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Thread: Moral call of duty to public service?

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    a cantori Perdix's Avatar
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    Moral call of duty to public service?

    Is there a moral call of duty? A responsibility to be a public servant in a time of need? I say, in a civilized society: yes.

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Depends on who you are. Morals are personal.
    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

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    Now we know... Asteroids Champion ACow's Avatar
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    I'm not being a (deliberate) twat, but about every second word in that opening post needs some discussion on what each of us thinks it means.

    As an opening post I'm sure we can agree. But if we dig a bit below the surface we may find we disagree quite vehemently on the particulars.

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    I don't agree at all--not even if we talk ethics rather than morals, simply because there are many many many people who should never be public servants of any sort. It would be unethical to let them try.
    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

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    a cantori Perdix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACow View Post
    I'm not being a (deliberate) twat, but about every second word in that opening post needs some discussion on what each of us thinks it means.

    As an opening post I'm sure we can agree. But if we dig a bit below the surface we may find we disagree quite vehemently on the particulars.
    Nah, you're not, I was high as shit when I wrote the OP.

    I'll change
    Is there a moral call of duty? A responsibility to be a public servant in a time of need? I say, in a civilized society: yes.
    to
    Is there a responsibility to be a public servant in a time of need if you are physically and mentally capable? I say, in a civilized society: yes.
    Please do help me refine the question guys, I'm actually curious as to the answer.

    I saw a man stuck on an icy hill and immediately pulled over and asked if he needed help; he said he only needed to make it to the top of the hill so I backed my car up and attached some straps from my chassis to his. This was in twenty degree snowing weather so I'm double timing it as there are no good mount points on his car and I'm on ice on my back. My straps break almost immediately . At this point a FJ cruiser has pulled up and is waiting to have a go, he gets out and is military, I thank him for his service as I'm leaving and he actually thanked me back; in a captain america sort of way.

    Anyways, question: did I have a moral obligation to pull over and help the old man?

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    Senior Member Mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    Please do help me refine the question guys, I'm actually curious as to the answer.
    Is reciprocity a moral duty in a civilized society? Yes and it's innate in humans. Calibrated well, it's conducive to being a happy and respected person. Calibrated too high (too selfless/giving) makes one susceptible to being a sucker. Calibrated too low (entitled taker or sociopath) is contemptible.

    Many species have a social life, but among mammals, only humans (and naked mole rats) are ultra-social – able to live in very large cooperative groups. The golden rule, supplemented with gossip, is the secret of our success. Understanding the deep workings of reciprocity can help you to solve problems in your own social life, and guard against the many ways people try to manipulate you.

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post

    Anyways, question: did I have a moral obligation to pull over and help the old man?
    I dunno. Do you? Morals are internally led and enforced. If you feel a moral obligation to do so, then, yeah, you do. But no one else can answer that question for you.

    The next question then, the one you might really mean, is "Do you have an ethical obligation to help?"

    Maybe. Depends on the ethics of the communities you belong to and whether or not they even address that issue. Some places, you definitely would. In some circles of friendship, you definitely would. For me, I'd need to know a bit more about the scenario, but if it was say, in a city, then no, not really. It might be a nice thing to do, but he's the one who fucked up and tried to climb an icy hill. Personally, I think the proper solution isn't to help him finish his foolishness, but to try and talk him into having a better solution.

    If your car can't make it up an icy hill, the solution should be to not take that route. Furthermore, it's unsafe as all fuck to try and randomly tow someone up an icy hill their vehicle wasn't able to get up. That's like helping someone finish a bad idea.

    I think I understand what your thinking is--and it's to encourage what @Mike is talking about: reciprocity. Specifically, you want to encourage and be part of a society the stops and helps people in need. Exactly when that should kick in, and to what degree and what sort of help is offered though--I think needs some calibration here.

    I don't think people are necessarily obligated to put their lives in danger to help someone in need, and certainly not to help someone complete a foolish task. There are many pieces of context I'd need to know in this situation to ascertain for certain whether or not helping this guy get his vehicle to the top of the hill fits that bill--but that's quibbling over details. In 20 degree snowing weather, if I saw someone in the road with their flashers on trying to get help, I'd stop and find out some details and see what assistance I could render--and I've certainly been helped out in both lesser and greater need. So long as my life wasn't going to be in jeopardy, and I thought the goal was clear, attainable and good, I'd almost certainly help.

