If You Could Only Save the Louvre’s Art or Its Visitors, Which Would You Save?

This week’s question is a variation of one from The Book of Questions:

DT26 - Louvre - FSay on a given morning, there are 100 people in the Louvre in Paris. If a wicked sorcerer threatened to vaporize all people in the museum or all of its art, sparing one or the other based on your plea, which would you save? Assume the sorcerer will obliterate both the people and the art if you don’t choose.

What, if any, fruits of our culture are worth more than even a million lives? For example, what if all the music or fiction of the past century was at risk?


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  • DeeDee Massey

    First comment.

    I’d save the peeps.

    They can make more art.

    • DeeDee Massey

      Then again, you didn’t specify WHICH 100 people were at risk. That might make a difference to some, for example, if the potential targets were all serial killers.

  • knotdragon

    Save the people obviously. All that stuff exists in millions of places online these days. Plus, since magic exists per the premise, we might find a good sorcerer to bring the art back!

  • Michael Marino

    I would choose to have the art obliterated. I don’t think any person has the right to judge the value of a person’s life against any art, even if that art could drastically affect the lives of others later on. Sure, if all the people in the museum agreed to let the art survive, I think they could do that; anyone else, however, cannot be sure or informed enough in that decision to take people’s lives for it. The safer route by far is to destroy the art.

  • Antonius Block

    In such a wicked event we’d only loose the originals of Louvre’s art but not the digitalized copies, thus the decision is easy, as visitors do not have copies. However, the situation would be different in case we could clone people.

  • Geoff

    I’d most certainly save the art. 100 people die in natural disasters all the time and we barely blink an eye at the headline. If the Louvre were bombed and all the art were lost, it would be considered a far bigger loss.

  • Kay

    i’ve been thinking about this a lot recently due to ISIS destroying, or being close to destroying Palmyra, the world heritage site. I felt almost as outraged at their wanton destruction of cultural heritage as the executions. and I wondered why?!?
    coming at it from a utilitarian perspective, is the ‘happiness’ (for want of a better word) experienced by these people for the remainder of their lives, plus the happiness they bring to others, more valuable than the that brought by the louvre works?
    I’d save save the people. The art is only valuable as a token is valuable.
    also, perhaps surviving art from the same period would become proportionally more valuable because it’s that much more rare! thus mitigating some of the lost utility?

  • Martin Nick Smolík

    Save the art! I’ll be the bad guy here and say, that vast majority of those people would be unremarkable, so this tragedy would affect humanity only in short term (a month max). But the loss of all of the priceless works would be devastating for a century at least. Digital copies simply don’t cut it.

    • Simplersimon

      The issue here is, how is the original Mona Lisa improving the world? How many of those people could have children that cause a greater effect? Almost every piece of art in there has been recorded, replicated, can be ordered to put in your home. I’ve been in the Louvre, and it was powerful, but I felt as much history at my local museum. The potential of the people in there is far greater, long term, than the already reached potential of the original art.

    • George

      I completely disagree that the loss of art could be devastating for any period of time, never mind 100 years. In what way would it be devastating?

      The only piece of art in the Louvre I can name is the Mona Lisa, and it would affect me in no way if they were all destroyed – if I somehow never heard about it on the news I would most likely live the rest of my life without even knowing, and I think most people I know would be in a similar situation.

      I think you’re vastly overestimating the number of people in the world who even know what the Louvre is, let alone know any of the art that’s inside, let alone care about it, let alone care about it more than 100 people’s lives. It’s socially assigned value, and it has no value in many societies.

      • Martin Nick Smolík

        And how would you be affected if you never heard of those people dying? I don’t particularly care about Mona Lisa, I would be disturbed more about the depository and egyptology exhibit

        • George

          Of course I would be affected in no way, I’d be affected in no way for either. But I imagine even for an art lover the loss of a friend or family would be greater than any art.

          Is there any difference between choosing the art in this situation and murdering the people yourself?

  • Joel McKinnon

    Save the people. Might be good to disrupt the absurd economics of the art world. There’s also the possibility that one or more of those people might have a little Picasso or da Vinci in them.

  • Lindsey McKinney

    No piece of art is worth more than someone’s life. Imagine it was you or someone in your family that would be killed.

  • Pablo Maldonado

    Well, for one, that number is way wrong: the correct order of magnitude is on the thousands of visitors per day.Anyhow, most of Louvre’s visitor’s are there because of the fuss of having a selfie around the highlights (Monalisa and the like), and (at best) skim through all the non-“selfie-ish” halls, so yeah, fuck them!!

  • tweinstre

    I’m an absolutist on this one. People>culture. How do you measure the worth of a human life? I wouldn’t kill 100,or even 1 person even for all literature in the world.

    • Joel McKinnon

      I guess I’m not quite that absolute. I think the physical reality of art on canvas is overrated relative to its value, especially considering that technology now allows us to create reconstructions with a high degree of accuracy. We are also talking about one – admittedly huge and highly significant – collection of art, not all the art in the world.

    • Adam

      I would definitely rather 1 person die than all the literature in the world be destroyed. The overwhelmingly large amount of joy, entertainment and interest created by books is, in my eyes, worth so much more than a single life. Another reason is that we would lose a lot of the world’s knowledge, something we’ve built up over millennia, and at the very least it would requires million of hours to rewrite all those textbooks and articles that are a necessity in education, from primary school to university. Also, how many moral values have been instilled in people by novels (e.g. “To Kill a Mockingbird”)? How many novels raise awareness of people with mental illnesses, or poverty, or any number of problems in the world?

      And, however rare the occurrence, there must be incidences where fiction has saved lives. Whether it’s a book that prevented someone from committing suicide or helped someone deal with drug issues or whatever else, surely destroying all literature would indirectly cause far more than one person’s death.

      I don’t like absolutism in any form at all (that’s the one thing I’m an absolutist about :P): it might be an easy way to justify your opinions, but I think it’s just silly to apply it to a situation like this, where one life is (at least IMO) incredibly less valuable than humanity’s literature. (No offense to you personally.)

  • Will

    Save the art. Each of the 100 human lives lost would cause X amount of suffering to Y number of people who were close to them. Losing the art would cause a tiny fraction of X of suffering to tens of billions of present and future people, who all lost something. If you multiple X times Y in both scenarios, losing the art would cause much more total human suffering. Sure, I’m being coldly utilitarian, but that seems to be a fair way to decide. If you rephrase the question as: “You have to either press the red button, which causes an Earthquake somewhere in the world that will kill 100 people you don’t know, or the green button, which causes the Louvre to be blown up at night when no one is there.” I think many people would press the red button.

    To get to the second part of the question, now the red button is a Rwanda-level genocide in a small country you’ve never been to and the green button is losing all art, music, and literature from the past century and having it all wiped from everyone’s memory. People might not like to admit it, but I think most would hit the green button.

    In any case, great question.

    • Adam

      I absolutely agree that X times Y is the rational approach to deciding, but what I’m not convinced about is that X1 * Y1 < X2 * Y2.

      The Y number of people is also much larger than 100. X must be absolutely minute [if digital copies of the art still exist]. I suppose the question is still subjective even in such a detached, logical approach: the better option depends on your estimations of each of the four values (and X2 varies: for instance, many millions of people wouldn't care at all about the Louvre's destruction, and future generations would care less and less, other than a few exceptions that could have been inspired by the art).

    • Simplersimon

      Not utilitarian. Don’t think just in terms of short term “happiness” or “sadness.” Consider what can be done by those people and their descendants. That value far outweighs the limited value of the original art. Most people wouldn’t really care about the loss of most of that art when they can look at it on Wikipedia, or buy a copy on Amazon.

  • Joanthan

    Save the people. They are conscious living things… More complex than anything in the universe that we know of. The things on the walls of museums aren’t even ghosts of the work of the design wrought by evolution.

    Also, what if I was one of the people in the museum?

  • Ezo

    I don’t care about ‘art’, as old paintings slightest bit. So of course I would save people.

    About other “fruits of culture”: If large amount of music/books/anime(I don’t like movies :S) would be destroyed, I’d choose to save it. Also, if you include software as art, I’d save software.

  • Jiri Roznovjak

    Save the people.

    There is no real value in the physical pieces of art, especially in the current time when all art is digitalized. They’re going to wither anyways given enough time. Since we preserve them in digital form the inspiration coming from them is going to live on. Furthermore, it is the human mind that creates art and without humans art doesn’t have any meaning.

    The likelihood that among the 100 people would be a single person that could be a next great artist is minuscule, but other kinds of people like scientists, engineers or even completely ordinary people create a great deal of value into this world that we do not directly see. Also, killing 100 people right now would prevent way more people from being born in the future, thus the loss in value for our civilization would be even greater.

    • AgentMidnight

      I agree with your point about the human mind, but we are not talking about killing all humans. Humans would still exist afterwards.

      • grin

        Let’s see another perspective. You’re just a person. If we’d kill you there’d be still plenty of humans around. Would it be okay? Or maybe your parents, children, relatives, if you don’t value your own life. Most people would reconsider.
        Some didn’t. Those are well described by history books.

        • AgentMidnight

          I do believe that some things are worth more than my life, and I don’t mean that in a deprecating way, just fact. I think, right now, I would say the stuff in the Louvre is more important than my life.

          In any case, I was simply calling out OP on that specific line, because I don’t think it adds to the argument. But thank you for your thought-provoking arguments!

          • grin

            Yes, it is an interesting rephrasing of the question: would you give your life to save the content of the Louvre? (I would not. It’s not that I don’t value art but I value it much less than you seem to. Probably because it disturbs me very much that the value is decided by a few people and the masses follow.)

  • NancyLeeWWW

    The first thing I notice in this discussion is that no one is citing the actual contents of the Louvre. Let’s understand what we’re talking about destroying: http://www.louvre.fr/en/selections/masterpieces.

    • Joel McKinnon

      You mean it’s not just the Mona Lisa? 😉

      Sticking with my answer.

      • NancyLeeWWW

        No doubt.

  • NancyLeeWWW

    For instance: “The Law Code of Hammurabi is the emblem of the Mesopotamian civilization. This high basalt stele erected by the king of Babylon in the 18th century BC is a work of art, history and literature, and the most complete legal compendium of Antiquity, dating back to earlier than the Biblical laws.”

    • jonathan

      You have a strange sense of value when objects are more valuable than people.

      • NancyLeeWWW

        Not any “object”, jonathan. I didn’t say that. I would protect the irreplaceable embodiments of the some of the greatest and most historically important ideas of human history. As someone else here mentioned, many have chosen to die to defend ideas. Some have chosen to die to destroy the embodiments of ideas, such as the ideas embodied in the World Trade Center. Ideas and their embodiments are often at the center of sacrifice and tragedy.

        • jasvisp

          The only people who chose to die in the World Trade Center were the lunatics flying the planes. They did not die destroying embodiments of ideas, they destroyed thousands of lives.

          • NancyLeeWWW

            There are plenty of places in the U.S. where the terrorists could have killed thousands of people. Why did they choose the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

            My point was that some people are willing to die to destroy the symbols of ideas. Yes, those guys were horrible.

            Other people have been willing to die to preserve the symbols of ideas. During World War II, Louvre staff spirited most of the thousands of paintings, sculptures, and other objects into the French countryside, hiding them and moving them among houses and chateaux until the War was over and they could be safely returned. Why did they risk their safety to do that?

            • jasvisp

              They were risking their OWN lives to preserve the symbols and ideas that mattered to them. It is not at all the same when people take the lives of OTHERS in the name of their beliefs and ideas. Do you not see the difference?.

            • NancyLeeWWW

              Look… This was not a serious question in the first place. No one will be faced, in reality, with this choice. But discussing the choice reveals patterns of thought and bias. My feeling is that it shows how little Americans understand of their own visual culture and history.

              Were some Americans willing to send thousands of their fellow citizens to die in Viet Nam to protect… what? They sure were willing to draft and send them.

              People are always willing to send others to die over things that can be made important to them, whether defeating the Communist menace in Southeast Asia (didn’t work) or eliminating the threat of Saddam’s illegal weapons (there were none) – or whatever. Mostly these symbolic reasons used to incite people to offer themselves up as sacrifices are baloney, and the real reasons behind war are money and power.

              However, a lot of fighting and dying occurs over pure ideas, whether or not the engine of war runs on social power. I find it interesting that so many believe that arguably the greatest art museum in the world is not worth sacrificing for, while the Bush vendetta against Saddam apparently was. It’s all too crazy.

    • Lambert

      Let’s put a hundreth of your relatives and friends in the museum instead of random faceless strangers and see if you are so eager to do the apology of the louvre and attack people ad hominem on their education. I think the main issue here is about one’s ability to experience empathy more than the actual value of the art stored in the building.

      • NancyLeeWWW

        I would hope that my relatives would agree with my position about the works in the Louvre.

        I personally have little difficulty experiencing empathy, often to my misfortune.

        As far as art education in the United States goes, would you assume that people here either know what sorts of works are in the Louvre, or even bother to look it up before answering? Do you think knowing what’s there is important to the answer? I do, and I wouldn’t call that an ad hominem argument.

