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#1 Wizard

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 14:53

I am currently embroiled in something of a tasty discussion with a group of individuals connected to my occupation regarding the nature of choice, or lack thereof, and have an interesting question to ask.

When faced with a man (or men) holding a loaded gun at your head and giving you an instruction, do you really have a choice in what you do? Do you think that there are any reasonable people out there that would not follow that instruction? Is the preservation of ones life really a choice or is it an instinct?

#2 SquigPie

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 15:05

A sufficiently psychopathic (fearless), depressed, or iron-willed indivudual would be able to say no. So I guess there is choice. It's the same as choosing to take the jump in bungie jumping (which I did when I was 12). It's just a matter of who you are, what's running through your head at the moment and how much willpower you have. Survival instinct is a tough foe to beat, but it can be done.

Edited by SquigPie, 20 December 2010 - 15:06.

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Imagine a group of people who are all blind, deaf and slightly demented and suddenly someone in the crowd asks, "What are we to do?"... The only possible answer is, "Look for a cure". Until you are cured, there is nothing you can do.
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#3 Wizard

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 15:08

View PostSquigPie, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:05, said:

A sufficiently psychopathic (fearless), depressed, or iron-willed indivudual would be able to say no.

View PostWizard, on 20 Dec 2010, 14:53, said:

Do you think that there are any reasonable people out there that would not follow that instruction?

This isn't about unique or special people, just what can be descirbed as an ordinary person (specifically by a court of law, but that is irrelevant).

#4 Golan

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 15:44

First, the answer you probably don't mean: there are tons of people that wouldn't follow. A gun to the head is in a perfect distance to disarm and maim the man.

Second, what you probably did mean: it depends on what you are asked to do. Being asked to pick up a can of beer at gunpoint and that's it - yeah, I'd bet that any reasonable person would comply. Being asked to do something that strongly violates the person's own code of moral is quite likely to be refused, provided it's a relevant issue and the person is sincere in his/her motives.

Still, even when the outcome of a choice is foregone that doesn't mean that there was no choice to begin with. You can choose the same action a thousand times and still it's a choice every time. Otherwise, you'd be using a different definition of choice which makes the question of the existence of choice void.

On a sidenote, I doubt that being a reasonable person is of much relevance to the issue. Very few people stay reasonable under extreme conditions.
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#5 Wizard

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 15:53

View PostGolan, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:44, said:

First, the answer you probably don't mean: there are tons of people that wouldn't follow. A gun to the head is in a perfect distance to disarm and maim the man.
I said "At your head", not "to the head". There being enough distance in this case for the point you made to be irrelevant :lol:

View PostGolan, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:44, said:

Second, what you probably did mean: it depends on what you are asked to do. Being asked to pick up a can of beer at gunpoint and that's it - yeah, I'd bet that any reasonable person would comply. Being asked to do something that strongly violates the person's own code of moral is quite likely to be refused, provided it's a relevant issue and the person is sincere in his/her motives.
For the sake of clarity, let us assume that what is being asked would not violate any particular set of morals or ethics.

View PostGolan, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:44, said:

Still, even when the outcome of a choice is foregone that doesn't mean that there was no choice to begin with. You can choose the same action a thousand times and still it's a choice every time. Otherwise, you'd be using a different definition of choice which makes the question of the existence of choice void.
That is exactly my point. Is there any choice? When faced with this situation, does a "reasonable" person (see below) actually have a genuine choice in the matter? Can they be said to have a real option? Or is compliance the only outcome?

View PostGolan, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:44, said:

On a sidenote, I doubt that being a reasonable person is of much relevance to the issue. Very few people stay reasonable under extreme conditions.
Yes, it would do. For the purpose of English legal definitions, the question of being "reasonable", in these particular set of circumstances, will always have relevance. A court would not take into account the action of unreasonable or exceptional people in response to a [hypothetical] situation.

#6 PacBloke

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 16:22

Short answer: Yes, they do have a choice.

