FROM THE BOQ: BUSINESS, POLITICS AND ETHICS #15

Another question from Gregory Stock’s book is this:

Imagine you were a finalist in a contest paying a million dollars to whoever did the most good in the coming year–as judged by a panel of certified philanthropists.  If the rules allowed you to spend no more time and money than you could comfortably afford, what would you do?

I cannot help but laugh every time I consider the phonetic similarity between philanthropist and philanderer!  Both words sound so much alike–yet have totally different meanings!

I could reimagine the question to read:

Imagine you were a finalist in a contest paying a million dollars to whoever did the most harm in the coming year–as judged by a panel of certified philanderers.  If the rules allowed you to spend much more time and money than you could responsibly afford, what would you do?

But I’m dodging the question–perhaps because it’s too imaginative (if any question can be so).

The main problem with this complex question is this:

Unless the “certified philanthropists” were some kind of celestial, all-seeing spirits (i.e. angels), there is no way they could know how much good I did in the coming year.  Not only would they have to be aware of everything I did and said, but the ultimate results of everything I did and said. 

And since the question doesn’t state or imply that these “certified philanthropists” are omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (ever-present) beings–which they would have to be–it simply cannot be answered.

(If you think I’m still dodging the question by sweating the small stuff (overanalyzing the semantics, in particular)–well, you may be right!)

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