    • Simplersimon

      You point out these items, but how many historical items lie out side the Louvre? Is there no object that could have an equal or greater effect on your 12 year old self? How has that experience changed you for the better in a way no other work could? Will none of those people achieve anything that great? Will none of their descendants? Odds are their family lines will far outlast and outreach the objects.

      • NancyLeeWWW

        World population tonight is 7 billion, 244 million and some-odd. The fact that any of our family lines will “outlast” the works in the Louvre isn’t the most appealing argument.

        • Simplersimon

          Fair enough. We just have two different value systems.

  • Sooty Mangabey

    I think I’d save the people. I couldn’t live with the guilt of being responsible for an innocent’s death, let alone a hundred innocents. Yeah, it all comes down to mental self preservation.

  • moab9

    If the Louvre and the land upon which it sets were to be liquidated (sans art) the sale proceeds would be enough to save a lot more than just a hundred lives of people with treatable diseases. This was understood by economisy when it was built. But the decision was made do display art instead. — So, save the art. If you want to save a hundred people there are more cost effective ways of doing so.

    • Siara Lynn

      This question can’t be rearranged into a balance sheet. Human lives do not have a dollar value. Loss of property, like art, is a simple financial price and can be covered by insurance. Cultural value is already preserved in the digital world.

      But a human’s “worth” is so much more than that. Think of all of that lost potential. Think of the thousands of people that would grieve over loved ones they will never get back. The world would still have the Mona Lisa – it’s all over the Internet, it’s been reproduced in mass quantities, it’s part of our collective memory whether the actual painting is hanging in the Louvre or not – but those lives are gone forever.

  • Siara Lynn

    People make art, therefore the safety of people takes precedence over the safety of art.

    • AgentMidnight

      But not every person makes art worth saving. And we’re not talking about every single person dying, only 100. There would plenty of others to make art.

      • Siara Lynn

        Well, we’re also not talking about every single piece of art being destroyed, only what’s in the Louvre. Furthermore, we have the ability to preserve art in a digital format: a luxury we do not have when it comes to people.

      • grin

        Would you accept to go there and handpick those who should die? You go there, and tell them “I want you to die” and “I’ll make you live”. Think about it. It’s pretty easy to post a comment about a planned massacre, much harder to get it done.

        • AgentMidnight

          I don’t see why it’s significant that I personally choose who dies. Do you mean that I should choose who I think would make art? I’m genuinely confused. Unless you mean to bring me closer to the people that I am theoretically killing.

          I meant that, in the general scheme of things, 100 people is not a huge loss. Thousands of unnamed people die and we don’t give a shit. Plenty of people choose not to donate money or to otherwise help people in need. Why is this different? Because it’s hypothetical? Because in this case, you seem more involved in the result? My point is, many people do choose who they want to die, just in a more subtle way. Maybe you choose not to donate money that could get medicine to someone in a impoverished community dying from an easily preventable disease. Maybe you choose ignore the warning signs in a suicidal friend. Maybe you choose to ignore that homeless person outside in the winter cold.

          I agree with what you said about how easy it is to speculate. In the end, I honestly don’t know what I would do if this happened in real life.

          • grin

            Yes, I absolutely meant to get you closer to the people you were about to kill theoretically.

            The usual problem with vague theoretical questions is that people can pick any context they want and use it as a reference frame, and for a quick-and-easy answer it’s always easiest to pick a context where the people involved are no more than statistical numbers “in a general scheme of things”. People almost never are statistical numbers, they happen to be thinking and living individuals, and while I agree that there are plenty of problems with having people around or about their intentions or goodwill or whatever attribute you choose to pick, still if you really dig into the actual quesion of whether to destroy a thing or kill a thousand people it’s (even theoretically) about *your* decision to kill a lot of people to save a thing or to destroy a thing to spare the lives of 100 people, may they be completely worthless but still living thinking beings.

            Most of the “let’s kill the people” replier happen to be familar with Mona Lisa or the art pieces while in the same time completely unfamilar with the people about to be killed. What would they say if it was otherwise: a never heard of art piece in a room filled with their friends and family? After all friends and family are just the same numbers as unknown people, statistically. Yet it seems to change the outcome. Funny thing isn’t it, familiarity raising the worth of things or people.

  • Joel McKinnon

    The more I think on this I’m starting to like the position no one has taken yet. Do nothing and let the madman obliterate both. Kind of a protest choice.

    • Adam

      Interesting, out-of-the-box decision, but I’m not sure I understand. Why is the protest choice better than either 100 people’s lives or the Louvre’s art? What does it accomplish?

    • Linus

      This feels like the kind of idea that seems pretty good at the time, but you start regretting it very soon. 🙂

      • Joel McKinnon

        My comment was more of a protest against a silly hypothetical than a sincere take on the dilemma. In reality, I’d have no problem with sacrificing the art for the people. I trust humans to come up with lots more great art, and I would be quite content in viewing all the wonderful reconstructions from backup.

        • Linus

          Yeah I figured it was not meant seriously.

  • jasvisp

    There is no contest. Every human being is a miraculous living, breathing work of art. The art work in the Louvre, as beautiful and one of a kind as it is, is not alive.

    • Lambert

      “Every human being is a miraculous living, breathing work of art.”

      Well… life, sentience and consciousness are a miraculous gift, true, but a lot of people just waste it and let it go to the trash. Saying that every human being is a work of art is clearly an overstatement, if not an outright lie straight out of unicorn land.

      • tweinstre

        Okay then. Let’s say I agree,not all humans are equally worth. That’s fine.
        But we hit a problem very soon. Imagine the least worth person you can. Like,for example,an homeless,drug-addicted pedophile-serial killer (no family ties or whatsoever).
        How much worth is he? How much worth is his mind,his unique experience of the world,all the memories he ever had,stored in his brain?
        He has the ability to change and become a better person eventually. How much is that ability worth?
        0$? 10$? 1000$? 100 000$? More,less?

        • Lambert

          I was not trying to define a scale to objectively put human lives on (even less trying to evaluate them in a venial way). But let’s take the most despicable fictional person one can imagine, let’s say an immaculate individual of pure evil, whose sole purpose is to spread destruction and misery. He has the ability to improve true, but the opportunity cost of such a possibility is probably exceeded by his ability to prevent other people to live and improve.

          • tweinstre

            I could actually agree with that. But that didn’t quite solve our problem,did it?
            I’ll explain what I mean:what should we do with that person?
            Kill him (to save the art)? Or just put him in jail until death?
            Is his life “worthless” so much that he doesn’t even have the right to live? (Compared with the art’s right to…exist?)
            Remember,if we kill him,we erase forever even that tiny possibility of his improvement.

            • Lambert

              “What should we do with that person?”
              I may be an idealist but I think that any mentally healthy individual, if raised and fed on truth, will grow to become a kind, truth-loving person. Maybe in the future humanity will have improved enough to reeducate any individual who would have been misguided enough to harm others. But for the time being, the most logical thing to do would be to prevent that person from causing further harm (I am not talking about disrespecting some nonsensical legislation, but actual harm to real people), by cutting him off from society.

            • tweinstre

              Fine. (By that merit,I am an idealist as well.) But in our hypothetical art situation,we have all the Louvre art and the life of that evil individual,worth much less than 100 random people at first.
              Now,I may be an (stupid) idealist,but I would save that individual. And throw him in single cell later.
              Cutting of from society,yes. Killing,no.
              Not only because of the impossibility of determining someone’s value,but also because we have to be better than him.

            • Lambert

              I am happy that we came to the conclusion that deliberate killing is out of the equation

      • jasvisp

        Perhaps an overstatement from your point of view. Fine. But why the condescending ‘outright lie straight out of unicorn land’?

      • Siara Lynn

        “Well…life, sentience and consciousness are a miraculous gift, true, but a lot of people just waste it and let it go to the trash.”

        So what? How do you define “wasting” a life? You took some amount of time to respond to a question on the Internet. Someone might consider this wasteful. So should we kill you? Do people who “waste” life deserve to die just for that?

        In any case, the question clearly states that this is a random sampling of 100 people, not simply those who are a “waste”. So your point is irrelevant to the argument.

        • Lambert

          You are assuming too much. I meant to correct what seems to be an exaggeration to my eyes. My answer to the dinner table question would be to save the humans, that I think we have in common.
          Otherwise, trying to define wasting objectively is quite a difficult task. But to me any action that is aiming at improving the human race as a whole would be “good”, and any action that prevent that would be “bad”. With a whole spectrum in between you could try to classifies actions given your personnal values. Then we would obviously need to define “improving” and one thing leading to another we would need to define a goal to life, something humans have been trying to do for millennias and are still trying to figure out.
          But still there are obvious examples that could be described without much intellectual resistance as “waste of human life”, some have been listed in the “what if you could kill one person on the planet” dinner table.

  • Veronika H. Drageid

    I think the Louvre and its content are worth dying for. It’s hard to say where the balance is, priceless art vs human lives.
    But this is happening in Syria and Iraq now, and people ARE dying to defend the ancient buildings and cities. I bet the French would die defending the Louvre as well.
    Some say digital art is just as good, I bet they have never visited the Louvre or Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat. Or the gas chambers of Auswitch. So much in life must be smelled, heard and felt, eyes can never give a full experience.

    • Siara Lynn

      If the 100 people CHOSE to die in place of the art in the Louvre, that’s a different story.

  • Adam

    If all music and fiction from the 1900s was at risk, I think I’d choose to let 1,000,000 people die.

    (1) Music and fiction can save some lives (e.g. prevent suicide, change prejudices) and prevent a lot of suffering.
    (2) Music and fiction brings a lot of joy — billions of people, both currently and in the future, will appreciate at least a few of the masterpieces of the 20th century.
    (3) The world is overpopulated; 7 billion is too many for the Earth’s limited resources to provide for. I don’t think I’d choose to kill a million people outright, but killing 1 million people frees up some resources for other people, and could save some lives. I suppose it depends on how the million are picked.

  • People can be replaced. The Louvre’s treasures cannot. Save the art not the people.

    • grin

      How could you replace any person? There’s only one of everyone.

    • Siara Lynn

      This is backwards.

      Art can be replaced. People cannot. Save the people, not the art.

    • We already do replace people. Every human life gets replaced after a little more than a century. We do not have a habit of replacing the Louvre’s treasures every 100 years, which suggests to me that they are irreplaceable.

  • Jono

    If you could see the peoples faces before making a decision. If you saw the fear of death in their eyes… I think everybody here would choose people in the end.

    • Jonathan

      Exactly. If you had to meet them… Live with each of them for a year… Listen to their childhoods… Talk about their loved ones and shames and hopes and fears. If you knew what they liked in their tea. If you knew how they laughed. If you saw them learn to walk or bike. If you talked with them how they feared death. What they felt the meaning of life was. Saw how their eyes lit up when a birthday cake was brought for them.

      And then you did this 100 times and killed 100 of them to save some sculptures and paintings?

  • Voluntarily giving up one’s life to save works of art…OK
    Paying for art using the human lives of others…Never OK

    Taken to a much greater degree…like for instance, if an evil Q-like alien shows up in the United Nations saying, “I’m going to revert humanity back to the Paleolithic Age, a pre-agriculture, pre-civilization state, and there’s only one way to avoid it. Sacrifice 10% of humanity in my name,” I’d say Paleo us.

    (Even big, I see the question like a twisted version of the Animaniac’s Good Idea, Bad Idea.)

    Humanity, if it is what I think it is, should be able to rebuild and recreate anything that it might lose, materialistically or culturally…hopefully, even better than it was when they lost it.

    • Kenny Thomas

      This was my favorite response out of the one’s that I’ve seen so far

    • pynch

      I like your angle, and basically agree with your morality points, but the objective benefit to humanity in all of the cases you mention is still to sacrifice the people.

      Society would then need to blame that decision maker for being a psychopath, make them a scapegoat and cast them out (see my post above).

      • Yes, I realized my response is akin to Rorshach’s response to Ozymandias. It would put me in an unusual position, psychologically.

    • Lambert

      I have to disagree. You would trade a 0,001% of humanity loss for a 90% of humanity loss. Take all intellectual constructions out of the equation and you are willing to sacrifice 90% as long as it’s “on our terms” rather than sacrificing 0,001%. Remember you are not trying to bargain anything, you are simply presented choice A and choice B.
      Let’s put it that way : you stand in front of a button that if pressed will unleash a natural disaster that will wipe out 0,001% of humanity. If you do not press it, then somehow an even bigger catastrophe will ensue, wiping out 90% of humanity.

      I have a hard time seeing how not pressing it would be the civilized thing to do. Remember the button is simply there, there is no one to bargain with, no one to convince, no plea to be heard, no “passive-resistance” because there is no one to resist against. Only the choice. When you remove the emotional factor I have a hard time to believe that standing there passively is anything else than ego-preservation under the guise of morality.

      • I see your point of view Lambert. But, I wouldn’t sacrifice 90% over 0.001%. I wouldn’t sacrifice anyone. That’s my point.

        If a killer, with a gun trained on you said, kill your neighbor and you live, refuse and you die. You wouldn’t be sacrificing yourself if you refused. You’d be a murder victim. If you killed your neighbor, under duress or no, you’d be murderer. Ideally, in that situation, the man with the gun should be fought, not your neighbor. And if you lose, you simply lose. You don’t sacrifice; you fight, even if the only weapon you have is simply your refusal.