Just because one option is going to be chosen 99 times out of a 100, doesn't mean there isn't a choice. At least... that's assuming we have freewill in the first place. :lol:

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#7 Golan

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 16:23

View PostWizard, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:53, said:

View PostGolan, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:44, said:

Second, what you probably did mean: it depends on what you are asked to do. Being asked to pick up a can of beer at gunpoint and that's it - yeah, I'd bet that any reasonable person would comply. Being asked to do something that strongly violates the person's own code of moral is quite likely to be refused, provided it's a relevant issue and the person is sincere in his/her motives.
For the sake of clarity, let us assume that what is being asked would not violate any particular set of morals or ethics.
Then I guess that many people would not follow suit. A person using a gun to make you do something irrelevant is very likely nuts so complying to orders isn't a reliable way to stay alive.

View PostWizard, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:53, said:

View PostGolan, on 20 Dec 2010, 15:44, said:

Still, even when the outcome of a choice is foregone that doesn't mean that there was no choice to begin with. You can choose the same action a thousand times and still it's a choice every time. Otherwise, you'd be using a different definition of choice which makes the question of the existence of choice void.
That is exactly my point. Is there any choice? When faced with this situation, does a "reasonable" person (see below) actually have a genuine choice in the matter? Can they be said to have a real option? Or is compliance the only outcome?
Uh, that's not what I meant. Every single choice can be made in only one way. If you're at a crossroads there will be only one outcome, the direction you take. If you pick your clothes for the day there will be only one outcome in the form of the set of clothes you actually took. The result of a choice might be complex (like picking an amalgamation of several basic choices, like clothes) but there can still be only one.
Even if every single person would take the same option, it doesn't logically follow that there wasn't a choice. The choice is made by picking an outcome - it is irrelevant which one. If you were to say that by every person making the same choice, there wouldn't be a choice to begin with, then the entire concept of choice is void: every single possible choice can be defined precisely enough to include only a single occurrence of a choice being made. As a single choice has only a single result, the choice would have had the same result every time it was made (exactly once). Thus, if you say that a number of similar "choices" do not count as "real" choices if the outcome is always the same, then no choice at all counts as a "real" one.

What you are constructing here is merely an extreme case in which the choice appears to be foregone as the logical decision behind it is relatively clear. It is however not imperative that a certain choice is taken, as history has shown (there are enough cases of fathers, mothers, soldiers and accountants taking a fatal outcome for themselves to save others or not to compromise their ideals).

Edited by Golan, 20 December 2010 - 16:38.

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#8 Major Fuckup

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 11:36

View PostWizard, on 20 Dec 2010, 22:53, said:

Do you think that there are any reasonable people out there that would not follow that instruction?

i wouldn't think reasonable is the right word for that. A person with the right frame of mind is more suiting. Some had a gun pointed at me i wouldn't follow said instructions and giving the right circumstance id make a grab for the gun, if it goes off well its not like you will feel it you'd be dead :xD:
Plus you got to consider the willingness of the gunman to actually use it.

I question the general assumption that i am inherently deficient in the area of grammar and sentence structure

#9 Amdrial

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 22:11

The answer to this question clearly is dependent on the person you ask the question to. Some will answer with argument that the situation itself is important and that, in the case of a life-threatening situation, your choice is made for yourself. I myself have no qualms with making decisions if that saves your own life as long as more people are not harmed in the process of making that decision. I'm a purely utilitarian thinker if it comes down to answering this question. (Slightly hedonist (Hedonists value pleasure as the greatest thing in life, looking at it from a responsible point of view; i.e. also looking at the long-term effects of their decision) aswell, since I take into account I'm probably not going to enjoy taking a bullet to the head, and that it might also work against me in the long run, not just looking at short-term effects). For me to be able to properly answer this question in my own opinion, I'll need to have more information on the situation (Are other people going to get shot if I don't do whatever is asked?)

To answer the question if there are any reasonable people who would not follow the instruction to do whatever when a gun is pointed at their head: Obviously there are people "out there somewhere" who would stick to their own morals for principality's sake, but once again, the situation itself factors into the decision to either follow instructions or to do nothing.
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