# Rational approaches to banal problems.

You are seven people hanging out in a student dormitory. You have very little money but you all manage to pitch-in (different amounts of money) to order a pizza from one of the better pizza places in town. A splurge. The smallest person weighs 50kg (115 pounds) and the biggest is 100kg (230 pounds). Some of you are fat, some of you are almost anorexic. Some of you haven't eaten all day...others of you have had some instant noodles in your own rooms. The anorexic has a 50/50 chance of purging her stomach later that night. One person is on the rugby team and has been ordered by his coach to fill up on carbs. One of the students is the leader of the dormitory (responsible for discipline and rule setting) and because he has a little salary for it he paid for half the pizza. One of the students just moved in a couple weeks ago and is just getting to know everyone. For one of the students it was his birthday two days ago and a few of the people there forgot to give him a present (but did buy him a can of beer for today).

So...

All seven people have a slice of which most are more or less the same size. There is one slice left over. The host asks if anyone wants the last slice. Everyone murmers "meh" or "I don't have to have it". But several people desperately want it. No one is going to answer any questions that are clearly asked to help decide who should get the last pizza slice.

Keep in mind...some people will resist or laugh at the idea of cutting it up into seven small pieces (though that doesn't mean it is not a solution).

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Instead of intuitively answering the question (what first comes to mind or what seems obvious) try to answer this question through the following paradigm (keep in mind that the paradigms aren't the best ways to summarize each moral system but will suffice here).

An answer that avoids the most suffering and brings the greatest pleasure.

An answer that addresses the consequences of the decision rather than what is fair.

The selfish approach (the tactics that should be used by each agent if they only really care most about their own self interests and nothing else).

A radical altruistic approach (the most selfless decision that can be made).

An answer that is based on the unwritten rules (or tacit contracts) that each of these seven people likely have between one another.

A categorical rule based approach (an answer that comes from the most broadest moral principles in which exceptions should be avoided).

The anonymous dictatorial approach (what you would do if the seven agreed to do whatever decision you made...an anonymous decision).

Extreme etiquette (not what will necessarily satisfy anyone but will avoid the most social tension or social difficulty).

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and finally

If you had to chose a political approach...which would make most sense?

The host choses (dictator)

A vote (democracy)

A discussion (consensus)

The loudest most obnoxious annoying idiot debater or argument wins (Fox News politics)

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### Replies to This Discussion

This is why I believe cultural relativism belongs in anthropology and cultural studies. It seems rather essential in those fields.

In ethics...I believe that the more admirable moral systems are the ones that stay as far away from cultural relativism as possible.

You quote me as saying "there is no clear way to justify that one moral system has more desireable or less questionable systems of judgement making over another. And that even judging the actions of those who hold a different moral system through your own moral lense is questionable."

That doesn't feel like my wording, but I wrote a lot so I'm not sure. Anyway, I go beyond that, and claim that even if you set up a system of ethics that has a rational and objective basis it is still bound to the culture it's formulated in and thus has no claim to universality or true absoluteness. It's relative to the culture in which it's formulated.

it is still bound to the culture it's formulated in and thus has no claim to universality or true absoluteness. It's relative to the culture in which it's formulated.

Yes...you've repeated that many times...and we've responded to that as many times and you've ignored our responses.

You are stuck in an anthropological mind set and cannot get out of it...and refuse to discuss, look into or engage in other moral systems.

That doesn't feel like my wording...

i just googled that and cannot find its original source.

clearly U reread what U wrote, it didn't feel like U, so U deleted it.

(see, that's how one can avoid using the word you in one's post)

An advantage to etiquette and social norms is that it comes from respecting your society at large.

On the plus side, we have agreements on what should be considered as possibly offensive. Thou shalt not fart during group meals in enclosed environments.

On the minus side, some of the conversation stifled by political correctness.

I'm not even sure the above is relevant to the topic... I just jumped in there because it feels like I've just understood something new about social behavior.

If it was my dorm, we would agree to wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator, then it would mysteriously disappear overnight. Problem solved ;)

Or exchange the piece to a passerby for some good vibes.

Though this is a snarky answer to some extent, it is also close to the truth that I experienced. Hunger in the context of a student dormitory, at least in my experience, is that the splurge that is made on the special pizza purchase is not truly to alleviate hunger, but to enjoy the social aspect of eating together. No one truly went "hungry", they just chose to make that choice amongst the other choices available to them. If they truly were worried about spreading the value of eating, they would have opted for an alternative, less expensive or larger sized pizza rather than the "splurge" pizza.

To me the aspect of this to explore is the difference between "want" and "need".

Lastly, to answer your question more the way you intended, I would go with the host option, because the host can weigh all the other options to come of with something equitable which includes all the information not included in the setup. Even if the host decides on the democratic option. RHIP

Aren't you really just talking about situational ethics?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational_ethics

Melvinotis's approach isn't necesarily an example of "situational ethics" though it could be. We would have to know more.

It could also be a different variation of "consequantialist ethics" or even "virtue ethics".

There is a lot about situational ethics which I find extremely questionable as an over all approach to dealing with complex problems. If you took an example of a thoughtful person "winging it" through a difficult problem and someone taking a "situational ethics" approach you might have a pretty hard time distinguishing them.

What I find particularly hard to accept is this idea that "love" and especially the religious shade of it are at all in anyway meaningful as a central principle in a moral system. It's one thing to say that being "loving" is admirable (it almost always is), it is another to say that making decisions "through love" is a sufficiently clear concept or "framework" through which we can analyse situations using the various situational principles.  How is "through love" a coherent concept? Can answer any of these questions:

By what mechanism can we explain which judgement refers better to or more to "through love"? Or how can we define "through love" that helps us determine actions that are more than simply intuitive or extremely embedded in guesswork through cultural-norms?

From what I've read (I admit I haven't read nearly as much on situational ethics as on others) that definition or examples are always very vague, watery, intuitive, highly relativistic and quite inconsistent.

I am not a learned man by any stretch of the imagination, especially in the arena of philosophy. I did well to wade through Russell's The History of Western Philosophy, and I realize that is a highly cursory review of western philosophical thought. Having said that I believe there is merit to be found in using platonic love as a guiding principle when coping with moral judgments. From the context of doing the least or no harm to another individual, I believe the emotional impact of love is helpful in formulating a decision about circumstances presented. The dry calculating logic of a Mr. Spock is effective but Captain Kirk's call for emotion can provide additional benefit. Do we honor the spirit or letter of the law?

Take a bite & pass the pizza to the next guy. Ha ha.

Did I forget to mention that several of them have herpes?

You beat me to it. I was thinking...

"Haha, this reminds me of the pizza we shared last week at the ebola ward!"

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