Sunday, 20 March 2011


Now just a couple of more questions before I close this interview. We're looking for someone with moral character and, so if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you about some hypotheticals.

Sure, go on.

You said you were married.

Right, I said that.

And child.

Said that too: daughter, almost three years of age.

So what if your house is on fire; wife and daughter are in different rooms; you only have time to rescue one, which one do you save?

Strange and, if you don't mind my saying so, a question of dubious taste.

We all, in our time, come across difficult circumstances and, while we can't always predict ahead of time what we'll do when confronted with them, your dealing with them don't come out of nothing; the ways we live our lives shape us and, out of those forms, comes the raw substance that is the measure of a man.

I suppose.

So back to my original question: who do you save?

Hypothetically speaking?

Hypothetically speaking.

That would have to be my daughter.

Because she is a child? Innocent? Has not even had much of a life yet worth reflecting on?

All of the above, I guess; and that's what my wife would have wanted me to do.

How do you know that?

That's what I'd have wanted her to do, given the roles were switched.

I see.

It's not just about what I want; it's what I can and can not do.

That's very commendable. Now lets just change the variable a little here and see if we can look at the same circumstance from a slightly different angle: now suppose it was your daughter in one of those rooms and, let's say, the managing director of this corporation - a man whose work ethic, ingenuity and plain sweat puts food on the family tables of thousands of ordinary workers across the country - in the other … wait, now hear me out …

I'm going to leave now; as far as I'm concerned this interview is over … but before I go; just to let you know, if there was only one room with you burning in it … guess what? … I ain't taking the piss.


  1. I'd grab the youngin' without thought...because my wife would kill me if I saved her. Self preservation :).

    Excellent work on this one.

  2. I initially had something else in mind for this post, which concerned certain types ethical thought experiments and why I find them suspicious. The presumption behind such hypothetical scenarios is, that at the heart of ethical action, lies a theory and, if we could just see it aright, we could perform a sort of moral calculus; calculate what “the right thing to do” is. I hold no such conviction: there is no such “science of moral” - that does not mean all ethical actions are relative, rather there are no absolutes and, as such, we can provide reasons that are open to public scrutiny and thus scrutinised by our peers. The thing about such thought experiment like the “burning rooms” is – how, ahead of time could someone confidently predict that “only one could be saved” and what exactly would the circumstances amount to that you could reliable judged that “only one could be saved”? I can only think that such a situation was deliberately engineered and that “engineering” - fixing of the possibilities – was made apparent and posed as such a decision, otherwise wouldn't you try to save them both? And the order of rescue made on an estimate of realistic success? May be. My point, in such a situation there is no right answer, only the decision you have to live with.