|"I would strongly question the value hierarchy of someone who has, say, a truckload of bottled water and yet refuses to give one bottle to someone right in front of him who is dieing of thirst. He has no moral OBLIGATION to give the dieing man a bottle of water" [Jason] ..."No one is promoting a duty of charity here. " [Kat]|
This is something which to the best of my knowledge is not, at least not fully, covered in the Objectivist literature on ethics.
I'd like to add my two cents to the Objectivist philosophical (and, in a way, psychological) literature.
I think there seems a misunderstanding in the quotes above. Let's move from the abstract to the concrete. Let's do it by considering different 'cases' the way a law student of a business major would.
Here are several cases in which I am going to say there -is- a moral obligation to help. Yet it is not altruism:
1. A drowing man can be helped with no risk of your own drowning by a) throwing him a rope or b) slowing your boat so he can climb aboard.
2. You have lots of water to spare, are not in any particular hurry, and you are driving through a natural disaster area and people are dying of thrist. And you choose to let them die.
3. Rand's example paraphrased from (I believe) the Virtue of Selfishness: A mother buys new hats for herself while her young children are slowly becoming malnourished because she doesn't use that money to provide them with enough food to keep them strong and healthy.
The third example Rand already explained: It is non-sacrificial to choose the children's needs over your own short term habadashery pleasures, if you value the children more than the hat.
What about the first two?
In each case, IF (1) you generally like to see people succeed, happiness, thriving, and therefore people not dying of neglect, you are (2) contradicting your own values by not acting to further them if it is non-sacrificial (giving up something material of considerably less importance like expending energy to throw a rope or slowing down a boat or giving up an item you possess of comparably less value) to further them.
So, if (1) is true you are acting IMMORALLY to not do (2).
It is thus a moral obligation in that context. And if you are someone for whom (1) is not a value, then I don't want to know you and there is something wrong, cancerous, and ulcerous with you. You are, in point of objective and geometrically provable fact, a lousy human being.
A case could be made that the failure to value (1) is ITSELF immoral. It is like the silly conundrum academic philosophers pose to Objectivists: "Well, all your ethics is based on the -choice- to value life. What if you don't, what if you choose to die, either quickly or slowly over decades? Isn't that your free moral choice?"
I would argue no. That is silly. To contradict your nature and slit your own throat is ethically wrong (in non-emergency situations as opposed to concentration camps, for example.)
So making the wrong choice on (1) or as a consequence (2) is immoral.
So, Jason and Kat, do you have a moral obligation when you are "on the scene" and its non-sacrificial as in the cases I named.
Absolutely... And it's an ethical principle of Objectivism - and of selfishness - as well (as I've tried to "prove" in the philosophical excursion above).
PS, You can easily extrapolate this to natural disasters when you are on the scene. And you can distinguish the -degree- to which (1) causes you to go out of your way to implement(2). THAT is where there are options and personal value choices which legitimately determine how far you may go to extend help.
In the extreme or simplified examples I gave, however, there are no moral options: Note that I am not making an argument that you always have to help people when you happen upon them in serious need.
It is contextual.
(Edited by Philip Coates
on 9/05, 2:25pm)