11
   

The ethics of killing the dead

 
 
chai2
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 01:53 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:

I know you didn't ask me, but one possibility is that it can cause observers to suffer.


or people associated with these 2 people.

or the people who hear about it on the news.

someone on the edge could learn about this, and that could cause them to commit suicide.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 01:57 pm
@chai2,
Yeah, the extended observers (not necessarily in the immediate vicinity).
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:11 pm
@Huxley,
Huxley wrote:

joefromchicago wrote:

Well, that may very well be true, but if it's his morality, why doesn't he get to create an exception for himself on this one occasion?


Again, under the pretense that he is a pacifist, it violates the virtue he set out for himself.

Let me see if I have this straight. If Mr. B. is a pacifist, and shooting Mr. G. would violate his own morality, you contend that he would act immorally by shooting Mr. G. And he couldn't create an exception in this instance, because that would violate his morality too. The question, then, is why can't he create an exception to that rule? I suppose you'd answer that he'd be violating his morality by doing that, and he couldn't create an exception to that rule because he'd be violating his morality, and so on ad infinitum. Is that about right?

Huxley wrote:
As it is his morality, it is also his body, etc. etc. Things that are ours are not necessarily changed by our whim. People can change, but not a whim. It takes time. If Mr. B (what an unfortunate name for a pacifist Wink) has been acting in such a way that a pacifist acts, then he is a pacifist at the time of this action.

Well, I think his actions belie the notion that he could have ever been a pacifist, but I understand your general point. Would you, then, contend that consistency is always a virtue, or, more accurately, that virtues should always be consistent? In other words, in a system of virtue ethics, is it always true that someone is morally constrained to hold consistent virtues, or are those virtues allowed to shift over time?

Huxley wrote:
Also, I realize that this process could be used to answer ANY ethical question, and so it seems a little cheap. I stepped back to this level of analysis because of how unusual the situation is: If they have agreements with each other, if they choose to act in certain ways, etc., seems more relevant to me than the fact that Mr. G is likely to die anyways -- rather, Mr. G is likely to die anyways, so consequentialism has less sway on my judgment than normal. I then think that the important thing is: What is Mr. B's motivation, and what is the relationship/social agreement between the two?

What if they don't have any agreement at all?
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:08 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

Let me see if I have this straight. If Mr. B. is a pacifist, and shooting Mr. G. would violate his own morality, you contend that he would act immorally by shooting Mr. G.


This is my position, yes.

Quote:
And he couldn't create an exception in this instance, because that would violate his morality too. The question, then, is why can't he create an exception to that rule? I suppose you'd answer that he'd be violating his morality by doing that, and he couldn't create an exception to that rule because he'd be violating his morality, and so on ad infinitum. Is that about right?


I think this is where the disconnect is occurring -- if he's a committed pacifist, he'd actually be contradicting himself by saying "It's acceptable to kill Mr. G"

Supposing he found a middle-way, at least with the way you presented it, it seemed that you were indicating that Mr. B was deciding, at the instant of shooting, his pacifism no longer applied -- then I would say "No, he actually lacks the ability to do that. He's already a committed pacifist, and changing our moral code takes more time than that"

I suppose if he set out for himself a kind of pacifism that was consistent with the shooting of Mr. G ahead of time, then I would state that his shooting was fine. Though I'm not quite sure how that would work, to be honest. It doesn't seem to mesh very well with pacifism to allow oneself one kill.

Quote:

Well, I think his actions belie the notion that he could have ever been a pacifist, but I understand your general point. Would you, then, contend that consistency is always a virtue, or, more accurately, that virtues should always be consistent? In other words, in a system of virtue ethics, is it always true that someone is morally constrained to hold consistent virtues, or are those virtues allowed to shift over time?


Yes, they should be. Not necessarily over all time, as change is necessary for adapting to new environments -- but at a given time, yes, virtues should be consistent with one another. I generally take non-contradiction as a step-1 to evaluating any proposition. Ideally, if you can formulate virtues that are not time-dependent, then you'd have a moral code that's pretty resilient, but I don't think it necessary.


