Ethics, Place and Environment 6 (2):161 – 166 (2003)
Garrett Hardin's 'lifeboat ethics' is examined in the light of historical evidence which may be applied in part and with moderation to avoid both Hardin's predicted catastrophe and the inevitable guilt for survivors. If the metaphor of the lifeboat is re-examined, and slightly modified by including examples of real open boat passages, a scheme for implementing lifeboat ethics may be supported. In a case where some or all of the victims outside the lifeboat may be safely rescued, it is the moral obligation of those in the boat to do so. The goal of any lifeboat situation, actual or metaphorical, is to secure the rescue of the greatest number of victims. The wrecks of both Endurance, on an exploratory voyage to Antarctica, and Essex, a whaling voyage, give insight into the application of lifeboat ethics.
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