• A Morality Question

    I finished reading American Gods last night and I borrow this discussion from near the end of the book.

    If you haven’t read the book, that’s OK. It won’t impact your response. I didn’t like the book that much. The plot was somewhat contrived. There were several obvious twists. And the premise was… odd. That being said, I loved the characters themselves. Very powerful, interesting, flawed characters.

    OK, so here’s the situation.

    Your friend has had their mind changed by an outside force without their consent. Call it telepathy, call it magic, call it pure manipulation, call it brain-washing. But your friend has become a member of a death cult and will commit suicide because of this tampering.

    Now you, because this is a thought discussion, have the power to save your friend by changing their mind. But you must use the same tactics that was used against your friend in the first place. Brain-washing, thought manipulation, telepathy, magic. whatever. And you must do so without their consent. In fact, you will have to do so against their current expressed desires.

    Do you do this thing?

    Why or why not?

    Should their be a difference between the tactics used by someone who is admittedly amoral and one who is moral? Why or why not?  [In other words, is batman justified in the violence he uses?]

    Please respond below and remember to be nice. This is about ideas, not personalities.

    Category: CulturefeaturedLifePhilosophySociety


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • paulpfish

      I didn’t read the book, but I’m not sure you got the moral dilemma quite right. There are 40,000 people that commit suicide in the USA every year. One could argue that many are on that path due to some influence of outside forces. So the situation is hardly unusual. Nor is treatment of people against their will, particularly ones with mental issues. There is a long history of that. As far as the method used to treat, who cares as long as it works. Cancer is currently treated using techniques you would never apply to a healthy person and yet we do it in the hopes that it might work. I am sure cancer patients would prefer magic of any sort to the typical cancer drugs, if only magic worked.
      Your scenario also reminded me of mice that have Toxoplasmosis. The parasite affects the brain causing the mouse to lose some of its fear of cats. So in a way the parasite has taken control of the mouse’s brain to cause him to be eaten by the cat. Of course mice can’t treat each other, but if humans had a similar condition I don’t think we would have any problem in treating this person against their will since we know eventually they will be better.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        I probably didn’t state it quite right. Most people would consider reaching into someone’s mind and altering it wrong. Whether that be telepathy, abuse, chemicals, whatever.

        The question becomes can someone who is moral use a tactic that would be considered immoral to correct an immoral act?

        • paulpfish

          I am not sure why altering someones damaged mind to “fix” it would ever be considered immoral. After all, any drug that affects someone brain function is “altering” the mind, and those are given out every day by doctors. I think that hope of Neuroscience research is that we will one day be better at “altering” the mind, for patient’s good. I think giving any medical treatment to someone that doesn’t need it would be immoral; however giving the same treatment to someone that needs it would be humane.

    • John Schlembach

      Hello. How are you?

      I hope you’re the right person, but did you comment a while back on a few evolution related articles on the Victoria Advocate newspaper website? If so, we talked a bit there, and I’d like to ask you something and I can’t find any private contact information.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        I am. There’s a contact button above the “Skeptic Ink” title bar. Or you can ask here. If it’s evolution/creationism related, then I’ve probably already answered it (or will specially).

        • John Schlembach

          Okie doke. Well. I’m trying to put on a series of public debates on popular at the Victoria College (hosted by the honor society I’m involved with), and since you are local TX, I was wondering if you wouldn’t be interested in defending the proposition that god does not exist?

          I’ve got a moderator and am in talks with a local church group (Faith Family, run by Joel Osteen’s brother-in-law) to see if they would be interested in fielding a member for the opposite side (they sounded very interested on the phone).

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Something may be able to be arranged. There’s a lot of details to work out, but it’s possible.