Quote:

What if they don't have any agreement at all?


Then I would ask -- how does Mr. B value his revenge with respect to his other values? If he is a committed pacifist, then I'd say he acted immorally.

If he had previously set himself out to be the type of person that takes revenge by killing his enemies, then in the case that his enemy is more than likely to die by suicide, whereby his commitment to killing won't likely have the consequence of actually affecting whether or not Mr. G dies, then I'd say what he did was morally permissible.
0 Replies
 
deepthot
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:29 pm
@dlowan,
Thank you, dlowan.

You said everything I was going to say, and said it better.

I am proud of you.

I predict you are going to be a success in life. You have all the makings of a superior student. I hope and trust you become an Ethicist. The discipline of Ethics needs more people like you, for you can think clearly, reasonably, and soundly.
0 Replies
 
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:21 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:
Now, was Mr. Bullseye wrong to shoot Mr. Gravity?

Of the 1.2 million people who died in the Auschwitz gas chambers, surely some of them would have died of natural causes before the end of the war under any circumstances.

So should the Nazis be held morally wrong only for the ones who wouldn't have died?
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 11:33 pm
@Aedes,
The factual premise of your question is false. Granted, it's probably true that some Auschwitz inmates were killed "only" weeks before they would have died of natural causes or Allied bombs. But even so, a week of life is much longer than the seconds joefromchicago is talking about in his hypothetical""enough so to make the two scenarios incomparable. Plus, it's life that the inmates were valuing, as judged by their choice not to go to Auschwitz voluntarily. Mr. Gravity's life, by contrast, is worthless to him, as judged by his decision to jump. That's a second dimension in which the two cases are incomparable.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 11:14 am
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

even so, a week of life is much longer than the seconds joefromchicago is talking about in his hypothetical""enough so to make the two scenarios incomparable. Plus, it's life that the inmates were valuing, as judged by their choice not to go to Auschwitz voluntarily. Mr. Gravity's life, by contrast, is worthless to him, as judged by his decision to jump. That's a second dimension in which the two cases are incomparable.

The only way in which they're TRULY incomparable is that one is an event en masse, while the other is solitary.

Beyond that, it's totally arbitrary to pick a proximity to death beyond which it's no longer morally wrong to murder.
Huxley
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 12:34 pm
@Aedes,
I disagree. Proxemics are important. It's much easier to calculate immediate effects, for starters, so the degree of certainty of an event is greater. If you accept that the degree of certainty that Mr. G is going to die is relevant to Mr. B's action, then you're already operating under a proximal model.

Suppose this: Our position in the United States currently is predicated on the convenient attempted genocide of Native Americans. If proxemics have NO bearing, then we are endorsing genocide by not giving the lands back. Personally, while I think we should act to try and repair what has been done, I don't think we need to move to Europe in order to do that.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 01:14 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
The only way in which they're TRULY incomparable is that one is an event en masse, while the other is solitary.

Although I disagree it's the only important difference, you're right it's the crucial one, and I didn't mention it. Thanks for the correction.

Aedes wrote:
Beyond that, it's totally arbitrary to pick a proximity to death beyond which it's no longer morally wrong to murder.

I disagree. It's not arbitrary to say that the value of life depends on the amount of life being valued. In joefromchicago's scenario, that amount is zero; in yours, it's nonzero. That's not an arbitrary distinction.
Aedes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 07:32 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:

Aedes wrote:
The only way in which they're TRULY incomparable is that one is an event en masse, while the other is solitary.

Although I disagree it's the only important difference, you're right it's the crucial one, and I didn't mention it. Thanks for the correction.

I didn't say it's the only important difference. It's just the only difference that makes the two situations truly incomparable.

Thomas wrote:
In joefromchicago's scenario, that amount is zero; in yours, it's nonzero. That's not an arbitrary distinction.

