May 2008

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Comments

simon

i thought the Islamic view was to strap a bomb to the butler and blow up the village

Lance

If I do it, it's stealing, if the goverment does it it's "Social Security/Medicare/foodstamps/etc..

They even threaten me with Jail if I don't give them my money... and I'm not even a thousandaire :(

In your story the billionaire doesn't suffer a loss because of the lost property.. I do :(

carl

I think you have discovered the offspring of Robin Hood (steal from the rich and give to the poor) and Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (obligation to civil disobediance for the greater good of humanity).

Pretty Clever.

Book Crazy

I would do a semi Robin Hood thing: Take from the rich and keep it. I have no moral dilemmas about it. Those who do, good for them.

Tareq

To add to this debate, I would like to offer the Islamic view on such a matter. The Islamic perspective is: Whatever is based on a wrong (stealing for ex)is a wrong (even feeding a poor village). So what should the butler do? He should inform the inheritors, who are the new owners of the jewel, about the location of the jewel.

Kent

Perhaps a utilitarian would answer these questions affirmatively.

IGC

If I know with 100% certainty that nobody knows about the jewelry, I would probably steal it -because it IS stealing, no moral excuses- but not donate it all to charity, I'd keep a good part for myself. In that way:
1- Poor people wins.
2- I win.
3- Nobody loses.

I guess I'm on of the few honest persons amongst these 600+ hypocrites...

psipook

This is a no brainer. The billionaire is a thief, that's how he became a billionaire.

He got rich off the labour of other people, and may even have got rich off the labour of African people earning a pittance assembling products the billionaire was selling in rich countries. Taking the jewelry to feed the poor and exploited is not theft: it is re-appropriation. The butler is under a moral obligation to take as much as he can.

evden eve nakliyat

thanks for informations..
very nice...

Ambrozote

If the butler gets into tights....could this be coined as the Robin Hood approach?

Tez

I work in the media (not in the US) where I regularly face the dilemma of doing things that are morally or legally questionable in pursuit of the "greater good" of "truth". (I'm using quotation marks here because I know a lot of readers would question the idea of truth in journalism!)

The standard we tend to work by is to ask if the results are worth the consequences, and is there an option with less dire consequences. Is saving a African village worth the jail sentence of stealing the gem? Personally, probably not. Especially when the butler could fundraise or use his own money to save the village.

If there is another option, even if we don't like that option, then there is no moral obligation to break the law. The law does not take into account our intentions, just our actions, and the easiest option is not always the best.

E

It all comes down to a ham sandwich or eternal happiness?
Nothing is better then eternal happiness and a ham sandwich is certainly better then nothing....

Dick

This "dilemma" is one of the core values of the Liberal agenda ... steal from one group to give to another, then feel really great about yourself.

Tyler

Someone made a comment about the Rutgers/Imus thing, so I had to throw in my two cents.

Get the fuck over it people. Yes, he made a racist/sexist comment. But we've got this thing called freedom of speech. Who cares?! Theyr'e one guy's opinion. It means nothing.

David W. Robertson

1) If you were the butler to a billionaire who lived alone, it would be very likely that the billionaire would be paying you a rather large salary in order to have you as a companion. Thus, you could give some of your own money to that African charity. However, if you were a liberal, then you wouldn't want to spend your own money to help the poor. Instead, you would want to spend other people's money to help the poor. That way you could feel good without making any personal sacrifice.

2) If the billionaire is so greedy that he won't donate any of his money to charity, and if you aren't willing to give your own money to charity, then you probably don't care about "moral obligations" or about that African village.

3) What standard dictates the moral obligations of the butler? Does that standard permit stealing? Without a standard to judge morality by, how do you know that a dilemma exists? What standard are you using to determine morality?

Rossi

OK, I will also join this pile. I cannot avoid requesting a second chance to read the removed post.

pete,. the demon of useless knowledge

I have no philosophical two cents to add. Only that choices are never black and white, and that there are always alterntives if you use your brain for a change. The real test of moral scenarios like this is that a true leader will instinctively act this out.

mospeada

Does the end justify the means? What if the end continues to change? Assuming of course that all action is dictated by a previous action, or at least a direct result of.

Say, if your girlfriend decided to sleep with some dude you wouldn't want to know the name of. Do you go and hop on a few girls of your own just to get even? Do you punish him by banging on his sister and his girlfriend too? All the while she wanted to prove to you she wasn't to be ignored and she's “in demand” in the neighborhood. Women...

Now, remember your girlfriend “started it” and probably won't sit at home waiting patiently to apologize when you'd already made her bestfriend your favorite pillow for a night while you were in “revenge” mode. So she decides to call your buddy from work and he walk in the next morning with a smile and a Pepsi while making you feel like Dwight and asking “Where's the hell's my stapler??”

In chess, one player starts the action (white), followed by the opponent (black), this of course continues until one player is victorious.

But even in chess, to win, you have to fight and take what's “rightfully” yours, even if it means sacrificing that pawn or two and maybe a knight for that pesky little rook. And in chess you have to get in there, get dirty and mixing up your pieces, even sometimes sacrificing rank for board position to ultimately stand on top of the table to yell “checkmate!” and “what's your sister's phone number”?