        My point of view may be too black and white. But it is what it is. Life should never be used as currency. I saw Tim’s question as a two-part query, though.

        1. Is art, culture, history and tradition more important than the life of another?
        2. Can giving into coercion ever be legitimate; can one ever validate it?

        • Lambert

          I see I misunderstood you. We both agree on the fact that acting in an uncivilized manner (killing) is out of the question if one’s goal is to preserve said civilization, and that coercition should be fought.

  • Fay

    There’s more than just the Mona Lisa in the Louvre… Gasps!

    Save the people.

  • Fiel

    It would be possible to save way more than 100 persons by selling every piece of art in Louvre, for example by using money so earned to rescue people from war zones or epidemies.

    As we are actually not selling, we are, every day, choosing to sacrifice humans to save art. I’m not sure if it’s the choice I would make but I can certainly understand the temptation.

    • istvan

      Exactly. But inaction is often seen as more moral than actively killing someone. It’s basically like throwing the fat man in the classic “trolley problem” in moral philosophy.

      I think inaction should be taken as much more serious than it is currently.

    • istvan

      However, your comment suffers from a fallacy. “We” as humanity cannot “sell” that art. Buying and selling is always between humans. Exchanges outside of humanity would fall into the realm of religious sacrifice. So we should not compare this to the selling price, but to the effort we expend to keep the Louvre going, to keep all the pieces of art in a good condition, the effort to look at, discuss about them, etc. Do we expend more effort on this per year than the effort necessary to save 100 people per year? Definitely.

      We (humans) mostly don’t care about people who are almost dying. Okay, we may do this and that (mostly talk) to feel good and show off, but actually when you watch a movie instead of working one extra hour and donate that money to some kid in central Africa you are valuing your movie experience higher than the improvement in life of that child by your hourly wage (which is probably huge by third world standards).

  • Lambert

    If they were ready to give up their life voluntarily okay. Otherwise not okay.

  • istvan

    Most of us have a strong visceral aversion to such questions. It is not moral to contemplate the value of human lives against the value of inanimate objects. So of course most answers will be on the “save the people” side, since people want to feel good about themselves (that they are moral). Nevertheless, we implicitly “price” the value of human lives all the time. We don’t build hospitals in every small village as it would be too expensive. The safety features in cars are also a trade-off between price and value.

    So which is more valued by humanity as a whole: 100 random people or the art in Louvre? I’d say definitely the art. I don’t have the data, but I think people pay huge amounts of money to keep the Louvre going per year (visitors, gov’t, etc). I think it would be a lot cheaperto increase the life expectancy of a hundred random people by one year (improve a bit on the hygiene, water and food in a tiny village).

    But my answer to the actual question taken literally is that you should never play by the rules of a terrorist (i.e. the person who makes you choose between these options). Say to the terrorist whatever you think is strategically the best in order to win time and then work on trying to take him out.

    • tweinstre

      You confuse relational value of human life with absolute value. Of course we build hospitals in cities. More people are worth more than less people. And someone’s always going to die while driving a car. That doesn’t mean cars shouldn’t be driven at all. What I am asking people to do is to determine how worth is exactly the least worth human life on Earth. How much money? How many beautiful books,works of art?
      If you think it’s all about the money,you have to put a price on the least worth human being.

      • istvan

        It’s the sort of thing that psychopaths easily talk about but people with a “moral sense” or moral integrity try to avoid thinking about.

        People often say one thing and do another. They say they like one thing but buy something else. They say they like attribute X in a potential partner but actually gravitate towards attribute Y.

        The same way, people will generally say that human lives cannot be measured against money, because that’s the thing you have to say to be a decent human being. In practice however, society works very differently and human lives are thrown around very easily in many places on the Earth (supported or silently tolerated by a much wider population).

        A better question to ask when you want real answers is “what do you think a random person would choose in situation X”. Then the result will be much closer to what would actually happen.

        • tweinstre

          I understand what you say. It’s true that many human lives are wasted around the globe. It’s also true that many,many people will indeed choose art or money over someone’s life.
          That’s the way society works,like you said.
          I just don’t think that’s good.

          • istvan

            The world is complicated and often counter-intuitive. A naive person would think that everyone should work on some charity mission or else they are selfish assholes. A naive person would also think that developed countries should just give money to poor countries and it’s all solved. There are many sophisticated game theoretic analyses of motivations and sometimes it’s better not to help.

            Also art isn’t just some random worthless pastime. A society that appreciates art and has a culture which allows creativity to thrive can be highly innovative and creative in practical matters too. It helps to have a sort of cultural “big picture view”. It’s like asking why you should go to college instead of working at a construction site right now. Out of all the actions you can take, going in a building and sitting there all they is not that useful for society. Still on the long term it can be useful.

            Preserving our traditional art and historical past is very important.

            • tweinstre

              I appreciate art any enjoy it often. I also know that many help to poor countries is lost in corruption along the way. And too much help can also be counterproductive.
              But does that mean we should stop giving any help at all? I don’t think so.
              Counter-intuitive,yes. But at the end,we all pretty much rely on our intuition to guide us.

        • Lambert

          Indeed human lives are thrown around casually all around the globe and the result of this throw-around can be boiled down to a certain volume of money. But the fact that we’ve been sticking price tags on each others foreheads for centuries doenst make any truth emerge out of this phenomenom. To me it simply means that we suck and that we have a long way to go before being able to pride ourselves as civilized beings.

  • Linus

    This is the kind of question that everyone of us is really REALLY glad not to have to make.

    What if there was only one person in the Louvre instead of 100? What if it were 100 convicted murderers, or only 80-year olds? What if it was 100 people versus only the Mona Lisa? And if you chose “save the art”, what would the number of people be to change your decision? A thousand? A million?

    To me it seems that – contrary to many other commentators – saving the art would be the easier choice. Of course it is certainly cruel to obliterate 100 human beings, even more so if you think about them as close relatives or children or whatever. But still you would have done the “right” thing (for humanity as a whole) in saving the art, which outlasts any of the lost lives several times and in its importance is a heritage for billions of people. The loss of lives would be tragic, but let’s not fool ourselves: The number of people that are killed each day for much lesser (?) reasons is far, far greater than that, including people that die as a direct result of our (western) livestyle from poverty, hunger, thirst, sickness etc. pp. So, simply choose the art and be the “good” guy. Most of the people would probably agree with you afterwards and call you a hero.

    Still. I think that there is a norm in our society that values the life of a person above all else, period. And if I cling by that norm, I have to come to the conclusion that even for one person, I would still choose his/her life over all of Louvre’s treasures. Of course, if I were to make that choice, I would probably kill myself immediately afterwards, out of pure desperation about the massive loss of cultural value. But still. Got to cling to your moral convictions, right guys?

    Phew I’m REALLY glad I don’t have to make that decision. 🙂 Great question though.

    • Siara Lynn

      But the art in the Louvre exists in multiple places, and in multiple formats. Few people have been to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, but everyone is familiar with the painting. It’s preserved in a digital format for all time. Who cares if we destroy the specific collection of fiber and oil molecules on display at the Louvre? That wouldn’t destroy the Mona Lisa. The public isn’t even allowed to physically interact with the pieces in the Louvre – they’re separated from the physical objects by several feet and a thick red rope.

      The cultural and historical value of the Louvre’s art would NOT be negated by destroying the physical copies. If anything, this is the LEAST valuable component of an artwork.

      On the other hand, each individual human being IS completely unique and cannot be reproduced.

  • I live for art, but they are just things. People will eventually recreate so much art that you won’t have enough time to ever enjoy them all.

    Isn’t the fact that many choose to save things instead of people already why so many people are suffering today?

    • jl

      False premise and false correlation.
      1. most people won’t create much in their lifetime, that’s a false assumption
      2. historically significant pieces are not just “things”

      • They are just “things”. You just can’t see them that way and rather choose to destroy life, which is a sentiment typical of all “selfish” ideas where they only choose to protect what they happen to like, be it art, religious or national artifacts, etc.

        Also when this question extends to the last group of human species, it makes no sense to keep “things” and it makes no sense especially for your false “reasons” above.

        “Things” aren’t meaningful when there’s no life. But no the other way around. Why insist to keep “things”?

  • Ron

    Who would be more likely to save art over people- a person on the first or the third consciousness step?

  • consanguinity

    Culture serves a platform for human beings. Remember culture always SERVES. It is never, ever more important, even as a collective, than one human life.

  • Scott Pedersen

    We have copies of everything in the Louvre. Having the originals is nice, but not let-100-people-die nice. If the evil wizard were going to obliterate all the copies, it is a slightly harder decision but I’d still save the people. We can always make more art. There is probably a tipping point where it would be better to let X people die rather than lose Y art where X is very small and Y is very large. Unfortunately human intuition isn’t very good at morality math. We tend to be insensitive to scale and treat X and Y like they are both just 1. The best tool we have for answering this question is economics. How much money do people put into art preservation? How much do they put into life saving charity? How hard is it to get them to change from one to the other?

    • Jeffrey Quave

      i would say the tipping point of X vs Y is x=>1 and y=>99.9%

    • Scott Pedersen

      I looked into the economics question a bit. Various agencies like the FDA and the EPA that are forced to weigh decisions between large economic disruption versus saving lives have developed an economic value of a human life to use in their statistical models. The number comes out to be around $8 million dollars per life, give or take a million. So with one choice we’re saving $800 million worth of lives. On the other hand, the Mona Lisa alone is insured for almost that much. Add on all the other art in the Louvre and the other choice might might be saving something like $100 billion in art.

      Since $800,000,000 < $100,000,000,000, it would seem that, economically speaking, we should save the art.

  • pynch

    Save the art; the only real choice in terms of valuing something on a societal level.

    A human life is great, sure, but survival as a species must be built upon recognising the value of things and concepts bigger than any one life (or ten etc…). One of those people might turn out to be the person to cure cancer, or create the next great artwork, and that would be a real bummer. But, realistically, 100 random people from our wonderful planet are very unlikely to go on to do those things, and many thousands die every day for less, as others have already said.

    The art itself already has proven value. It inspires those who are most likely to achieve greatness. Hopefully these people are not all visiting the Louvre at the same time…

    The real challenge is not if 100 people should die in place of the art being destroyed (they clearly should), rather, the challenge is what happens afterwards. The person (me in this thought exp.) that makes the rational, correct, choice for people to die then needs to be vilified by society in order for us to live with ourselves and progress.

    Even though the world will be all the richer for my ‘terrible deed’, accepting that it is the right thing is, I believe, beyond our ability as a society. In choosing to save the art, I also need to become a villain so that society can move on, or the damage would indeed be much greater than the loss of 100 lives.

    (A bit like in that batman film….)

    • Lambert

      I understand your approach but I would like to know a bit more
      1° On a personal level, is your conviction in art solid enough for you to still want to trade humans for art if your family and your loved ones happened to be in the museum
      2° how do you justify the paradox of acting in the most uncivilized manner (killing people) in order to preserve said civilization

      • pynch

        On your first point:

        It does not extend to my family, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to make a different call either. Whilst this may seem like a contradiction, it is actually based on exactly the same principles. I know my family, they have a deep connection to me and I to them. I also want the best for them, they are my society on the micro scale. Indeed were I to have a daughter, I would hope she may go on to cure cancer! Though if she didn’t, I’d probably be fine with that too.

        On this micro scale, it is a very different question because it ceases to be about the destruction of ‘some art’ or ‘some life’ which is what the other is getting at, rather it is about destroying ‘some art’ or ‘everything you personally hold dear in the world’. A very different balance indeed!

        As for your second point:

        This is why the person who makes the decision must be cast out. It would be unacceptable for society as a whole – in the world we currently live in – to accept the pretty low value that human life, in generic terms, actually has. Indeed, to make that leap would most likely be a damaging backwards step.

        Nevertheless, art does have proven value and can not be recreated. The paradox only exists if the acting party becomes a hero for making the decision, and society accepts that brutality as part of its formation. If society casts them out after the art is saved, paradox avoided…

        • Lambert

          I don’t like the dichotomy : “this is true on the macro scale but not on a micro scale”. Either the stuff is worth sacrificing lifes for on both scales or it’s not. Being able to sacrifice as long as it doesnt involve anything you care about on a personnal level does not have anything to do with the actual value of the art. You simply turn this into an empathy issue.I see how the scapegoat approach may seem logical but still it sounds way too easy. What kind of civilized society indulges in deliberate human sacrifice as long as it gets rid of the scapegoat afterward. This is bullshit, it is not enough for the rest of the collectivity to play offended on the outside and approve on the inside (“phew what a monster but I’m glad he did it for the louvre is truly priceless”). No truly civilized people would disagree on a core level, not only on a superficial level. What you suggest is mere play pretend.

          • pynch

            Unfortunately we seem quite a way apart here.

            Firstly, despite your assertion, things are frequently and demonstrably different on a macro / micro scale. Whilst it may be unpalatable for me to value my own family or people close to me more than strangers, I’m afraid it is just true, and I would wager most (if not all) people feel the same.

