT give a specific price to others. It is more socially acceptable to not be seen as thinking of others in terms of their price because people do not want to think of themselves as expendable or their life conditional.

Around 1968 or so, the UN had set it at about \$97.000.00 per head (retroactive to before WW2).

A price ? You don’t need a price. Only thing you need is a consequentialist perspective.

the problem with looking at what the consequences will be is that a man can only look so far ahead. in any given situation it could turn out that given enough consideration in to the future it could have been seen that the best choice was letting that which appeared most evil at the given time to be free… for example he could have ended up murdering somebody that would have become someone much worse…

Sure but what appears most evil will in fact be the most evil almost all the time. So, maybe if we hadn’t imprisoned a murderer, he would have straighten his life out and discovered the cure to cancer. But what is the probability of that happening ? If we stopped imprisoning murderers for 50 years, how many do you think would straighten their lives out ? And how many would make important contributions to mankind like discovering the cure for cancer ?

I think Abtract’s point is that we don’t know the consequences. In the scenario he gave us in the OP, he didn’t specify any consequences. He didn’t say whether any in the group of 3 or in the group of 1 were criminals or going to turn out to be criminals or anything like that. All we’re given is that either 3 people die or 1 person–that’s it–and this seems to be enough to illicit a kind of gut reaction to save the three at the expense of the one. The question is, why?

Personally, I don’t agree that this says that we place any finite (or infinite) value on heads. I think it just says, given the limited amount of information we have, we have no other choice but to base our decision on a kind of utilitarian calculus. I mean, how would we justify saving the one person over the three–that would seem irrational. How would we justify just sitting in the corner crying about how hard a decision this is? It seems pretty cut and dry–the value of three lives outweighs the value of one ← there, we have a justification, and we’ll go with it.

The price of a human life is equal to its life time consumption of food, water, and other things that that life needs.
But even this price is too high, because people will favor expending money on other things instead.

Consequentialism is not so much about exact predictions of consequences. It’s about the importance of consequences. If you can make exact predictions that’s great. If you can’t, that doesn’t mean that all of a sudden every course of action is equally valid, there is a little thing called knowledge which allows us to make educated guesses.

Consider the following: What would be the consequences to society ( the well being of the individuals that compose it) of sacrificing 3 lives to save 1 ?
You don’t even need to think at such a large scale, just think about the families of the persons involved. What is worse, one family and a group of friends grieving and in pain or three families and three groups of friends grieving and in pain ?

… that it’s OK to kill awkward loners who don’t get along with their families, as long as you take care of the popular kids?

^fucking lol

Working on pure numbers:
Saving the three, rather than the one, triples the likelihood of saving an evil SOB. It’s therefore much safer to save the one guy.

Or even better, do like the crusaders used to - kill everyone and let God sort it out.

How about this: what if the nerd is a noble prize winner working on saving the planet and the two others are pedophiles? Wouldn’t this change to analysis? Both quantitative and qualitative factors have to be considered. But what if the Nobel winner on the verge of a major discovery is the pedophile, and the two others are religious going abroad to a pilgrimage?

But I don’t think that’s what’s going on through our minds when we contemplate the scenario. It isn’t what’s going through my mind. We’re given that there’s a group of 3 and a group of 1, and we’re ask which we’d save. Right on the face of it, without thinking about consequences, the obvious answer jumps out: save the three at the expense of the one.

That’s the result of a consequentialist perspective even if you’re not consciously thinking about the consequences at first.

What do you mean? Are you saying that if you’re a consequentialist you will come to coclusions like the one I did?

Yes. I should have stated that more clearly. But also, it might just be that we are predisposed to adopt a consequentialist perspective, it emerges into consciousness from unconscious processes. Evolutionarily speaking, it makes sense. Like you said, you immediately think that three lives are more important than one.

You know i had another thought… if we can put a price on the life of a person then there should be a limit to the punishment of murder… murder could then be looked at as a kind of thievery: the stealing of a particular amount of value…

seeing as we have not tried that and thus have no empirical data verifying how often murders… straighten up… i would think that it is harder to say then simply just assuming that, “what appears most evil will in fact be the most evil almost all the time.”

Further because we cannot see far enough ahead as to the consequences of any action we cannot really verify that any of the people killed by any man is an evil thing to begin with as it is perfectly possible that any man killed could have given birth to a worse murder, later in there life killed someone, given aid to someone though as an act of kindness that results in the death of another… and so on… so i mean really when we are punishing anyone for any “crime” we are basically rather blindly changing our future…

i could argue that in order to calculate the value of a human you would have to take into account their ability to produce more value. That is to say a person has the ability to reproduce, and to take actions that may have continuing butterflying effect into the future. as such killing a single person is not simply destroying the value of that person alone but the value of any person that would have been produced by that person and the value of any action produced by that person. And considering that it is possible that the production of new lives produced from a person can continue indefinitely we would have that the calculation of the value of a person would be approaching infinity would we not?

you have to think of a person kind of like say… some good software of some sort, or a movie, or a video game, or some sort of data. the value of the person is not any of the individual copies of the video game but rather like the copyright of the video game. the copy rights to that video games has a lot of value if you were to say sell those copy rights you would have to take into account the potential value or rather the money that could be made in reproduction of copies sold and such. but then in the case of a human each copy or reproduction is itself like a copyrightable thing in other words a new thing that can produce more and more things that can produce more things that can produce more things that all have value…