Would I Save My Child or the President?


If my child and the president were both drowning and I could only save one, I would save my child even though it would be better for the world if I saved the president.

Q1 Analysis

This statement is likely a Q1 violation if you believe that when given a choice you must choose the action that will do the most good for the most people.

Q2 Analysis

This statement does not violate Q2 so long as you would allow another parent to make the same type of decision (for example, you wouldn’t blame a parent for saving their own child instead of yours).


People generally consider themselves to be part of a number of groups (family, extended family, friends, neighborhood, city, country, company, sports team, etc.) We generally have an informal ranking of these groups with, for example, family being more important than friends. When you are forced to choose between members of two groups, you can either choose to favor the member of the higher-ranked group or you can ignore groups and choose the individual that is most important in an impartial sense. Most people will make a choice based on their personal set of groups.

Does this pass the 2Q test? That depends — would you blame a stranger for saving her baby instead of saving a room full of strangers? Would you let your child die to save two people you’ve never met?

But what if the choice is much larger? For example, would you let your child die in order to defuse a bomb that would kill millions? And if we look at the question at hand, how would you compare the value of your child with the value of the president? Does "value" even enter into the equation? If you heard about a woman who saved the president and let her child die, would you consider her a heroic patriot, a bad mother, or something else?

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 10:24 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

5 Responses

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  1. Written by Zach
    on July 27, 2010 at 6:39 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I’m not quite convinced that the statement “the president is more important than a child” is correct. Similarly, saying that saving the president would be better for the world seems to be assuming a lot of things. Possibly a better question to ask, from a utilitarian viewpoint, would be: would the world be better if people cared more about their family than their government, or vice versa?

  2. Written by Live
    on July 29, 2010 at 6:53 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I would save my child. I don’t believe for a second that any amount of herioc recognition or praise could ease my pain or replace the love i would have for my child. Sorry strangers, there would be a reason for the bomb and a reason for the president and my child being in a life or death situation depending on my actions, and the chances of these situations being presented to anyone must be so low as to be almost pointless to even ask someone. Forget the moral ethics behind it, these sort of things just don’t happen, and if they do, the person who should have to make the hardest choices will be the person who caused the situation. If the situation is pure chance, then it’s surely who you know and love that matters the most?

  3. Written by Jerome
    on July 29, 2010 at 10:04 am
    Reply · Permalink

    A President is replaceable. One’s own child is not. It would in no way be immoral to save one’s own child instead of some “president”, as there is nothing magical about being president–it is merely an office held, one that transfers. You will never get someone exactly like the president, but you will get someone who can do the job of president. Whereas if your own child were to expire, that child could not be replaced (to you, and you are the one determining the morality of this circumstance, after all!)
    Q1: This does not contradict itself, as value coincides with scarceness of commodities in a fairly standard manner across the board. Although that specific president as a human being is unique, his title is not–he is just another person, one whose office could be filled by another person. Your own child, to you, is absolutely not replaceable, and therefore more valuable than a stranger.
    Q2: I don’t think anyone would condemn a parent for reasoning in this manner, as most (if not all) parents would choose this way. In fact, I would be horrified if I heard of someone sacrificing their own child to save a president or leader in some strange circumstance.

  4. Written by Live
    on August 3, 2010 at 3:17 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I completely agree with Jerome.

  5. Written by Ryan Eakins
    on July 17, 2014 at 11:25 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I would save my child over a president, all else being equal. However, I would save two presidents over one child if I could only save one group.

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