            Indeed moral debates and choices often have an element of scale at their core, and the personal connection / empathy point is always the deal breaker: (e.g. would you direct a train to kill one person on one fork of the tracks or two on tracks the other way? What if the one person was your son? Then do two people die for him?).

            The degree to which I don’t feel inclined so save random strangers seems to shock you, but is no different from the fact that I am not currently trying to save the tragic loss of life that takes place in many parts of the world as I write this. I have a job that does not put me in danger so I can provide for my loved ones. Should I step up to the plate? Perhaps. But the saving of a life is not the same as progressing as a society or surviving as a species, these are different commodities.

            As for the scapegoat, I am not arguing that people should or would secretly be relieved someone else made the choice (though I do believe some would), nor it is some cheap trick. Rather, I completely agree with you that the making of that choice is sincerely abhorrent, and the person should be completely shunned / punished, whatever. On this you are absolutely right and your reaction were I to make it is both natural and encouraging for our society!

            Where we diverge is that it is abundantly clear humanity and society would be no worse off if 100 extra people died, given the scale of suffering we currently have in our world. If all the products of the genius of humankind stored in the Louvre were to be destroyed to save 100 people on an overpopulated planet where millions die every day for very little reason, we would – however – be significantly worse off.

            In short:
            – 100 dead = status quo
            – Art destroyed = status quo, but without the art

            Now a question in return, what about the second bit of the starting premise: would you destroy all knowledge of maths or science to save one person? How about ten people or a hundred? A million?

            • Lambert

              – would you destroy all knowledge of maths or science to save one person? How about ten people or a hundred? A million?

              The form may be similar but the substance of the problem here is different. In the former problem, historical artifacts and artworks were valuable to our civilization as components of our culture. They are only originals after all, the ideas, knowledge, the data they carried so to say, is safely stored both digitally and in the memory of a lot of experts. Plus, the louvre is only a drop in the bucket, there is more artwork outside the louvre than you could study in your lifetime anyway.

              Your suggestion is different, you would erase all the scientifical knowledge permanently from the memory of man, technically sending him back to a hunter-gatherer state (which would probably result in billions dead). This is a way bigger deal than destroying a tiny fraction of mankind’s artwork. You can’t take back science from man and expect man to stay man. There is no need to discuss the cost for civilization in this case because there would be no civilization anymore. In this case, picking the lesser of two evils would be the civilized thing to do imo. I would go for the sacrifice and plea my case in a tribunal afterward.

            • pynch

              An interesting perspective – a little too utilitarian for me!

              I have never been convinced of a human life (or happiness) as a useful tool of measurement.

              I suppose the deeper question here is really about human progress: is the ultimate goal of humanity to save all human lives, or is there some other pursuit that really motivates all that we do?

              I don’t really think there is an answer to this as there is inherent contradiction in valuing human life above all other pursuits – not least given the intrinsic role of death in evolution. However, I would quite like to see some kind of utopia where – actually – all the barbarism of death is left behind, I’m just not really sure that would ever be reached without a hell of a lot more death along the way!

  • Blrp

    How typical of humanity to assign an absurd level of importance to trivial bullshit. I don’t give a shit about the original Mona Lisa exploding, as long as a trillion ultra-high-def scans and imitations of it exists. Sure, it’s neat that centuries-old masterpieces still exist in their original form, but that’s all it is: neat. 99.9999973% of people would not be affected in the slightest if all the great old masterpieces were replaced by fakes. I’d rather burn The Last Supper than sacrifice a quarter of my neigbour’s left pinky.

    Now if we’re talking about the permanent erasure of a huge part of our culture like the examples you give, I would sacrifice a big solid chunk of the world’s population to save that. That would have a huge effect on the everyday lives of most people, and probably have large, unforeseeable long-term effects on the prosperity of our species. How absolutely trivial is the Louvre in comparison to that?

  • Sean Stewart

    The biology of a single human brain (even an unremarkable one) is more impressive than every work of art ever created by it, combined. I actually couldn’t believe this was even a question on here, but then I read some responses and saw that some people would actually save the art?

    I truly doubt anyone who says they would volunteer to be among these 100 people to follow through on that when push came to shove. Even if you would, how could you justify subjecting others to this? Ending your existence, along with the existence of dozens of others, devastating families and loved ones, for some art? We can make new art folks, we are human, we are [superbolditalics] incredible [/superbolditalics].

  • phil

    my visceral response: anyone leaning towards the art seriously needs to get their head outta their ass.

    but coming from a more constructive perspective: my question to those who are leaning in the direction of the art would be: would you kill yourself to save the louvre’s art? if so, what about killing yourself as well as everyone you love and care about?

    if your answer is still yes, then i’d like to have a conversation with you, as it seems there’s a lot i can learn about the value of original copies of art from you

    • Adam

      I’m still very torn between the art and people, but I can tell you this: it does not make one iota of difference to me whether those 100 people are people I’ve never met, or friends and family — assuming that they’re roughly equal in some demographics, such as intelligence. (For instance, I value the people more if I know that one of them is a friend of mine who is very, very smart and who, I’m sure, will contribute far more to society than average.) I don’t really understand society’s valuation of those they know more than strangers. We’re all humans. We all have loved ones, feel the same emotions etc. Why is someone more important just because you know them personally?

  • Kenny Thomas

    I decided to ask this question to some of my friends-several of them art students who have a greater appreciation for the arts than myself-and they all gave me varying answers. Some well thought out, some not so much. This was the answer I came up with for myself that I shared with them:

    Even though I completely agree that the masterpieces are irreplaceable, and even though I’d be willing to be that most of the 100 people in the Louvre would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the art, I still would not be able to make the conscious decision to have those people killed, because at that point, even though I didn’t do the killing, the people’s lives were in my hands.

    Art is important, but what if I were in the Louvre and it was up to someone else to make the decision? I wouldn’t want to be killed. Or, what if one of my friends were in the Louvre? I wouldn’t want them to be killed in the name of saving the art, either. All of the 100 people have friends and loved ones, and just because I don’t know them personally, it does not give me the right to take them away from those that love them. Sure, the art may be irreplaceable, but there are replicas that almost serve the same purpose social utility-wise.

  • If a wicked sorceror threatened to vaporize all the people or all the artwork in the Louvre, I would stand there and laugh at the delusional idiot. If he responded by throwing down with some magical zap zap boom and blew some people or artwork up, then I would probably stand there thinking, “Ooookay, that’s cool. So how do I learn to do that?”

    Beyond that, I find I have little emotional attachment either way. I don’t have any personal connection to the museum, its artwork, or a random group of 100 of its patrons, so I’m pretty well ambivalent. If you want to evoke an emotional response, you’ll need to devise a scenario that touches closer to home.

    • Jon Penland

      So an emotional response is the only reason to care what happens? There’s no value in either the people or the art unless it creates an emotional response?

      • The act of valuing something is, in of itself, an emotional response. Without emotion, there is no value.

        • Adam

          I gain no personal pleasure, nor feel any significant emotion, from watching football (or most sports). That doesn’t mean I can’t value the sport of football. I understand that others enjoy it, and value it, which gives it some worth from my perspective.

          I’m not a fan of art. It’s probably sour grapes since by drawing skills are abysmal. Nevertheless, I can still appreciate what it means to others. It’s not just my emotional response that gives something value in my eyes; it’s others’ emotional responses.

  • D

    I do not doubt that many of you would elect to save the people, but you should consider why. Many of would say because the value of human life is immeasurable, or something along those lines, but I believe the true reason is different. Hundreds of people die all the time, and we couldn’t be bothered from our ordinary lives to care. The only reason this is different is that you are indirectly causing these deaths. Are you saving these people because you truly care about their lives? Or because you don’t want to live with the guilt of their deaths? The later reason is entirely selfish.
    I am not implying that if you chose to save the people that you are lying to us, but that you might be lying to yourself about why you chose the way you did. There are many people dying in impoverished countries right now. Many of us have money to spare, but rather than donate, we but luxuries.
    Ask yourself if you really care about those people.

    • Lambert

      There is a nuance between death caused by conditions of existence and deliberate mass murder. Your reasoning is a neverending cycle of guilt.
      The time I spent educating myself could be spent doing humanitarian work.
      The money I spent on my house could instead be used to help refugees in Syria.
      The medication I take could be useful to someone closer to death.
      The food I eat could be eaten by someone starving.
      Hell, there are people in need of kidneys right now, how selfish of you to pack the two of them.

      this goes on ad vitam aeternam
      If your reasoning is exact then maybe we should donate all our belonging and remove ourselves from existence to avoid causing further harm.
      I don’t mean that we should not care about those less lucky than us. But putting that on the same moral level as deliberate murder is wrong

      • Adam

        “maybe we should donate all our belonging and remove ourselves from existence” – I’ve often thought this is the best option. How many lives could I save by ending my own? I know for sure it’s more than 1. I think the reason we don’t is evolution: if we had evolved to think in such compassionate ways, homo sapiens would have been extinct long on. It’s so strongly ingrained in us that giving everything we have to those with greater needs is extreme, absurd or ridiculous that it makes it difficult to act rationally. It means we’re all incredible hypocrites, especially me for posting this comment.

      • D

        You make a really good point, but some quick clarifications I should make.
        1. I just reread my post and realised how condescending it sounded. Uhhh, sorry, that’s not how I intended to come off.
        2. Yes, this argument, if taken exactly, has some very extreme implications (and some people do take it this way (Peter Singer)). The point I’m trying to make is not that either option in this situation is “wrong”, or that we are being a bad person by not donating more often, but to note a potential moral inconsistency. I’m trying to show that we should not be too quick to condemn anyone who kills the people as morally “wrong”.
        3. I also realise that this does not directly relate to the question. It is just something we should be noting when we make a choice.

    • Jack Kennedy

      Whether or not I donate regularly to charity is an interesting moral discussion but it’s not really relevant. It doesn’t affect the choice at hand.

      Possible scenario 1: I, as a person who doesn’t do a great deal of good for the world on a daily basis, save the art.
      Possible scenario 2: I, as a person who doesn’t do a great deal of good for the world on a daily basis, save the people.

      Why is No. 1 better? Just because I’m not doing all the good I could do before this dilemma doesn’t mean that my decision to do this good when given the chance is any less of a good choice. Since I, going into this dilemma, already exist as I am the only potential difference my choice can make is the direct affects of the art or the people on the world as a whole. I see No. 2 as a greater net benefit to humanity, so I choose it. Whether or not I am so logical in all my personal decisions is not what we are discussing.

      tl;dr it’s not relevant

      • Adam

        Regardless of whether it’s relevant to the decision, but it’s a good point to bring up because it might make some of us question the difference between our morals (human life is worth more than money) and our actions (not all of my money is used to save human life). It could either (a) make us change our mind in the choice, because there’s a reason we don’t follow through with these absolutist morals (b) make us a bit more generous in giving to charity or (c) do nothing. I hope it causes (b) for some of the 10 people who liked the comment.

    • tweinstre

      That’s an interesting question.
      I really care about deaths in the world,poor people etc. I think every normal person should. And I donate. Maybe small amounts,but I do. Amount should be proportional to wealth.
      “Many of us have money to spare, but rather than donate, we but luxuries.”

      Well,you don’t think that’s good,obviously. You criticize that! You don’t think that selfishness is good. So why do you imply that “we are all just selfish and afraid to admit it”? You just answered yourself. We are selfish beings,indeed. But is it good? Is this how it should be?
      (By the way,I don’t think it’s possible to be truly altruistic,but I don’t see what that has to do with this moral problem,or morality in general.)
      I would actually prefer to see some people killed than some art destroyed. I hate serial killers,for example,and haven’t been particularly prone to guilt anytime in my life.
      But I would save serial killer instead of art,because of my worldview and believes. I would hate it,it goes against my intuition,I wouldn’t feel happy about it. But I would bite my tongue and do my moral duty. Just because it’s my duty.
      I wouldn’t feel guilty for the loss of his life,I don’t care about him at all. But I would care about violating my worldview,which I consider to be true. And the Truth is the most important thing,right?
      People who would save the art also ultimately adhere to selfish reasons. They just have different worldview than mine. This is about clash of worldviews,not about delusions of altruism.

  • Lazarus

    Most people here are only looking at the short term effects of this situation, not the long term. Think of it this way, if you choose to save the 100 people, then they will go on to make impactful decisions concerning other people. They will raise families, provide aid to others, and create other tangible things such as buildings, machines, food, etc. Who knows, maybe the children of these 100 some people will go on to create works of art even better than the Mona Lisa. If you chose to save the art, what do you have? The saving of inspirational art? Do you not consider human life to be inspirational, the blood, sweat, and tears of human toil? Also coming from the moral standpoint, if you even believe in morality, souls last longer than paintings. Quite a bit longer.

    • Adam

      These 100 people will also respire, drive, use electricity, consume food, water and nutrients, require housing, contribute to global warming, cause harm to others, commit various crimes and cause suffering of friends and family when they die (albeit probably less suffering than if they died in the Louvre). So will their children. Maybe I’m being too cynical or emphasising the negatives too much, but I’m not sure keeping 100 people in this overpopulated world is a good thing, when the alternative is keeping art which is sure to give pleasure to those who view it.

