Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How Much Pudding is a Man's Life Worth?

How many of our super-market items are worth people dying for? What if I were to say that right now our actions and tolerance imply that products like pudding are worth people dying for?

I'm guessing Bill Cosby would not be the only one shocked by my claim and thinking that I'm crazy.

But consider this: in order for our stores to have as much variety in their products as they currently do, a lot of shipping of these products is needed. And with more trucks shipping, it is increasingly likely that traffic accidents will occur that will harm or even kill innocent people.

Therefore, to have things like pudding so widely available, we need to accept a system that will harm and even kill several innocent people year. Is pudding worth the lives of innocent people? If not, why do we think pudding is worth having a system that will lead to the deaths of innocent people?

This argument would of course extend to many products other than pudding. This argument would mean any product we don't feel is worth the loss of the lives of innocent people would not shipped. This would not leave much. Perhaps only things like medicine, and basic food and clothing would meet this standard.

So what are some problems that may come up for this argument? Is it that the lives being lost are from people who willingly risk them? For instance, the truck driver who takes the job of shipping the pudding willing takes the risk of losing his life while shipping the pudding. And this willingness negates much of the "badness" of the lives being lost.

But this response is only mildly effective as it's not just the willing truck drivers who die, but the people these truck drivers hit in traffic accidents while shipping, and those victims (or at least some of them) do not willingly take the risk that the truck drivers do.

Perhaps it's not the products like pudding that are worth lives being lost for, but the jobs that involve these products are worth dying for.

But even if these jobs were worth the lives being lost in shipping accidents, it is probably a false dichotomy to think that pudding truck driver either has to have his job shipping pudding or be without a job entirely. If one can get a job that would not involve a system that will cost several innocent lives every year, which seems possible, then this would seem to be the best option.

It's probably temping to attack my argument with a reductio ad absurdum, meaning that my argument would show something ridiculous to be true, and that would be a problem.

However, since this argument already embraces the idea that we need to either live without a large amount of items being widely available or accept that things like pudding are worth the lives of innocent people, it may be hard to think of something even more ridiculous that one who supports this argument would not want to accept.

The best way to attack my argument here I think is to either bite the bullet and say that having products like pudding be widely available really is worth the loss of several innocents lives each year, or to argue that even if we accept that shipping things like pudding will lead to innocent lives being lost, this does not mean the same as thinking that products like pudding are really worth the loss of innocent lives. That is, one can agree that things like pudding should keep being shipped, can accept that shipping these products will lead to innocent people losing their lives, but still deny that this means he must accept the idea that products like pudding are worth the loss of innocent people.

Perhaps there is potential in such a counter-argument, but I'm skeptical at how effectively one could argue that things like pudding aren't worth losing lives over while still thinking it's worth it to keep shipping things like pudding even if this will lead to people suffering or dying from traffic accidents.

Maybe this argument raises a more general topic of just what it means to say something is worth dying for...

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