The Final Frontier: Survival Ethics in Extreme Living Conditions as Portrayed in Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations and Ridley Scott's Alien

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Abstract

The concept of the ‘frontier’ plays an important role in understanding the themes that connect survival-oriented science fiction with American history. Building partly on this tradition of the frontier, this chapter seeks to develop the notion of ‘frontier ethics’ as a way of facing moral dilemmas in living conditions, where neglect or reckless behavior may have fatal consequences. Exploring the consequences of such behavior in Tom Godwin’s short story ‘The Cold Equations’ (1954) as well as Ridley Scott’s film, Alien (1979), it argues that such ‘frontier situations’ warrant a change in the general premises for making moral judgments that is often not recognized in ethical discussions. In a frontier situation, the failure to respond adequately to life-threatening situations may quickly be interpreted as a moral failure per se – disregarding whether this failure is a result of neglect, recklessness, fear, lack of understanding of the situation, or some otherwise unknown psychological barrier. Likewise, the relative moral importance and condemnation assigned to breaches of social conduct (such as, stigmatization or discrimination) decreases, when compared with situations where the consequences of neglect or reckless behavior are less severe. Finally, this chapter also argues for recognition that our moral judgments are informed by our beliefs about what kind of life situation we are placed in and that these judgments have important consequences for our understanding of how people disagree about moral dilemmas. Disagreements about the severity of a situation (in term of potential threats to survival or loss of vital resources) may easily facilitate moral disagreement about which kind of response is morally defensible.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition
EditorsChristian Baron, Peter Nicolai Halvorsen, Christine Cornea
Number of pages20
PublisherSpringer
Publication date11 Jul 2017
Pages195-205
Chapter12
Commissioning bodyJohn Templeton Foundatio
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-56575-0
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-56577-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2017

Cite this

Baron, C. (2017). The Final Frontier: Survival Ethics in Extreme Living Conditions as Portrayed in Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations and Ridley Scott's Alien. In C. Baron, P. N. Halvorsen, & C. Cornea (Eds.), Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition (pp. 195-205). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-56577-4_12
Baron, Christian. / The Final Frontier : Survival Ethics in Extreme Living Conditions as Portrayed in Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations and Ridley Scott's Alien. Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition. editor / Christian Baron ; Peter Nicolai Halvorsen ; Christine Cornea. Springer, 2017. pp. 195-205
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The Final Frontier : Survival Ethics in Extreme Living Conditions as Portrayed in Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations and Ridley Scott's Alien. / Baron, Christian.

Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition. ed. / Christian Baron; Peter Nicolai Halvorsen; Christine Cornea. Springer, 2017. p. 195-205.

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

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