Interestingly of course, I find myself playing retaliation too often. And not because of whether I'm aggressive, or not as but because dammit, I HATE LOSING ANYTHING! He takes my knight, I take his bishop. She removes my rook, her queen better hide behind the ranks of pawns because she's about to meet Mr. Clean (clean the board that is).

But man, does that get tiring, seriously sometimes I'd rather start the game with half the pieces. Just to speed things up a bit. Can you honestly say you've played a game of chess without counting who captured more pieces? Subconsciously, we want some kind of scorecard, and a retaliation checklist of the minor victories and defeats along the way. But, really, cracking some eggs for the omelette. Is it the only way?

Sure, give you girlfriend the boot and remind her that you don't waste time with girls who don't understand simple things like “nice try, but was your end justified”. Then call her best friend and a reservation for two.

She (your ex) will call again. I guarantee it.

Daniel

No, it would not be ok. Let's take it back to the idea of the survival of the fittest. Countless societies have been devastated, if not wiped out, by various forces of nature, changes in climate, what not, that they have not been abkle to adapt to. We now have a good chunk of the world's population that lives in various "civilized" societies, and have the ablility to withstand most of what is thrown at them. Which means that some people have risen to the challenge of the survival of the fittest, while others have not. If everyone survives, well, that's like eating a fish without cleaning out all of the bones and guts first. That will cause the world to choke, becuase the natural cleansing will have been deferred by the re-alignment of wealth that the butler did.

Also, it is NOT OK to steal from anyone to help the common good...unless you are Joseph Stalin. If others need a better life, let them pursue it. If you want to help, go right ahead, just don't step on anyone else's individual rights.

David

Nah, just a nice thing to do.

dust

Okay, here's the plan. The butler steals the piece of jewelry and sends it to you, Scott Adams. You, being the robot you are, attempt to return the jewelry to the wealthy owner, along with a donation form for the African Charity. But the jewelry is siezed in transit by the FBI, who have discovered the jewelry was stolen from the Nazis in WWII, who stole it from some gay guy in Germany who has been ashes for a number of decades now; the gay guy bought it off a rapacious diamond dealer from the same place in Africa that the money would go, if it had been sent via that charity (minus non-profit expenses, of course). It's like one of those scenes from Scooby Doo where everybody runs in and out of the same doors.

The question is: isn't "moral obligation" an oxymoron?

banana

seems like a roundabout case of separation of church and state, and how one interprets ethics and morals in the light of each.

jongun

Can you try shutting down the whole stupid blog and save lots of people from a fate worse than car accidents?

Then sell all you have, give the money to the poor and you will inherit eternal life.

With regards to the applicability of the rule of secular law over the law to love thy neighbour, the scriptures already have an answer. If you seek it, you will find.

Love,

JG

charlie

Stealing is morally wrong and I expect you know it. At least I suspect the concept is very clear to you when someone is stealing your intellectual or personal property.

You're undoubtedly playing another of your tedious mind games with your blog readers. I no longer have the time or inclination to play along (although I've obviously been suckered in this one last time). If you don't feel thatwhy stealing is wrong, or if you assume that your blog readers can't figure it out, then regardless of how smart you think you are, you're a simple-minded little man. Enough of this crappy blog. The occasional bits of weak humor don't compensate for the navel-gazing egomania and sophomoric "philosophy". The comic hasn't been very funny for some time either. Bye.

TomB

Building an approach to life by choosing a percieved lesser evil over a greater is pragmatic, but ultimately still problematic.

The flaw lies in the bifurcation fallacy that is being setup in the way the question is presented - that there are only two options - steal for the greater good (feeding poor Africans) or let the item go to those who neither need it nor care and let the poor Africans starve.

Real life often allows us a multiplicity of options if we care to extend ourselves and use our intelligence and our other skills. We often allow our selves to be channeled into thinking in bifurcate terms thus constraining our set of possible approaches. That's one of our flaws, as humans - we allow ourselves to let others define our options and thus we tend to choose between options they present.

I choose c) none of the above.

First, I'm not sure what these Africans might be like (maybe they're fascist cannibals who kill babies) so I'm not 100% sure that saving them is the greater good without knowing more about them.

Second, if I feed them for this short term, does that have any long term benefits or is it a waste of effort? What are the long term costs of my act of theft? Do I get caught, go to jail, and ruin my own life? Do I set a bad example others follow in less 'morally righteous' situations, thus leading to a rash of thefts?

Third, why can't I conceive of (and use the famous Adam's 'affirm your way to success' approach to manifest the result I wish) an outcome that doesn't involve the crime and does help the Africans (assuming they check out as the sort of folks you'd want to help)? I should be able to conceive such a plan and more or less will it into being, especially if I can convince the rich folks who'd own the jewels to write some positive things about starving Africans, and thus convince themselves that it was right to help these people (ah, Influence...).

Think outside the box. These bifurcate black and white moral dilemnas are dead-end-streets of the mind. They aren't terribly realistic and they deny the vast multitude of available approaches to solving any problem. Think!

Of course, as a moist robot with no free will that only does things for his own pleasure in some form or other (even altruistically), my actual choice in this situation would be to snag the loot, hock it for megabucks being careful not to get caught, and then go out and have a big party, lamenting the poor lot of the starving Africans. Assuming I have no free will and no altruism, of course.

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