Consider the following scenario and then answer our discussion questions:
You always walk to work, and your regular route takes you past a shallow pond. One morning you put on your very best clothes (you paid $200 for them just last week) and are in rush for a very important business meeting with your boss. When you pass by the pond, you notice that a toddler has fallen in and is about to drown. The child is crying for help! You are tall, strong, and a master swimmer. You could save the child without any problems, but if you do, you’ll ruin your expensive clothes (you’ll lose $200!), and you’ll be late to your important business meeting.
In this situation, do you have a moral obligation to rescue the child? (In other words, if you decided not to save the child, would this be a morally wrong decision?) DON’T tell us what you would do personally. Rather, focus on this precise question: what is morally right to do in this situation and why. Make sure to refer to at least one ethical theory discussed last week.
Of course, most of us drive to work, and don’t pass by a pond. But at this very moment, when you are reading your discussion questions, a child is about to die – a child in Africa, in Syria, or a child somewhere close by in the US… If you donate a certain amount of money (maybe $200, but maybe only $20) to the right charity (we assume that the charity is genuine!), you could save this child’s life. (If you don’t like the idea of a charity, think of the various GoFundMe cases where your money could save a person’s life.)
Do you have a moral obligation to save this child assuming that you can do it without any serious threat to your own wellbeing and also assuming that the money that you donate will indeed help save the child? (In other words, if in this situation you choose not to donate, would this be a morally wrong decision?)
Once again: DON’T say what you do or would do, focus on assessing the moral character of the situation: What is morally right and why?
Now, before you answer our discussion questions, pause for a while…. Think about all you have learned in our class. Remember that now you are a critical thinker… How will the answer given by a critical thinker differ from an answer given by a regular person? How will your answers be different from what you’d reply without studying critical thinking? In your post, make sure to concretely refer to concepts that you studied this quarter in our class.
The Drowning Child thought experiment was created by philosopher Peter Singer in his article “Famine, Affluence, and Morality“ (1972).
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