This story popped up in my Facebook newsfeed this morning. A philosophy professor asked his “Altruism and Egoism” class to write a final paper, applying the learnings from the class to the question of whether he should donate a kidney to someone in need—something he has considered seriously for some time.
The assignment succeeded as a learning exercise; however, (or maybe I should say “and”) the class refused to come down on one side or the other.
“It was very clear that they believed that this would be a very good thing to do; an excellent thing to do, going above and beyond in all the usual sorts of ways we would talk about such charitable actions,” Taber says. “But they felt uneasy making that recommendation to somebody they know — namely, me.”
Lots of things to chew on here. I’m thinking specifically about the takeaway for religious communities. Christians are big fans of Jesus. We like his message. Loving our neighbor? Giving to the poor? We recognize these are very good things to do; excellent things to do. But actually doing what Jesus did, wholeheartedly?
Err, uneasy is a good word for that.
One of the commenters on the news story wondered if the outcome would have been different had the class known the potential recipient as well as the potential donor. I suspect it would have been harder to demur on the issue.
What do you think?