    BUT, I would help mostly because I think the world is better when people are able and willing to help each other, not because I felt obligated. The one scenario where that would be different, is if we were miles and miles away from anywhere, and then I would be carefully assessing the risks involved. Just one person, I'd help them get their car safely off the road and give them a lift to somewhere warmer. If there were more people and a strange adult were going to end up behind me, I'd call the cops and have them send out a Sheriff to help.

    Also depends on context. I've refused to help people before because their story didn't make sense to me. It's possible that I judged them too harshly and they really were stupid enough to be telling the truth, but when I turned on my headlights to gtfo, there was a police call box, exactly for these sorts of situations right there.

    But, I'm not the sort of person whose willing to risk being robbed or getting their throat slit to help a stranger. I will help someone push their car off the road, chain up, or get trained emergency services. I'll perform a Heimlich, and I've helped people not injure themselves when they started having a seizure. I've helped people eat, and am still in the process of helping some kids get educated (again... dammit... this journey neverfuckingends), but I'm not a chump about it.

    I'm just grateful for all the folks along the way who did right by me in the past when I was in a bad situation. Some save my life, some saved my wallet. I keep in mind which situations call for what and exactly how much I can risk or sacrifice.

    Sometimes, it's a moral obligation. Sometimes, it's just something I'm willing to do and I feel good about myself knowing I'm the sort of person who will do that. Sometimes, I just can't think of a good reason not to. And sometimes, it just happens.

    I mean, if you see the light go out of someone's head, their eyes roll back, they go limp and start to fall, and you're right there, you don't think about obligation or proper behavior. You catch them and look after them until someone more qualified comes along. Well, maybe the part after has to do with moral obligation if it goes on long enough. I don't know. Didn't really think about it. There was neither time, nor need.

    Honestly, in my ideology, there is neither moral obligation nor ethical obligation. There is only action in the face of obvious need.
    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

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    Sysop Ptah's Avatar
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    Absolutely not. The only social "responsibility" comes from that mutually agreed into, qua contract. Nobody owes anything to anyone unless they've stolen it or agreed to take on debt in trade. I've done neither to "civilization" or any stranger member of it, hence and I owe it/them nothing. Put another way, I neither have nor will accept/recognize any "duty", as such. The only responsibility I have is to myself, and to those I've exchanged (or offered) promises (qua contracts, as explicit or otherwise) with (or to), as such.

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    igKnight Hephaestus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    Absolutely not. The only social "responsibility" comes from that mutually agreed into, qua contract. Nobody owes anything to anyone unless they've stolen it or agreed to take on debt in trade. I've done neither to "civilization" or any stranger member of it, hence and I owe it/them nothing. Put another way, I neither have nor will accept/recognize any "duty", as such. The only responsibility I have is to myself, and to those I've exchanged (or offered) promises (qua contracts, as explicit or otherwise) with (or to), as such.
    Let's ask the more interesting question: Do you think a society whose members consistently help each other out, not for contractual reasons, but because they see need and are able, is a better society than one whose constituent members wouldn't help without an explicit contract?

    I guess another way to put it is, do you think a society whose members voluntarily care for it's other members is a better society than one that only fulfills obligations toward one another? The issue of whether or not either society manages to have members that consistently fulfill actual obligations to each other is tabled at the moment--mentioned only because I can see it might be distracting, so for the present, pretend that in both cases and equal percentage and value of obligations are met.
    --Mention of these things is so taboo, they aren't even allowed a name for the prohibition. It is just not done.

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    Sysop Ptah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hephaestus View Post
    Let's ask the more interesting question: Do you think a society whose members consistently help each other out, not for contractual reasons, but because they see need and are able, is a better society than one whose constituent members wouldn't help without an explicit contract?

    I guess another way to put it is, do you think a society whose members voluntarily cares for it's other members is a better society than one that only fulfills obligations toward one another? The issue of whether or not either society manages to have members that consistently fulfill actual obligations to each other is tabled at the moment--mentioned only because I can see it might be distracting, so for the present, pretend that in both cases and equal percentage and value of obligations are met.
    Of course. There's nothing wrong with freely, willfully, voluntarily helping others where help is needed or wanted.

    That's not at all the same as concepts like duty, obligation, or responsibility. Which replaces an optional because I want to with because I must (or else).

    As for which is better. In short, as I see it - freedom is always better than obligation, overall and for everyone (whether they acknowledge it or otherwise).

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