Wah Wonders Why - What the Philosophy? - The price on your head
( Week 1 of May 2020 )
Kevin, the podcast's Philosopher-in-residence, returns to discuss with Greg how much a human life should be valued.
Allen Rowbotham (legacy)
Great podcast. Of course human life has a value but, so does mankinds right to decide when to shuffle off this mortal coil. And we all know how far in the future that is
Michael Jude Peter Barnes (legacy)
I enjoyed the podcast, always good to think through these issues. Really liked your point about how a task can be essential but the person doing that task can be sacrificed. I am not sure if economics/money is the best tool to measure the value of a human life. "Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age, that’s… what defines a species".
Kevin Lowe (legacy)
Most of philosophy is getting our terms straight.
In this case, I would say that there are at least two different meanings of "the value of human life" in play here. The definition we were talking about in this podcast is the one you get when you put, say, twenty million dollars in someone's hands and say "go forth and spend this money as efficiently as possible to preserve life and improve quality of life in Australia". That gets you the idea of how much it costs to save one more life in current-day Australia than would have been saved yesterday, and that cost is several million dollars because many of the really cheap lives-to-save have been saved already.
We didn't get into it in the podcast, but for strictly political and in my view unethical reasons our governments are murderously resistant to spending money on life-saving interventions like housing for the homeless or drug injecting spaces. So there are almost certainly some cheap lives to save there which current policy ignores and thus to a significant extent that figure assumes political business as usual which is a deeply ethically loaded assumption.
But that is not at all to say that "the cash cost of saving the currently most-cheaply-saveable statistical life in Australia" is The Value Of Human Life in the bigger sense.