  • Lucas

    I would save the art. Let me put it this way, would you kill 100 random people in ancient Egypt in order to save the Library of Alexandria?

    • Jon Penland

      You’re comparing saving art with saving knowledge. They are two different things. The potential for saved knowledge to do good for humanity is great (in the case of the Library of Alexandria). The potential for improving the human condition by saving art is pretty much null. Saving some of greatest thinking of the time has tremendous potential to improve the human condition. Saving the Mona Lisa has no such potential.

      • NancyLeeWWW

        Art is visual language. It expresses THE thinking of its time.

        The documents in the Library of Alexandria expressed THE thinking of their time.

        The works in the Louvre express THE thinking of their time. “What does it mean to be human? Is there a God? What is He like? What should Law accomplish? What is the value of freedom? How do we respond to injustice? How do we face the unthinkable?”

        I could go on and on. But there’s no way to replace an arts education with a comment in a blog.

    • Jeffrey Quave

      what if those random people discovered technology that was greater than the technology in the library at alexandria? life is always more valuable than knowledge or art

      • Adam

        100 random people are not likely to discover knowledge greater than the Library of Alexandria. There *could* be a very special person, the type whose existence would be worth saving in favour of the entire Library of Alexandria… although I find it hard to believe that any person in existence (past or present) could possibly be worth that much. Still, let’s say they exist, and let’s also say that for every million people, there is 1 person like this (incredibly generous odds).

        The chance of this person being within 100 people picked at random is just less than 1 in 10,000. I’m willing to take that risk and kill the people.

    • NancyLeeWWW


    • Michael McBride

      I think your comment undermines your point. The Library of Alexandria burned and countless scrolls were lost forever, but we managed to endure, grow, develop, and persevere as a species, finding enlightenment in due course.

      In contrast, the periods of our history that are stained the darkest are when certain groups are willing to eliminate/enslave others for some ill-conceived notion of a greater good. If we are willing to trade human life for knowledge, we don’t deserve knowledge.

  • Jon Penland

    I for one don’t want my existence on this planet to end because someone values paint on a canvas more than they value my life. I value my own life more than a painting, and I assume other folks do the same. So based on that perspective I’d choose the people. If I were in the museum I’d want them to chose me over the paintings.

  • Jeffrey Quave

    the correct answer is simple – u make all the people look at all the art then destroy the art but it is still preserved inside the minds of the people. saved both , problem solved

  • Arjun

    I would choose to save the people. First of all, a painting painted of the saved people would make for a rad shown-in-the-history book kind of a painting, with the back story.

    Secondly, agreed our past as a species is important, however that shouldn’t come at the cost of losing our humanity in the present. Further more there would be digital copies of the art which could be shown to the future, in case that rocks their boat.
    Our culture and art is for the people and not the other way round. Further more even if you place a stipulation, like putting dictators in the museum, all of them and then make the choice, (I think WBW did something like this) it still is tricky, because one man’s hero can be someone else’s villain.

    Also, just saying if the sorcerer is real, clearly we will be safe because the Order of Phoenix, will be here with the DA members at the helm 😀 😀 😀 😀
    It could mean I was the wizard, who really did not get the letter because of some bureaucratic snafu.

  • Marc de Faoite

    Choose life

  • jl

    The art. Most people live insignificant lives with no contributions to humanity….more destruction rather… Tourists with selfie sticks are the worst, I don’t think we would lose much here tbh. Definitely save the art.

    • Stephen Slaboda

      Picasso or Rembrandt could have been descendants of people who were viewed as living insignificant lives. If this choice had been carried out in an earlier time, I suppose we wouldn’t have their artistry and then where would we be? We would still be creating art and music just not what we think of as the classics.

      • Adam

        These 100 people *could* be future Rembrandts, but they’re not. Statistically, they’re just not going to be. It might seem cold, but these 100 people are just likely to be ordinary people. There might be a couple of mildly extraordinary people: a talented doctor or two, someone who graduated from Cambridge/Harvard etc. or a great writer. However, these people are still not close to the level of Picasso or da Vinci in terms of the worth of their potential contributions to society.

    • jayoh

      what contribution does a bunch of paintings hanging on a wall half? those people are parents,siblings, friends, etc etc. far more valuable than some fuking drawings

  • Stephen Slaboda

    I think in all cases (assuming we aren’t talking about losing the fundamental knowledge of how to do things like speak language, paint, etc.), I easily choose saving the people. The reasoning behind my answer varies slightly by the level of erasure.

    If simply the physical incarnations of the items are destroyed, then I think the answer is a simple choice to save the people. The digital copies are accurate enough to allow humanity to preserve the most impactful portions of the items.

    If the digital copies are destroyed as well, but memories remain, I waver between the people and the art. Hear me out. There are hundreds, thousands, even millions of people who could contribute to remaking the items in question with enough detail to preserve the items satisfactorily. However, If there is nothing to compare it to besides memories, then who is to say which memory is the most authoritative? Wikipedia is a flagship example of humans actually being able to collaborate successfully on sometimes divisive subjects, so it gives me enough hope that we could perform a similar feat in this case.

    If memories are completely erased (or even partially so that we know we lost those things but can’t recreate them) my choice flips back to the people with ease. We wouldn’t know that the items are lost, or we would adapt like we do to so many other things being lost. The potential of those 100 people and their entire trees of potential offspring offer much more in long-term contributions to the human race than items that are prone to other destructive ends or obsolescence through further evolutions in civilization. Toss in the moral upbringing that most of us have led, and the choice gets even easier.

    Ultimately, I think one of the important concepts here is that no matter what does or does not exist from prior cultures, writers will still write, painters will still paint, and inventors will still invent. Perhaps without the chains of expectation and conformity holding down the not-quite-so-brave creators in the world, they would be more forthcoming to express themselves. Instead of creating based on existing cultural examples, they may thrive in the freedom to create something brilliantly unique that would never have been done otherwise…just like all of the cultures that created what we view as the staple cultural items in our era.

    • Adam

      I think if digital copies are destroyed and memory remains, it doesn’t really matter whose memory is closest to the original. Thousands of artists collaborating could work, but maybe you could just have a select few very good artists (perhaps helped by people who don’t quite have eidetic memories, but can remember pictures in astonishing detail) paint their own memories and whichever looks better could be distributed, or multiple copies could be distributed. While capturing the essence of the original painting, it could potentially allow artists to improve upon the original.

      There are millions who could help repaint the Mona Lisa, but there are some paintings in the Louvre which would be a lot more obscure and harder to reproduce. Fortunately, the important ones – the ones that have contributed most to our culture, are seen most often and mean the most to us – would be the ones that could be remade in better detail.

  • Simplersimon

    The people. Not for them, not for their individual value, because that’s a notch above squat. But then, so’s the art’s. The art is neat, but as someone who has been to the Louvre, it’s value is miniscule. We have digital copies, we sell replicas, we are constantly make new artifacts, and many of those are fading fast as well. Some of the art has been restored so many times that we can hardly say it is the original any more. The people have their own potential, plus the potential of any descendants. I have been inspired by objects, yes, but I have been inspired by people many more times. I remember a history teacher pointing out that “there are more Einsteins and Ghandis and Reagans (he’s a fan) than there are Hitlers shaping history.” We advance, and we advance better with people than with the physical objects left behind.

  • Angela Huang

    Treat others as you would like to be treated. If I was one of those people, I sure would want to be saved.

  • nielmalan

    I’m going to respond with a counterquestion: If there are 200 people in the Louvre, 100 of them random tourists, and the other 100 of them the artists who made the art in the museum, and you had to plea for the lives of one or the outer group, how would you choose?

    • tweinstre

      I would save the artists. But not because they could recreate art. For instance,if random tourists weren’t that random and were doctors on a conference in Paris for the research of cancer,I would save them instead. Similarly,if random tourists had more children than artists,I would save the tourists.
      The problem with random people is that you don’t know anything about them,while I know artists are (probably) good people,and obviously very good artists.

  • lldemats

    It would bring a tear to my eye to see so many beautiful things destroyed. But I’d have to torch it all before I had the deaths of 100 people on my hands and conscience.

  • Doc c

    Strangle the sorcerer…

  • Well, I mean if i got to keep the art…$$$

  • AKJ

    You can’t really justify killing 100 people for some material things, art or not. Yes, you would lose the originals, but we get copys and we don’t really have copys of people.

    I guess we should start cloning people, or maybe just art? Wait we are already doing that – so we are fine I guess – let’s save the people!

  • Alex Mac

    Save the people, that art can be over a billion dollars total but a single life is priceless

  • Trofot Gt

    We are gonna call the SWAT team to rescue the people and at the same time we will choose to save the art. everything goes wrong…both people and art goes to hell..and after 3 years we have a hollywood movie named Louvre Down…after 3 years MOMA Down…etc…the final movie (random museum) will have special guests the alien and the predator..

  • Monica

    You can’t have a party with paintings on the wall. 100 people every time.

  • Harel

    Sacrifice myself. *woah*

  • PianoLady

    I wonder, if you consulted the original artists who made the works, would they really consider their work (even, say, Leonardo or Michaelangelo’s greatest masterpiece) to be worth more than 100 human lives, even worth more than a single human life? Maybe one or two of them would — but I don’t think most artists have such a high view of their own creations; indeed most artists are quite critical of their own work, seeing its flaws more than its successes. I’m pretty sure 95 out of 100 artists would tell you to torch their (not very good after all) 😉 painting and save a person instead.

  • PeteM

    Gotta go with the people here. I’m sure all the art has been cataloged and photographed thousands of times already so we would still have those but you can’t recreate the people. Who knows, maybe Elon Musk is visiting the Louvre. Unless ISIS has booked it for day, save the people.

  • PianoLady

    Secondly, and maybe more importantly: we have a very odd, almost religious attitude towards “great” art in our society; we see it as something worthy of being preserved (like a fly in amber) for all time, for eternity, even though we know that’s not really possible. This is a very anomalous attitude; most other cultures have seen art as transitory, fleeing, ephemeral, assuming that each new generation would produce its own art and leave the past behind. We’d rather preserve what’s old than create our own art (which is a big part of why there’s so little creative output being produced today; we don’t respect it as we do Leonardo or Michelangelo.)
    I say torch the art. It’s time for some new art anyway. We’ve stared at the Mona Lisa long enough; let’s make way for the next Leonardo da Vinci.

    • rose

      There’s plenty of creative output these days. we dont revere it because we havent been told to by society and our elders. It hasnt been drilled into us that its special. Who knows what artists from today will be treated like Leonardo.

  • Peter Gaber

    I would save the people. This would probably be a well known event in the whole world and would have a big impact on generations to come. The day, when people’s lives were more important that priceless (not for long) artworks. I believe the positive angle of that decision would outweigh the loss. Also, there’s other museums, we would lose but a part of our cultural heritage.

    I’m a mfa painter, so it’s not like I have no relation to art.

  • Jerome

    So this “Art” in the Louvre, who created it? Was it made by God? Was it created by some gigantic intelligence from outer space? Or was it human inspired and made by humans? I’m pretty sure I would not kill anyone if it were either of the first two, but if humans made the art how could all the art in the world be worth anything except the pleasure humans get from viewing it?

    Viewing the question this way, the question becomes would you kill a hundred people in order to allow thousands of other people a continued pleasant afternoon? Would you kill a 100 people to allow a million others a pleasant afternoon at the museum? So how many pleasant afternoons equal 100 human lives. It’s fairly mad that we are even considering this question.

    Wanna look at it as money? Pretend the art in the Louvre is worth 5 billion dollars. (it doesn’t matter what it’s really worth). Would you kill 100 people for 5 billion dollars? There’s a catch, of course, you don’t get the five billion, the Louvre gets it and people you don’t really know get the benefit of seeing five billion dollars worth of art. It would be a kind of altruistic mass murder. And that seems fairly absurd to me.

    If the art was made by beings other than humans then you could advance an argument that maybe the value is incalculable. Then you could say 100 humans live are worth divine art fashioned by a god. You’d be mad but there are those who are. Mind you that’s outside the scope of the question. The art was all made by humans.

    The arguments are the same for any other cultural treasure. Would you kill a 100 people if that would save all U2 music? Save all the music of Katy Perry, Sam Smith or the Beatles? Still fairly mad to be considering these questions?

    After all we are not even considering apples and oranges here. The question is actually would you take the life of a living human being in exchange for the art of a dead one? That’s sounds even creepier. I mean if it were a life for a life, Is any human qualified to decide who should live or who should die? The very best were could even hope is a prejudicial choice. So how could anyone say one human life is worth the scribblings of another human life. And yes they are just colored scribbles. Nicely done scribbles I admit.

    Let’s make an analogy. Let’s say that a sorcerer said that he will destroy 100 nice cars or he will destroy all the great tire tracks in the world. Any takers? No, because we don’t give sh** about tire tracks. So the question becomes would we kill a person to protect an inanimate object that we love. Only a psychopath or some other mad person would say yes.

    And finally, there actually is such a sorcerer. His name is time and although you will not live to see it, given enough time, all the art in the Louvre will be destroyed. The good news is that humans will keep on making art of some kind and so the old art will all be replaced by something else. So no matter how you look at it, if you choose the deaths of 100 people then they will have died for nothing.

