"Drew! I haven't seen you since college, twenty years ago! My God, Drew—what are you doing with that gun?"
"I've come to kill you," said Drew, "just as you asked me to."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Don't you remember? You said to me, many times, 'If I ever vote Republican, then shoot me.' Well, I just read you're actually a Republican senator. So you see, you must die."
"Drew, you're crazy! That was twenty years ago! I was young, I was idealistic! You can't hold me to that!"
"It was no casual, flippant remark, senator. In fact, I have here a piece of paper, signed by you and witnessed by others, instructing me to do this. And before you tell me not to take that seriously, let me remind you that you voted for a bill recently in favour of living wills. In fact, you've got one yourself. Now tell me this: if you think people in the future should carry out your wish to kill you if you get dementia or fall into a permanent vegetative state, why shouldn't I carry out your past wish to kill you if you became a Republican?"
"I've got an answer to that!" screamed the sweating senator. "Just give me a few minutes!"
Drew cocked the pistol and aimed. "You'd better be quick."
Baggini, J., The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten, and 99 other thought experiments, 2005, p. 127.
This is a simple matter of using logic to point out the flaws in Drew's argument. Based on what we're seeing in the current American presidential debate, there's no guarantee the Republican senator will be able to provide that answer, but it's easy for us. As Baggini says in his writeup:
"There is a good answer to Drew's question. ... The key difference here is that [living wills] are there to prepare for the eventuality that no future self will be competent to make a choice. In that situation, the best qualified person to do so may well be the past self rather than a present other. That's the answer the senator should give."
Echoing that, reader atthatmatt commented on Monday:
"So the guy is invoking the written will as having force, but the person who wrote the will is standing in front of him and negating bearing the old written will simply by speaking. ... I don't think wills even exist to force our own hand in the future. They exist to force OTHER people's hands when we can't speak for ourselves."
So, since this is abundantly clear to the original author of the problem, as well as to (at least one of) my intended readers, I won't bore you by belabouring this any further.
I apologise that this post didn't bring up any new philosophical issues; I do try to make all the posts on this blog unique and intriguing. But the fact that this was such a simple problem is actually an interesting result in itself. Given that Julian Baggini is a competent author (and there is much evidence to suggest that he is!), the relative lameness of an entry or two from him means that once I finish these 100 thought experiments, I really will have completed a thorough survey of the topics usually covered by the thought experiment field, and not just some subjective slice of it. Seeing as how I'm always trying to apply the MECE principle to philosophy issues, this shows we're well on our way to a Collectively Exhaustive outcome. Hooray for that!