Zim (chezzim) wrote in armchair,
Zim
chezzim
armchair

The Big Questions -- Chapter 1: Philosophical Questions

p. 33 Opening Questions

1. Is there anything you would willingly die for? What?


Quite bluntly, I don't think there is any thing.

Of course, I can go on about whether I would try to pluck a child from in-front of a speeding auto. And in fact, I probably would... if I thought there were any way to save the child. But that is a particular and specific case. In the abstract, I don't think I would die to protect children... it is only in the moment that it might happen.

In much the same way, I can envision a situation where I see someone being beaten up or tromped to death and I come to their aid. Yes, in doing so I would risk my own life to save their life. But, would I do so? ...especially if (1) I knew what I did would probably not make a difference and therefore (2) instead of just one of us being killed, both of us would. I just don't know. [And I have the sneaking suspicion that I may well do nothing, be afraid, get stuck.]

I think of the many religious martyrs. Some of them willingly died for something, though I'm not so sure that that something can rightly be called their faith or their religion or their god -- it seems more as if they died for their sense of propriety, their understanding of integrity, or even to make a point. But clearly, many of them did willingly die for something. I think of the buddhist monk who doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire to protest the US's actions in Vietnam. Clearly he made a point. And perhaps that point made was quite cheaply made in terms of simply counting of dead bodies. Or, in the case of early christians refusing to light incense to an effigy of an emporor-god, for example, I'm not sure it is for their god so much as for their understanding of integrity that they were willing to be killed. So this leads to a slightly different question.

Is there anything I would not be willing to do, even if I knew the result would be my death. And related to this is whether the threatened death of another (one I cared for greatly) would cause me to do anything that I otherwise would not be willing to do. That is, is there anything I would willingly let someone else die for. These are, I believe, contained at some level in what the initial question is trying to get at.

Remark 1: Something related to this, at least for me, is whether or not I think my death would make a "difference," as mentioned above. For example, if I were a hostage, and it was clear to me that if I acted, even though I would probably die, the other hostages would be able to act and probably overcome the hostage-take, then there is a real possibility I would do something. On the other hand, if my acting would probably get me killed, but lead to others not doing anything, even though their actions could accomplish some good, than would I have done a good or a bad thing by acting?

Remark 2: If there were an option which would prevent me from dying, but by taking it, the remainder of my life would seem worthless to me, then is living something tenable? Again, there are a couple of angles to this. Just because my life seems worthless to me does not mean that it is viewed the same way by others. For example, if I would be spared from death if only I would murder someone, would I?

Remark 3: Suicide. Is suicide relevant to the above question? At some level, suicide is a type of despair. How does this tie in with the above ideas that life must, if not have a purpose, at least have a potential in which it is possible to realistically (self-convincingly) believe?
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