But in mine we're looking at the totality of an undertaking, i.e. genocide, that was implemented over several years. If we are to judge the genocide overall, then you can't pick and choose single instants of killing -- you need to choose the overall span, which is a lot longer than the single instant in the original scenario.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 09:04 pm
@Thomas,
Thomas wrote:
It's not arbitrary to say that the value of life depends on the amount of life being valued. In joefromchicago's scenario, that amount is zero;

First, in Joe's scenario, the "amount of life" is still non-zero. It might be very short, but it is non-zero.

Second, it is arbitrary to say that the value of life depends on the amount of life, since it means I could then arbitrarily end your life, and automatically your amount of life is zero.




Since we cannot know the future, we cannot value a life on its "amount of life" or its "potential amount of life". Should we have reduced sentences for people who kill centenarians, since the centenarians have a shorter potential life ahead of them?
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 10:45 pm
@DrewDad,
DrewDad wrote:
Second, it is arbitrary to say that the value of life depends on the amount of life, since it means I could then arbitrarily end your life, and automatically your amount of life is zero.

I misphrased. What I meant to say was, "it is not arbitrary to say that the value of a life taken depends on the amount of life being taken." So what I meant to say (as opposed to what I said) is not susceptible to this argument.

DrewDad wrote:
Should we have reduced sentences for people who kill centenarians, since the centenarians have a shorter potential life ahead of them?

I'm not saying that we should. But I'm saying it wouldn't be arbitrary to say that we should.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 13 Jun, 2010 08:39 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:

joefromchicago wrote:
Now, was Mr. Bullseye wrong to shoot Mr. Gravity?

Of the 1.2 million people who died in the Auschwitz gas chambers, surely some of them would have died of natural causes before the end of the war under any circumstances.

So should the Nazis be held morally wrong only for the ones who wouldn't have died?

You tell me.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  0  
Reply Sun 20 Jun, 2010 06:32 am
@username,
Are you the same poster who called himself "fakename" on abuzz?
0 Replies
 
stevecook172001
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 06:22 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

Let us suppose that Mr. Bullseye is the sworn enemy of Mr. Gravity. Indeed, their enmity is so bitter and ineradicable that one day Mr. Bullseye determines to go to the penthouse home of Mr. Gravity and shoot him dead. On his way to this grim assignment, Mr. Bullseye (who has excellent vision) notes that Mr. Gravity is standing on a window ledge 100 stories above the ground. Mr. Gravity then jumps. He is, without a doubt, going to be killed -- there is no earthly chance that he might survive such a fall. Given that Mr. Gravity is, for all intents and purposes, a dead man, the quick-thinking Mr. Bullseye, not one to be so easily thwarted by fate, decides to fulfill his life's ambition and shoot Mr. Gravity. He takes aim and fires, and Mr. Gravity is shot dead just as he passes the 40th floor. His lifeless body then plummets the remaining distance and splatters upon the sidewalk below.

Now, was Mr. Bullseye wrong to shoot Mr. Gravity?

If one's moral compass is based on the consequences of actions, then the answer is no.

If one's moral compass is based on the intentions of actors, then the answer is yes.

My moral compass is based on the latter.

2 short stories to illustrate the above....

story 1

Harry asks his mother for some candy from the top shelf of the larder
she tells him that he has already had some candy today and that he is not allowed any more
He ignores her instruction and sneaks into the larder. He climbs up on a chair to reach the candy and, in doing so, knocks over and breaks a single glass.

story 1

Harry asks his mother for some candy from the top shelf of the larder
she tells him that he has already had some candy today and that he is not allowed any more
He ignores her instruction and sneaks into the larder. He climbs up on a chair to reach the candy and, in doing so, knocks over and breaks a single glass.

story 1

Harry asks his mother for some candy from the top shelf of the larder
she tells him that he has already had some candy today and that he is not allowed any more
He ignores her instruction and sneaks into the larder. He climbs up on a chair to reach the candy and, in doing so, knocks over and breaks a single glass.

story 2

Jimmy asks his mother for some candy from the top shelf of the larder
She tells him that he can as he has not already had some candy today.
He follows her instruction and goes to the larder. He climbs up on a chair to reach the candy and, in doing so, knocks over and breaks five glasses.