  • Orkhan Jafarov

    You can destroy physical representation of Mona Lisa, but you cannot destroy the idea of Mona Lisa.
    On the other hand if you destroy a person, you destroy all the ideas he would have. No hesitations for me in this dilemma.

  • Margling53

    I would save the art, of course. No contest. There are way too many people on earth and not nearly enough art.

    • Alvaro

      What if you were one of those people? Would you kill yourself? You are thinking of people as objects, but they really are not; people are the only thing in this world with value in themselves.

      • iad bungler

        You are thinking of art pieces as objects, but they really are not; art pieces are the only thing in this world allowing us to get a glimpse of someone else’s thoughts, from a (sometimes) distant past, which is the basis of every culture.
        Also you are thinking of people as gods above everything else, but they really are not; people can always make more people.
        Accept to loose some individuals to save the culture of many.

  • Nicholas

    Consider this:

    Is it more inspiring to see a picture of the Grand Canyon or
    to see the Grand Canyon in person?

    It seems that most commenters here are in favor of saving
    the people and citing the potential future contribution these people and their descendants
    will have on the human race and Earth. I disagree. I think that the millions of
    people who will go on to be inspired by seeing these works in person greatly outweighs
    the alternative.

    What we don’t know:

    The unfortunate 100 will certainly account for some amount
    of lost potential future good and productivity.
    The unfortunate 100 could very well go on to be productive… maybe one ends up detonating a suicide vest upon his or her
    next visit to the Louvre. Who knows? And that’s the point!

    What we know:

    Any given piece of art in the Louvre does not just represent
    an impressive work from the artist who created it. That piece of work also
    represent (arguably, more importantly) the culmination of human history and
    experience at the time of its creation. By destroying the art, you are
    destroying a significant record of human history. By contrast, the unfortunate
    100 may include artists, historians, philosophers etc. but it would be unwise
    to assume that their contributions will be more significant than the works of
    art in the Louvre. How can 100 random humans generate a greater amount of
    inspiration and cultural wealth than the culmination of human history?

    ISIS is currently in
    the business of destroying human history and culture AND innocent lives…

    • tweinstre

      So art is more important than those people. Okay.

      Let me ask you then:where do you put a line? How many lives is too much for the Louvre art? 100 000? A million? Putting a line is extremely important,because at some point,you will surely do more damage by killing people than destroying art. So,where is the line?
      Why thinking of people’s lives in purely utilitarian style? How do YOU know how much has each human contributed to humanity? A random person taking care of his kids every single day may have had greater impact than an random artist whose work astonishes millions…for a few minutes.
      You say: “I think that the millions of people who will go on to be inspired by seeing these works in person greatly outweighs the alternative.”

      Would you agree that torturing a single person for 50 years is better than putting a single dust speck in the eye of everyone on Earth?
      Just curious.

    • Alvaro

      For me its really quite simple: people are people; they have value in themselves, because they have a conscience and they are the only thing in this world that can create ideas and empathize with another human being. Art only has value because of the human being who created it. Destroy the art, and the idea, feeling, or message that the artist was trying to convey still remains–whether it is in pictures, or in the minds of those who have seen it before. Thinking that a work of art inspires you more by seing it in person is a fallacy; you are not appreciating the art for what is or whats its showing you, but because of the preconception you have of it. What if you where one of the unfortunate 100? Would you realy kill yourself to save all of the art in the Louvre?

  • Orkhan Jafarov

    A question to all those who choose saving art:
    Great Pyramid of Giza along with (presumably) a lot of other historical monuments was built by forced labor.
    The cost: thousands of lives that no one cared about at the time.
    The result: a great example of cultural inheritance that inspired and amazed people for thousands of years.
    Would you also justify the methods used to build the pyramids and disregard the lives that don’t matter to you in the name of art?

  • Margling53

    The people in the Louvre are not being killed or tortured or enslaved. They are being vaporized. Tim was too kind hearted to get rid of them any other way, but in vaporizing them, he removed the gruesome factor. But no matter the method of death. As a philosophical choice, I would still say save the art. People will die some day anyway, by some means, whether old age, disease, accident, terrorism. And there are too many people. Fact. Sad fact.

  • jayoh

    Obviously the lives, dont know how that is even a question

  • jayoh

    would anyone on earth sacrifice their own life for some art? didnt think so

    • iad bungler

      Have you heard of Charlie Hebdo?
      Have you heard of Alan Berg?
      Have you heard of Theo Van Gogh (not Vincent)?

      There’s an endless list waiting for you if you look at WW2…

      • jayoh

        Then I stand correct, some people actually re that stupid.

      • NancyLeeWWW

        iad bungler, I feel like we’re drowning in ignorance here.

    • Adam

      Yes. Yes I would. If I thought it would do more good than bad, I can’t see a reason not to. Not being a self-centered egotist who fails to understand carrying out actions for the benefit of others does not make me “stupid”.

  • DrSuess

    Save the art…. if people are good at one thing…. It’s making more people.

    Next time I go to the Louvre, I tell you…. I’ll be looking over my shoulder!

  • To all of the people who would save the art: What if you were one of the 100 people in the Louvre that morning? What if your parents were there? What if your life partner was there? What if your child was there? Would you still save the art? Really?

    • iad bungler

      Gotta do what you gotta do…

    • jayoh

      Exactly, (almost) nobody would trade their one life for art, so how are people claiming that let 100 people die for the same thing? nonsense.

  • Dylan Thomas said, “After the first death, there is no other.” So let’s remove the numerical factor right off, unless you think people are fungible, which they obviously are not, and assume there’s one person in the Louvre who will have to die to save the art.

    We then have to decide if the value of a human life lies in what that human being can contribute to “society” or “future generations,” like any other material object (e.g., the art in the Louvre), or whether it has value in and of itself. IOW, is a human being a means to an end, or an end in herself? Obviously, if you come down on the side of the utilitarians (e.g., Peter Singer), the argument is over: you save the art, as it will contribute far more to those causes I mentioned.

    However, utilitarianism unflinchingly applied leads to decisions that most of us consider brutalizing (e.g., Singer’s famous declaration that a healthy chimp’s life is worth more than that of a profoundly retarded child). I say brutalizing because even if he’s “right” in some sense (whatever that means), the kind of civilization you end up with is one none of us would want to live in, a future limned by the fires of Auschwitz. And, I might add, a civilization whose inhabitants most likely would be incapable of truly “en-joying” the art in the Louvre!

    So, having set utilitarianism aside, now we’re weighing the value of a human life against the aesthetic experience of the millions of people who will see the art. Hmm, a human life against emotional experiences?

    Seems pretty clear to me.

    I would refer those who disagree to Ursula K. Le Guin’s dispositive short story on this question: “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas,” which can be found online here:

    • Adam

      “a future limned by the fires of Auschwitz” – Reducto ad Hitlerum is not a good basis for an argument and utilitarianism does not lead to Nazism. I would say that, for instance, the life of Albert Einstein was more valuable than the life of an ordinary, random person. Does that mean I’m going to exterminate those I deem to be less intelligent than Einstein, or would condone such a practice? No. Even if I did think that a chimp’s life is more valuable than a profoundly retarded child’s* (but I’d need some data before making such a controversial statement), that doesn’t mean I want to kill the child.

      I’m going to provide Google’s definition of utilitarianism before people start flinging it around as an insult: it is “the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority”. The alternative is this: actions are right if they benefit a minority / harm a majority. That’s an absurd idea. I can’t see why we shouldn’t “unflinchingly apply” this idea of utilitarianism; something being counter-intuitive or objective doesn’t make it bad.

      *Oh, the horror. You utilitarians care about non-human lives? I knew these people were all psychopaths.

  • George

    The number of people on here who value art more than people’s lives is absolutely astounding to me.
    On another note, best dinner table topic for a while.

  • Michael

    100% undoubtedly save the people. And I say this as an artist and an art-lover. Why? People have potential. Art in a museum is complete.

  • NancyLeeWWW
  • NancyLeeWWW

    “The Real Story Behind The ‘Monuments Men’…WWII” (http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/4660857)

  • NancyLeeWWW

    “How France Hid the Louvre’s Masterpieces During WWII” (http://twistedsifter.com/2013/05/louvre-and-mona-lisa-world-war-2/)

  • NancyLeeWWW

    “In ‘Saving Mes Aynak,’ a real-life Indiana Jones fights to protect Afghanistan’s Buddhist heritage” (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/saving-mes-aynak-real-life-indiana-jones-fights-protect-afghanistans-buddhist-heritage/)

    OK, I’m done. Just trying to erect a little buttress of information in defense of art.

  • CJ

    People generally don’t value random lives. Of course if the lives are someone they know, then obviously they would choose the lives, but if not, then it pretty much comes done to how much they like art.

    Random lives mean nothing to me or anyone. I could probably sell my boat/car/tv/rv/motorbike, etc. and use the money to “save lives” in Africa, but I don’t. Therefore I value material things more than human life. Anyone else on here that owns a boat/car/tv etc. can’t say any different.

    So no one gets to act disgusted that someone chose the art, unless they don’t have any material possessions, is basically what I’m saying.

    • tweinstre

      This is again the case of “we generally do that,so that is good”.
      Does the fact we have cars and boats means we should stop donating anything?
      Does the fact we aren’t perfect and are selfish by nature means we should stop even trying to follow ideals?

  • girly freak

    First the easy one with the Louvre: There’s really nothing to think about, we have the art – which we can still watch in copys in every art book around the world – and we have people who want to live and not to be killed. Of course I would destroy the art!!

    Much more difficult: If all the music of past century was at risk, I think this would make so much more lives “worthless” than the 1 million people on the other side. But still I am not sure. I would need the numbers to decide. 😛

    Sorry for maybe bad grammar, I am from Germany.

  • wobster109

    In the absence of other information, I’d save the people. If it turns out that the Louvre actually donates a great deal of its revenue to local hospitals, I would choose differently.

    Our medical advances are worth more than a million lives. Far more than a million people would die in the next hundred years if we were to lose all our medical knowledge. Depending on how long humans keep using cars, even basic car safety features might be worth a million lives.

  • CousinApril

    Save the people. I mean some of them might be shitty, but they’re people still. It’s not like we’re going to stop making art. The value of art is so subjective anyway, I mean, yes we’ll lose all these great works, but it’s at least somewhat arbitrary that they were considered great in the first place.

    It seems that what a lot of people here aren’t thinking about is that we’re losing works of art all the time. Either because some Nazis stole it and burried it somewhere, or something as seemingly innocuous as switching primary video formats from DVD to Netflix. There are some movies that always got taught as the greats in film classes that never got picked for a format change that everyone’s just kind of forgot about as a result. Likewise, there are hundred, perhaps thousands of pieces of art at the Louvre that are sitting in storage that might be great, but aren’t really doing anything.

    With that in mind, and even if that weren’t the case, save the people. Art is in inspiration, creativity, love and hate. It’s somewhat ambiguous. The line between living and vaporized is not that ambiguous.

  • laura

    So, there were roughly 9.26. million people who visited the
    Louvre last year (http://www.statista.com/statistics/247419/yearly-visitors-to-the-louvre-in-paris/),
    and the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays (http://www.louvre.fr/en/hours-admission)
    and, from what I can determine, three additional days per year, none of which
    fell on a Tuesday in 2014. So, the Louvre was closed 55 days last year. The 310
    days that it was open means that on average 29, 871 people visited the Louvre
    each day, which, well, is quite a lot. All this to say, I’d save the people.
    First, it’s a really dangerous precedent to set if we chose art; second, most of the art in the Louvre we have in digital format, and well, people > art; third,
    as my dear friend so wisely stated: “is art still art if there’s no one to look
    at it?” Alternate option: Can we just band together and defeat the sorcerer?

    • laura

      Also, I did this math because I was procrastinating on my actual work tasks …

      • Jordan Beagle

        Story of my life :/

  • Margling53

    Honestly, people. Hardly anyone reading this blog would mourn or even feel bad for an hour or two after reading that, say, 2,000 humans lost their lives in an earthquake in Nepal or even Texas. We see massive loss of life, even 9/11, Haiti, you name it, as tragic for a short time, but we go on reading the rest of the newspaper or watc

    • girly freak

      If people lose lives in an earthquake in Nepal or Texas…. it would not change their deaths if we suffer because of that…. sorrow does not help anyone!

      And remember that if YOU were one of those people in the Louvre you would not want the deciding person to pick the people to die.

      As already said we would just lose the original arts in the Louvre – not the art in total.

  • Jordan Beagle

    Now let’s say that you are one of the people that will die, does your answer change from save the art, to save the people, because “I’m not ready to die” Then you better do some (a lot of) soul-searching in your dark self-centered heart.

    • Clara

      My answer does change. I don’t know the answer for the original question. But if it were only me and no one else dying to save the art, the answer is a difficult yes.

