#52 Live and Let Die

#52 Live and Let Die

Ok, I’ve got a few things to mention.

First, as you may have noticed, I’m now promising only 2 – 4 comics a week, instead of 3 – 4. Between teaching and dissertation work and other obligations, it just hasn’t been possible for me to consistently produce 3 comics a week, and if I did try to force myself to do so, the quality would probably suffer. I’ll still try to produce more comics when I can, of course.

Second, due to popular demand, I’m going to (tentatively) try allowing comments back on the main comic pages, starting with this comic. I’m utilizing an extra layer of guard against spambots. The first time you leave a comment, the site will require me to approve it. After that, you should be able to leave comments without moderation. This should hopefully keep the spambots at bay. We’ll see how it goes.

Finally, I just want to note that we’ve had a huge spike in traffic the last few days, due to a couple of excellent Philosophy blogs that linked to the prepunishment comic. The blogs are Leiter Reports and the Garden of Forking Paths – check them both out. And welcome visiting philosophers! Maybe some of ya’ll will stick around?

Enjoy the comic!

Discussion (10)¬

  1. sinessence says:

    hurrah! comments are back! fun!

  2. William Tanksley says:

    I heard that there’s no legal obligation to be a hero until you start trying… So there’s no legal obligation to jump in the pond, but if you do, you’ve got to try to the best of your ability. This applies specifically to CPR.

    Legality isn’t morality, but usually the law is at least informed by morality.

    Anyhow, it also seems to me that the strength of the obligation is increased by the closeness of the personal connection, so that your son being in the pond is an absolute obligation to jump and save, while a child across the world being in the pond (assuming you can jump that far) is not.

    So the argument in this cartoon is a little bit undercut by failure to consider whether the situations were truly directly analogous.

    BTW, thanks for the comics. So far all are interesting, and most are quite thought-provoking. I’d like to have discussed your one on the Kalaam cosmological argument for the existence of God; I agree that it’s partial, but not at all for the reason you cited (you presented only a partial version of it).

  3. chaospet says:

    I actually do wholeheartedly agree with the relevance of personal connection to our obligation to help others. However it still seems that an appropriately caring person would still care somewhat about the plight of distant people, and so would offer some help at least. So I don’t think that consideration gets us entirely off of Singer’s hook.

    I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on the cosmological argument. If you’re interested, join the forum and we can start a discussion there.

    Also, thanks for your kind words about the comics!

  4. chaos872 says:

    ::warning this may get mindnumbingly psychological::

    From an evolutionary psychology standpoint (from the way I understand it at least) we are used to traveling in tribes of closley related genes (extended family) that tend not to move geographically all that much, and this tends to be where the basics of altrusim were started, from the standpoint of darwin(&dawkins) its better for me to let a child die unless that child has a decent or better chance of sharing my genetics.

    Therefore by a genetic standpoint, knowing that the starving child is 1/2 way around the world precludes it from having a “decent or better” chance of sharing my genepool. Therefore I feel it is natural and not incorrect to flat out NOT CARE about starving kids in other countries, it is morally correct but morality and goodness are only recent ideas, while helping the child is the morally right thing, not caring is the Natrual thing and from a personal perspective the best way to live.

    (Of course i could just be an Evil prick)

  5. chaospet says:

    You raise some interesting points, and there’s loads to be said in response. I will (try to) limit myself to what I think is the deepest issue though, for the sake of brevity.

    I think we have to be really cautious making the leap from descriptive claims from evolutionary biology or psychology to normative claims, or claims about what we SHOULD do. So even if it is true that evolution has disposed us to be completely indifferent to distant people (and actually, I think there are good reasons to be suspicious of THAT claim), it doesn’t follow that we OUGHT to be that way. This is especially suspicious given the fact that people do indeed exhibit at least the *capacity* to extend their circle of care beyond their near and dear, even if doing so doesn’t always come easily or naturally.

    For the moral question, it seems better to focus on what people with a fully developed capacity for empathy and care are like. We don’t want to equate morality just with what comes really easily or natural to us. Otherwise we have to approve of all kinds of horrible and violent tendencies that so many people seem prone to.

  6. William Tanksley says:

    I see your point, and agree; my disagreement was with the analogy in the second panel (and to a lesser extent with the premise in the first), rather than with the conclusion as a whole.

    The nature of the conclusion is affected by the nature of the argument. The ethical duty is to help, but not to help in the same way; therefore one need not (in fact should not) book an airplane ticket to help; it makes more sense to find a way to reduce the danger, perhaps by donating money to an organization which in one’s opinion can help the overall situation (as the premise stated — so I can’t disagree with that).

  7. chaospet says:

    I think that we are in complete agreement!

  8. Rachel says:

    About the comic standing – congrats on being #91. You’re in the top 100!! Yay

  9. Nice…#91?
    I like the little debate you were having there.

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