Who is the most naughty of the two children and why?





joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 08:25 am
@stevecook172001,
stevecook172001 wrote:
Who is the most naughty of the two children and why?

I would say that Harry is the more naughty of the two -- so naughty, in fact, that you seem to have felt the need to repeat his precautionary tale three times. But then I'm not a consequentialist.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure if there's a good analogy here. Remember, Mr. Gravity jumped off the building. He intended to kill himself. The fact that Mr. Bullseye killed him a few seconds before impact would presumably not have diminished Mr. Gravity's enjoyment of life by any significant amount, since he had already demonstrated his desire to die.
stevecook172001
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 04:57 pm
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

stevecook172001 wrote:
Who is the most naughty of the two children and why?

I would say that Harry is the more naughty of the two -- so naughty, in fact, that you seem to have felt the need to repeat his precautionary tale three times. But then I'm not a consequentialist.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure if there's a good analogy here. Remember, Mr. Gravity jumped off the building. He intended to kill himself. The fact that Mr. Bullseye killed him a few seconds before impact would presumably not have diminished Mr. Gravity's enjoyment of life by any significant amount, since he had already demonstrated his desire to die.

I'm afraid the repeated text was a glitch with the pasting function. No deep psychological or philisophical significance I can assure you.

I find it odd if you think Harry was most naughty. Not because I disagree. Quite the opposite. Harry was indeed the naughtiest because his intentions were bad. It is the fact that you think this and yet have not applied the same moral reasoning to the case of the falling man.

You will typically find children below the age of seven will reliably report Jimmy as being more naughty because they are stuck in what is termed "concrete operational" morality whereby they can only judge the morality of actions by the explicit material consequences of those actions. However, post 7 years old, a child has sufficiently cognitively developed to achieve a level of moral abstraction whereby they judge the action, not by its consequences, but by whether the intention of the actor was good or bad.

Given all of the above, it one applies the same moral reasoning to the case of the falling man, it is of no moral relevance what the outcome of the shooting is. The fact that the man was going to die anyway from the fall in no way ameliorates the bad intention of the actor, in this case the person doing the shooting.

His intention was to do harm. Just like Harry.
Eva
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 05:23 pm
Oh geez. Isn't Mr. Gravity dead YET???

<pulls out revolver, shoots thread>
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jun, 2010 10:02 pm
@stevecook172001,
stevecook172001 wrote:
I find it odd if you think Harry was most naughty. Not because I disagree. Quite the opposite. Harry was indeed the naughtiest because his intentions were bad. It is the fact that you think this and yet have not applied the same moral reasoning to the case of the falling man.

I don't know how you can say that. I haven't made any moral judgments in this case. As the originator of this thread, I view my role more as a facilitator of the discussion than as moral arbiter.

stevecook172001 wrote:
Given all of the above, it one applies the same moral reasoning to the case of the falling man, it is of no moral relevance what the outcome of the shooting is. The fact that the man was going to die anyway from the fall in no way ameliorates the bad intention of the actor, in this case the person doing the shooting.

His intention was to do harm. Just like Harry.

No, in your example Harry was negligent. There's nothing in the hypothetical to suggest that he intended to do harm, which makes it inapt, since Mr. Bullseye most assuredly intended to do harm.

Suppose, instead, that Harry's mother was throwing glasses out the window. Harry grabs a glass out of her hand just as she is about to toss it, and throws it out of the window himself. Harry's mother is displeased because Harry broke a perfectly good glass. Is Harry's mother justified in her displeasure?
 

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