  • Margling53

    To all those who put a personal spin on the question—i.e. “what if it were you?”— I have to say yes. In this question, dying to save art is analogous to dying to save one’s country, except that art and architecture are real and a country is a construct. I have to say that I would rather die to save the paintings and the sculpture and the castles and cathedrals and the Great Pyramids and the other art and artifacts that represent us than die in Vietnam to save an unwilling country from an invented Communist threat. Or die in Iraq for a cause that didn’t exist outside the minds of chickenhawks. But the latter reasons for dying are repeatedly called heroic and people are drafted to die for the “greater good” over and over again. When the reason for dying is to save art, the question becomes much easier for me to answer.

  • cotpoe

    It is dis-heartening to note that even this clear cut basic question of morality – life over material property requires a discussion. Life must take precedence unambiguously.

    Unless the question involves permanently vaporising all items of human ingenuinity – art, music, poetry, architecture etc. That is every copy – physical or digital of every item that is a product of sentient exploration and expression is destroyed along with all memory of any human creative work.

    If hypothetically we are left with a civilization with no proof or memory of our sentient ability to explore creatively our existence – then perhaps question of life vs human art requires thought since this would be wiping out a part of our collective soul of what it means to be human.

    HOWEVER if even just a hint of our creative possibility and potential remains – for example the natural creative potential of children – vivid imagination and ability to create then no art is worth even a single life.

    Art is lost all the time – through accident or deliberate act. The creative expressions – art in all its forms are intrinsically linked to what it means to be human and our liberty to explore and question our reality – greater and local. Any power seeking domination over masses will of course seek domination over art and history. Since Art and History are profoundly linked to human thought and the ultimate goal of Statecraft is control over thought.

    History is replete with destruction of culture and art of previous regimes. Plundering of Art, destruction of History and local Culture and complete retooling of education is always a part of arsenal. It has always been practiced – from religious wars to imperialistic plunders to even terrorist movements like the current loss of history in Iraq etc – a part of the very cradle of our civilization.

    Yet through the cycles of time, humanity moves on. As long as humans are free to think and express – art in some form will be produced – a fundamental fact of sentient expression – as evident from music instruments and cave art from even Stone Age cavemen. New forms are created and old forms rediscovered.

    What is “priceless” art is again a product of current trend in human history. It is funny that people seem to forget that ironically lot of the art was produced by artists who died in poverty. The financial worth and societal value of any art is dependent on the times. As civilization moves on – different art forms gain popularity and hence value while others are forgotten.

    And while some art attains historical status – as long as a “copy” of it- real or digital is preserved – its memory will not be forgotten.

    Yes, death is a part of the cycle. The other side of the coin. But to deliberately permit loss of 100 lives for the sake of art housed in 1 museum (the copies of it everywhere) is malicious. I am sure a lot of the artists would be horrified if such an event took place.

    It is a stain on the very concept of higher sentience spark – wonder,awe,love,beauty and life that creates art in the first place.

  • Mehmet

    “Save the people camp” are asking if your parents, or life partner or you were there, would you still save the art?

    But Tim raises the stakes with another question:
    “What, if any, fruits of our culture are worth more than even a
    million lives? For example, what if all the music or fiction of the past
    century was at risk?”

    So say the choices are: 100 million people vs All music and fiction in the past millenia.

    Let 100 million people die (including you and everyone you know),
    Or no music?

    Would you want to live in a world without music? Books? Art?
    Or would you say f… it let’s all die but preserve the essence of humanity for the next generations?

    I’m inclined to choose to save the people, just because of curiosity to see how people would adapt.
    bu then thinking you’ll never hear Mozart, Elvis, Beatles, Miley(!)…. I’m torn but people it is.

  • CanadienErrant

    “Of course save the people! “. Unfortunately from
    the example of Palmir, the Buddha statue, the cultural revolution etc…as mentioned
    earlier here it seems it is not people lives or art but yet people and art…Present
    and historic examples clearly show that who is bent and destroying art is
    actually bent and destroying also people physically and mentally… Born 15 km
    from the Louvre, whatever it contains might be precious but seriously how many
    pieces of the place are on your mind besides la Joconde/Monalisa, Venus de
    Milot and a few others… There are hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable art
    not on displayed and you never hear of that are there…

    We live very well without
    the arts, music of many antique civilisations already lost… It is likely that
    the emptiness the lost art will leave would be filled… and give an impulse
    maybe. You don’t miss what you don’t know

    What about how many people
    lost versus animal and vegetal species that took tens of millions of years to
    evolve and can never be replaced?

    Love arts, need arts but
    no piece of painting or painting will inspire as much as the laugh of a living

  • Kayla

    I am an artist, and I love art, especially surrealism. To visit the Louvre would be amazing. However, if all it’s paintings vaporized, it would not destroy our culture. We would mourn, and then a period of rebirth would follow. Then there would be a second Renaissance with new paintings to find beautiful. There is no use fearing for the classics, because they will still live forever in our minds and history books, as they were meant to.

    A person is different. Life is precious and fleeting. The minute that death becomes a statistic is the minute that life loses its meaning.

    Besides, any painting that indirectly vaporizes a human being is going to become a symbol of death. In this way, by changing the painting’s meaning, it is possible to truly destroy a classic.

    • Adam

      Yes, that last thought was something I was about to comment on. If you saved the art, but everyone heard what had happened, visiting the Louvre could become the equivalent of… well, visiting Auschwitz is a bit of an extreme example but it’s that kind of thing, with people visiting to remember and mourn the dead associated with the place, rather than to enjoy and appreciate art.

    • morphoj

      My sentiments exactly! Art is a representation of human emotions…humans are the original. We’re the ones who create it and appreciate it. It’s simple, take the example from the miniature to the extreme: if it were all the art and literature and film in history, would it be worth saving if it meant the destruction of the human race? Do we value art over humans or vice verca? Do we value SOME humans over SOME art? This question and one’s answer is very revealing of one’s “third face”

  • Margling53

    Okay, once more into the breach. This is a philosophical questions. It’s not a reality show in which you get to be the hero, standing up for 100 trembling, fearful people begging for their lives. They either go on living or they vaporize, without even a grease spot to show they were there. Statistically, it’s unlikely that all of them are even art lovers and a very high percentage probably fall into categories like spouse or child abuser, embezzler, murderer, warmonger, Republican—a lot of things we don’t like. So on a personal basis, how many of them would be worth saving? Statistically, how many of them could be your mother?

    Who knows. So let’s take the personal out of it. We only need to look at the philosophical question from the perspective of value and long term effects. Hundreds, thousands of people die every day and you can’t save them. They have to go because the earth can only sustain so many bodies and we are way over the limit already. So 100 people are just a drop in the proverbial bucket.

    But on the other hand, there is art. The art in The Louvre stands in philoshically for the art we have created thus far—the paintings, sculpture, architecture, cave drawings, literature. This art enriches the lives of everyone who can see it and appreciate it. It can’t just live in our hearts any more than the massive statues of The Buddha, deliberately destroyed by the Taliban, can live in our hearts. They are gone. Wouldn’t many of us have laid down our lives to prevent their destruction (metaphorical vaporization)?

    We live. We die. We leave behind cultural and artistic artifacts for our descendants to base their civilizations on. Millions of people were killed in WW I and WW 2, arguably to save a culture for future generations. The more good and beautiful art we can leave behind, the less likely the potential for destruction of everything we have created by the evil sorcerers who will keep coming if we let them. Art and culture just can’t keep being destroyed and reconstituted. Some sacrifice of people sometimes becomes necessary to achieve a civilization in which art and literature are valued more than accumulation of power or even individuals. Life is indeed fleeting unless we use it for the greater good. And the greater good cannot be simply survival. Paying a ransom represented by a vast accumulation of art for the lives of 100 assorted people, who will eventually die anyway, does nothing to advance the achievement of a civilization which values art and the people who made it or the people who protected it.

    • Vivid

      You say this like the physical form of a work of art is eternal. It is not. Art is created, art is destroyed, new art is created.

      But aside from that, the abstract idea behind your words is this: it is okay to murder people for a good cause.
      I disagree strongly with that sentiment.
      Even more disturbing is the thought that a single person should be the arbiter of what is good or not.

      If art has influenced your thinking this way, I am now scared of this art.

      • Adam

        “Even more disturbing is the thought that a single person should be the arbiter of what is good or not.” – In this scenario, a single person has to be the arbiter. It’s not that they want to be: I’m (almost) certain every single person who has posted would say they would prefer both the art and the humans to be saved if at all possible. But that option isn’t there.

        So you have to make a choice. Even the choice someone made of letting both the art and the people be destroyed was still a choice. You *have* to be the arbiter of what is good (or more aptly, what is better). Sure, it might be a disturbing sentiment, but it’s one the sorcerer has imposed on you and not something exclusively defining the “save the art” camp. There’s no “let’s have a referendum on this issue” option the sorcerer is offering.

        You’re entitled to your disagreement with the abstract idea “it is okay to murder people for good causes”, but I personally disagree with your disagreement. And I’m going to have a hard time convincing you of such a big, fundamental concept over the internet. I will try and justify my viewpoint, though, and I’ll do that with some examples: the right to vote; gender equality; freedom from slavery. These are just a couple of the numerous abstract concepts I would be willing to kill — and/or to die — for.

        • Vivid

          You are right, in the scenario the choice is forced upon a single person. So that point is moot.

          Let me ask you: where do you draw the line? Would you say that gender equality has been achieved in your area? Your answer might be: not quite. But despite of this, I assume you haven’t killed anyone lately to improve the situation. Something must be holding you back.

          • Adam

            My answer would be “not quite” and I haven’t killed anyone for any reason. Perhaps it’s lack of a definite target – in the recent “You get to kill 1 person” dinner table, everyone was conflicted over who to choose. What’s the point in killing the leader of ISIS if they’d just appoint another? I can’t think of someone I could kill where I could definitely say “gender equality would be significantly improved if this person was does”.

            Or maybe it’s other views I hold: I believe that there are very few occasions where it is justifiable to break the law. The law may not be perfect but we’re better off with it and without it and that, to me, means accepting things you don’t agree with (e.g. lack of death penalty) in return for all the laws that are unequivocally right to be enforced (e.g. murder without trial / murdering innocent people / serial killing should be illegal).

            • Vivid

              Yes, the pervasiveness of many issues makes it hard to fight them.

              In my opinion, “killing with good intentions” has been used to justify so many wrong actions. For example spreading religion. I can understand where they are coming from. They have a chance to save people from damnation. They feel morally obliged to do whatever is necessary, even kill. In their mind, the issue of eternal salvation/damnation is much more pressing than “minor inconveniences” affecting the temporary life on earth (e.g. voting, equality, slavery). But to me it is still wrong. Therefore: don’t kill.

              You mentioned the “You get to kill 1 person” discussion. I have to say I was truly and utterly horrified by the amount of people casually chatting about whom to kill as if choosing an ice-cream flavor. It made me stay away from this site for a while.

    • bluebook

      Question 1: So the world population is 1,000,000. The ability to achieve immortality comes at the cost of horrendous but brilliant scientific experiments that result in the deaths of 499,999 lives. The majority are saved from any pain, and now society in its remaining entirety is preserved forever. Is this not an implication of your greater good?

      Question 2: As this is a philosophical question, what would your choice be if the 100 people were specifically the greatest artists/scientists of the future?

      • Cankrist

        Question 1: Here’s what you do. Take a poll of every single person in existence, asking if they want to go forward with this plan- with one catch: They won’t know who dies and who stays. If a majority votes to go forward, knowing they could die, then proceed with the experiment. If not, don’t.

        Question 2: It doesn’t matter who they are. Human lives take precedant.

    • Cankrist

      For the benefit of everyone here, I’m going to deconstruct this callous disrespect for human worth for all to see.

      “So on a personal basis, how many of them would be worth saving? Statistically, how many of them could be your mother? Who knows?”

      The question here is about human lives. Anyone who would save the lives would agree that lives are valuable in of themselves. Therefore, this line of questioning is pointless.

      “Hundreds, thousands of people die every day and you can’t save them.”

      But in this scenario, a hundred more will die, and we CAN save them. I fail to see how the fact that we can’t save everyone else is relevant. If human lives are valuable, one less drop in the Bucket of Death is one less drop of a poisonous scourge of death on the face of the Earth.

      “But on the other hand, there is art. The art in The Louvre stands in
      philosophically for all the art we have created thus far—the
      paintings, sculpture, architecture, cave drawings, literature. This art
      enriches the lives of everyone who can see it and appreciate it.”

      Anybody who ties value to enriching lives must concede that lives are of infinite importance. If those hundred people die, I wonder, how many other pieces of art will they be deprived of seeing? How many experiences, sensations, and wonders will they miss out on, because you’d rather save some ink on a paper?

      For that matter, how many potential artists have you killed? Scientists? Mothers, fathers? Like you said, you don’t know. To base things on long-term value when you don’t know the consequences is a fools endeavor. Let’s move on.

      ” It can’t just live in our hearts any more than the massive statues of
      The Buddha, deliberately destroyed by the Taliban, can live in our
      hearts. They are gone. Wouldn’t many of us have laid down our lives to
      prevent their destruction ”

      First off, the entire POINT of Buddhism is removal from material things, so I think the Buddhists will be just fine.

      Second, the “they are gone” argument works just as well for human lives. No human being can just live in our hearts. They are gone. Never more will that person be able to experience the ups and downs of life. As for art? It can’t experience anyway. It exists for a higher purpose – a human purpose.

      Third, and I cannot stress this enough, just because some people are willing to die for a cause does not mean that all of them are. The question was not “Would you rather kill yourself or see this art die”, it was about the choice to kill a hundred people. Let us not forget this.

      “We live. We die. We leave behind cultural and artistic artifacts for our
      descendants to base their civilizations on. Millions of people were
      killed in WW I and WW 2, arguably to save a culture for future

      Actually, I’m pretty sure WWI was cause by an assassination attempt (http://www.historyonthenet.com/WW1/causes.htm), and WWII by an aggressive Fascist state hell-bent on world domination.

      Furthermore, as I’ll point out again, this was THEIR CHOICE. They gave up their lives for country, or culture, or freedom, by consent. They were not killed. A more accurate comparison to the question above would be Jews in the Holocaust, who were held against their will for national and cultural purity.

      “Some sacrifice of people sometimes becomes necessary to achieve a
      civilization in which art and literature are valued more than
      accumulation of power or even individuals.”

      Accumulation of power is an irrelevant red herring and should therefore be dismissed on face.

      Also, I’m going to take a page out Marglings book and point out that one museum is only a “drop in the proverbial bucket”, but in a much more literal sense, because every picture in the museum is digitized. Lives, however, cannot be replicated so easily. Art and literature can be copied. A human life- the sum of their total experiences and contribution to others- cannot.

      ” Life is indeed fleeting unless we use it for the greater good.”

      What is good? What makes it greater? These are important questions left unanswered.

      If we are to assume that good things “enrich lives”, it becomes obvious that a piece of paper does a lot less to enrich lives than the person who made it possible, or even a random mailman, or a father, husband, wife, etc.

      Just what is the point of the greater good if we have to start killing each other to achieve it? It would seem that there is none.

      “Paying a ransom represented by a vast accumulation of art for the lives
      of 100 assorted people, who will eventually die anyway, does nothing to
      advance the achievement of a civilization which values art and the
      people who made it or the people who protected it.”

      The art will eventually deteriorate. The Earth will eventually be swallowed by the sun. Does this mean we should hasten the process? Hell no!


      Art is valuable, but humans who create it are more valuable, and a few minutes in front of an artpiece is nothing compared to the total Joy lost when a human life is cut short. Human lives take precedent.

  • mlhoheisel

    This is easy. The physical originals of the art are pretty valueless in any terms but market terms. The entire collection of any major museum is digitized and preserved. Unlike say in situ archeological artifacts that carry quite a bit of potential information, old artifacts in the Louve are isolated and removed from context.

    There is nothing in the Louvre worth a single human life. This is related to the question of why art objects with the provenance to prove they are originals are worth a lot of money but fakes with the same information content are not.

    • Margling53

      Have you ever seen the originals of, for example, Renoir’s “The Boating Party” or Picasso’s “La Vie”? Digitized? Please. Not even the best reproductions can possibly convey the beauty and importance of great art. The tragedy to me is that so much of it is privately and selfishly owned. But many of the greatest pieces are in museums or public galleries or in traveling exhibitions available to all of us Sit for an hour or so in front of “Boating Party” at The Phillips in D.C. and see how you feel about original art.

      • mm

        among this 100 people might be one greater than picasso & company, also many others more-valueable for society than artists, you cannot judge, and yeap, basically no piece of art is worth human life, unless it can save others

  • Margling53

    If art, that is, whatever beauty and thought people have created and left behind for other people—if art is not eternal, nothing is. I made a mistake by implying anything at all about the individual people in this philosophical exercise. The “people” are abstractions or metaphors, as is the sorcerer. The art is symbolic. If we start mourning individuals, we lose sight of the question, which is whether we are justified in sacrificing some of the population if the alternative is the permanent loss of great art and literature.

    People are, indeed, important. Our lovers and mothers and friends, etc. we love them and cherish them during the brief time we and they are alive. If we outlive them, we mourn them. If they outlive us, perhaps they mourn us. Maybe we still have photos or letters. But these are personal items and have no effect outside our personal relationships.

    People named Walt Whitman, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso, Jean Ingres, Frank O’Hara, Auguste Renoir, Jane Austen, Allen Ginsberg, Lao tse, Emily Dickinson, lived at different times in different parts of the world. They’re all dead. But while they were here, they each created something lasting. We can read what they wrote. We can see what they created. Had they not left us those creations, they would just be forgotten by all except for a short time by their families. I know that I am going to be a forgotten name, but while I was here, I could be thrilled and renewed by the art that was left to me and the rest of the world, past, present, and future by these people. We have to leave something in order to have been something. If our talents aren’t such that we can leave works of great art behind, we can at least agree that the value of that great art is worth some sacrifice to preserve and protect it.

  • Brian

    Save the art of course! I’m shocked at all the responses that say otherwise. You could sell the art for AT LEAST $10 billion. Invest that money in vaccines or surgery in third world countries and you could save orders of magnitude more than 100 people. If you choose the lives then the Louvre should sell all its art right now and invest in helping people.

    • girly freak

      Nice thought but you did not notice that the art won’t ever be sold to do good things to people. It will just stay in that museum.

  • Gwendolyn

    The art. The value of all the art in the Louvre is estimated at between $35 and $100 billion. If we save the humans, 100 lives are saved. If we sell 1% of the Louvre, then we can easily save far more than 100 lives, by investing in things like vaccines, mosquito nets, etc.

    I’ve read that various risk analysis studies place the value of a human at slightly less than $10 million. If that were the case, then the value of those 100 people is around $1 billion, which is between 1% and 3% of the value of the art in the Louvre. Of course, valuing a human life like might be meaningless, but it is used in relatively similar situations by experts, and so is probably worthwhile to look at.

    • steve ohhh

      I like this idea–selling the works of the Louvre would generate enough income to save millions of lives (never mind their “value”–I’m talking about costs to prevent deaths).

    • Cankrist

      This rationalization looks nice, but actually has an underlying flaw. You see, the gargantuan monetary value of art is a subjective measurement – which is to say, it’s only based on what a given person is willing to pay.

      All that these numbers really prove is that, by and large, people are willing to put more money into art than they are into saving human lives.

      Yeah. Scary.

      But that’s not all. If we’re going to value art based on the amount of money we could get from selling it, doesn’t it stand to reason that you’d have to sell the art piece to make your decision moral?

      With this particular condition comes issues. First of all, the entire point of museums is the idea that art is priceless- sure, some people might be willing to name a figure, but there’s something sacred about this monument to human culture that requires protecting. Just like human lives, no?

      For the sake of argument, though, we can throw the art-is-priceless idea out the window. Problem is, the museum doesn’t agree. If the piece were up for sale, wouldn’t they have done it already?

      So in order to carry out your utilitarian plan, you’d have to commit an act of thievery and sell the art on the black market, where it will most likely go into some collectors vault and disappear from the public eye forever.

      And now a hundred people’s lives are on your conscience. Congratulations. You may as well have not made a choice at all.

  • Jerry Bradbury

    No contest. Ars longa, vita brevis – wisdom from the Greek physician Hippocrates 4th Century BC (the guy from the Hippocratic Oath, not the guy who makes hypocrites.)

  • girly freak

    Hope you’re vegan, Adam. 😉

  • Skuser

    We should be extremely careful discussing this. Once the terrorists hear many people would save the art, they will try to blow up art instead of people.

  • Armaan Bhatnagar

    The people. The art can always be cherished through images and renditions, but the people can never be recreated. Anyway, have you ever walked around a museum and got a chance to personally experience the art that is there. No body gets to admire it from close, it’s just on display to be admired from a distance. True, it does have value but not as much as people. If you had a chance to bring back some of the finest leaders in history or the greatest minds, like Einstein you would pick that over a lost Mona Lisa. I think I would, because it’s people who contribute to the world, And logically, that’s what matters.

  • Ed Pennington-Ridge

    Each person in the museum is the miraculous physical embodiment of the entire history of life on earth. In a very real sense, the art is already a permanent part of their DNA. Even if the Louvre was strangely empty, containing only my worst enemy (the fucker) I would still choose him (grudgingly) over the entire contents, though a side deal with the sorcerer, enabling something heavy to fall on his foot during his escape, would be nice.

  • Scott Russo

    First off, I was stunned that so many people were stunned that many people would save the people rather than the artwork. At first reading these comments I was like “How the hell can they not mind that they just caused the death of 100 people?” But then I realized thats exactly what they were thinking when the posted those comments. Just wanted to get that out of the way, my answer is that I would

  • Lightforge

    Well, our emotions are wired this way, assuming normalish human development. When a person’s death is on the news, you don’t break down in tears (hopefully, or you will always, always be a sobbing mess) the way you would for a loved one (hopefully, or you aren’t recognizing the personal loss, which implies to others you don’t truly value your relationships the way they do). Sure, “the bell tolls for thee,” but that doesn’t mean that close losses aren’t more significant for you in terms of emotions and therefore actions (hopefully, or you’re going to have some emotional difficulties throughout life). If you truly wouldn’t favor loved ones over strangers, then your behaviors are going to be bizarre, to the point that we’ve probably already heard of you on the news somewhere unless you’re mostly apathetic about others (compared to average). That emotional apathy with logical, global-level-values concern might be the best explanation here, though.

  • Luisa

    My question is: why are there only 100 people in the louvre? have you seen the size of that thing???
    I bet that, at any given minute, there are 100 crammed in front of the monalisa alone.

    The louvre receives about 10 million visitors each year, and is open for approximately 3,000 hours, so it averages 3,333 visitors per hour.
    I wonder if the people that chose the art, would choose it over 3 thousand people that are there in one hour. Or the 30 thousand that visit in one day. Or the 10 million…

    I choose even a single human life, over all the art in the world.

    • steve ohhh

      I agree. One life over all the art in the world.

      • Cankrist

        Because it takes only one person to create art again.

  • Ali

    Let’s give names to these 100 people. Here is Jacques, he was 7 and wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. Here is Eduard, 14, he was a lonely, serious teenager good at math and poor at sports. Here is Alexander, 20, he had been saving money for this interrail trip for two years. Here is Sonia, 26, she was an arts teacher at a middle school. Here is Clara (28) and Tim (29), they were on their honeymoon. Here is Piotr, 34, father of two, he was a security guard at the museum. Here is Elena, 49, she had gone to her first vacation for 12 years after she got divorced when her husband cheated on her one times too many. Here is Agnes, 74, she was visiting her grandchildren after she lost her husband to a long battle with cancer.

    So you make your choice and sacrifice these people to save the art. Everyone is heart broken about the tragedy but no one knows that you had a choice, so no one praises you, no one blames you. 6 months pass. Nothing happens. The galaxies, martians, mountains, cats, bacteria, subatomic particles; except for your own species, nothing in the universe gives a damn neither to human life nor to human art. There is a new exhibition with your favorite artists at Louvre next week. Will you go? I hope you’ll enjoy your visit, but I think that’s not likely.

  • Jerry Bradbury

    Ars longa, vita brevis. It is art that sets us apart from the beasts.

  • Cankrist

    Human lives take precedent. Why do we value art? Because a talented human created it. Killing a 100 people, some of whom may have amazing artistic talent, in order to save a piece that probably has thousands of replicas, is not only illogical; it’s downright morally degenerate.

  • Cacho

    Any official or leader today if faced with that decision would obviously save lives over art. But I think the question could be stipulated better: all the art would be vaporized from existence in all forms; all reproductions, even our memories… know one will ever know it existed, it would be wiped from the human record. With that stipulation I would still choose lives over art.

    If you throw in all the music and fiction from the past century being vaporized as well, it’d create an opportunity for artists to make new art which they might not have done otherwise because it had already been done before. Think of how awesome it would be for electronic dance music to suddenly vanish from existence and relive the resurgence of rock. I guess the problem with that is today’s musicians would likely get straight back into the similar genres they previously played based on their musical equipment, assuming music software like Abelton Live and it’s sample libraries weren’t vaporized from the record. But those are just tools, so the possibilities for different genres are still vast. If there was this “art reset” where the most recent record of music was from 1900, then a lot of the new music initially coming out might sound like classical or ragtime.

  • Katie Duval

    As Tim detailed in his post 7.3 Billion People, One Building there is a shit load of people out there. And they’re all going to die sooner or later. I don’t know if all the art in the Louvre is worth 100 lives but I do think that we value human life too highly. Sure we’re all beautiful and unique snowflakes but would the discussion be similar if it was animals? Sorcerer is going to kill 100 kittens! Or all the art or 100 amur leopards or javan rhinoceros (two very endangered species)? Just a thought…

    • I’d save the art over the humans, but DEFINITELY save the kittens over the art. Kittens are too precious. I’d probably save the leopards/rhinos too, if those were the options. non-human things tend to be more worth saving than human things, in my mind…except bugs. and spiders. Those can die.

  • Apple Bloople

    I’m just here to say that there are thousands of artists alive today who are just as good, if not better, than the old masters. And the Mona Lisa is the most overrated piece of art ever.

  • Abak

    Have been to the louvre, definitely the art. Save the art.

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