2
   

War vs. Murder

 
 
Reply Tue 19 May, 2009 05:34 pm
I've recently been reading quite a bit about various murder cases and some psychology articles about certain serial killers. Given that some of these killers have reasons other than sadism for committing their murders, I've began to wonder why they're punished and soldiers aren't.

Wars are usually fought for political or religious reasons, and yet when a serial killer kills a particular type of victim he often gets a harsher punishment than if he killed randomly. He certainly isn't excused for the murder(s) once he gives a reason.

On the other hand, we excuse killing and on occasion having innocent casualties as a result of bombings and such events, as long as these criminal actions are done by a country and for a well defined reason.

Why does this huge difference exist between killing as one man presumably in his own country, versus killing in a large gang of men in uniform overseas? Both entities can usually present "good" reasons for doing so and yet we treat them in essentially opposite ways.

I don't intend for my last comments to start a debate on the specifics of each newsworthy event, but here is an example:

Loosely speaking, the war in Iraq started because the American government didn't approve of Iraq supposedly holding weapons of mass destruction, and we also wanted to introduce democracy. Generally, we can define these as political reasons, relating to the promotion of safety and the preservation of rights.

In 1995, a Ryder truck exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killing 168. Timothy McVeigh orchestrated this bombing because of worries that the United States might soon take away our 2nd amendment right to bear arms. This is also a political reason.

In both of these instances of killing, lives are taken for political reasons, and in each there are certainly a number of civilian casualties, what McVeigh called "collateral damage." Not the intent of either the War in Iraq or the Oklahoma City Bombing, but rather a side effect in an attempt of each party to prove a point.

So why does war bring home heroes and yet mass murder often condemns one to death even when both happen for political purposes?

The last thing I can think of is that the 168 deaths in the OKC Bombing fall closer to 1 then 1,000,000, and thus by Joseph Stalin's infamous words and a simple application of quantitative logic, we can say that the OKC Bombing was a tragedy and the dead Iraqi civilians, however many more there may be, a statistic.

Disclaimer: I am not saying I support the OKC Bombing, nor that I'm a fan of McVeigh or Stalin.

Anyway, I decided to open this for discussion, so I'd love to hear anyone's imput. However, my original intent was to ask...

Can anyone recommend some philosophical literature pertaining to the matter of war vs. murder? Or either of the two alone for that matter? Have any particular philosophers spent a great deal of time writing on this subject? I just thought it up, and I've only taken a few philosophy courses so I'm sure there is someone here who has read more than I. Anyway, thanks guys.
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 5,966 • Replies: 55
No top replies

 
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 May, 2009 05:59 pm
@Mathematicaverde,
I think war is murder, but one is socially accepted murder while the other is not. The larger the group is behind your actions will justify it out from being murder. When your group shrinks then you will be subject to murder for killing. This happens even on the battlefield during times of war when injustices were committed.
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 May, 2009 06:49 pm
@Krumple,
Both having legal definitions the difference is semantic. Killing under order is legally Okay because it is defined that way. Killing not under orders the opposite.
Mathematicaverde
 
  2  
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 02:21 pm
@GoshisDead,
Krumple that is exactly my point. Goshisdead, ideally the difference would be semantic,, in a world where people just thought logically instead of emotionally.

It seems that with war, the killing is made okay because of the pre-meditation behind it. That's interesting because pre-meditated murder meets with harsher punishment than crimes of passion in the trial of a single man. What I mean though, by saying that war is okay because of premeditation is that...

In any country, there is some governmental process to starting a war. A chain of command and a group in which voices are heard. A man in power starts it and in many cases finishes getting the war approved. A tyrant finds this easier than the US president, but either way they are in a different situation than a common man.

War is more official. It's supported by the government which we are conditioned to believe has the right to decide on such matters. McVeigh, Nichols, and other violent demonstrators don't have this notion of official right to do something like they did.

I find this bothersome. It would be nice if we could all get along and not worry about this. But as long as that's not the case, I don't think it is morally right that bureaucracy can choose who is allowed to stand up for their beliefs and how they are allowed to do so.

That being said, anarchy isn't the answer either. I'm not saying anyone who has a dissenting argument to the norm should have the right to harm others. I'm saying one group or individual should not have the right over another to use the same method of proving a point. There is a line, it's just drawn in the wrong place.
Krumple
 
  2  
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 02:43 pm
@Mathematicaverde,
Quote:
That being said, anarchy isn't the answer either. I'm not saying anyone who has a dissenting argument to the norm should have the right to harm others. I'm saying one group or individual should not have the right over another to use the same method of proving a point. There is a line, it's just drawn in the wrong place.
I see this in all human behavior. You can see it in rival sport teams, rival fights like mixed martial arts or boxing. You can see it in small communities pinned against each other for resources. You can see it even in neighborhoods. Although there can still be levels of respect against posing sides there is still a matter of have and have nots.

When you have more people rooting for your cause, anything goes even out right brutality stands because the people backing you approve of your ambition against the opposing side.

This is scattered all over history. Just look at world war 2 japan. The US dropped bombs that killed in a blink of an eye and today the US is buddy buddy with the Japanese. The US was clearly in the wrong for dropping the first one, yet they dropped a second anyway. How the Japanese have not become bitter over this history I'm not sure. But on the other hand absolutely NO Americans ever say that what was done was wrong. At least I've never heard any make those statements.

Why was it wrong? Because the people who died were innocent civilians just doing their thing. They weren't the ones sending in the dive bombers at pearl harbor, so why did they get killed? Shouldn't times of war be soldiers against soldiers? Why do civilians have to suffer for the choices of the political leaders you have no say in their decisions?

If you ask me again, I'll say it. The American soldiers are shooting the wrong people. The should be shooting the politicians, well maybe not all of them but most of them anyways.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 03:15 pm
@Krumple,
Your examples of Killing -vs- Murder; in one case taking life is sanctioned by a nation-state - in the other it's not. This is the main "mechanical" difference as I understand your question. It sounds as if you're coming from a standpoint that wants to refute the idea that, "... state-sanctioned killing is ethically OK". Is this the case?

For the individual who acts on their own; they have their reasons, psychosis and motivations just like a nation does when they make war on one another. Whether or not one or the other is justified - however unlikely that may be - would depend on who's doing the judging and the set of ethics at play.

I guess I'm curious: Both are forms of murder and in all such ethical questions - the devil is in the details, so I have to ask: If both are forms of human life-taking, what ends might comparing the two 'categories' serve?

Thanks
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 04:41 pm
@Khethil,
Amen, Khet: if it is an ethical plea state the ethical plea. Trying to lead a thread to your already formed opinion by asking a rhetorically abstracted question is a bit disengenuous.
0 Replies
 
Mathematicaverde
 
  2  
Reply Wed 20 May, 2009 07:08 pm
@Mathematicaverde,
I believe "disingenuous" is the word you wanted to use there. Either way, this is not an ethical plea.

Khethil, you raise a good point, both situations I mentioend are forms of killing, which are morally wrong. So I didn't really post this question for practical purposes, just as an issue to examine.

Both are morally wrong, and the legal ramifications for doing something morally wrong such as killing, usually come in the form of a punishment. And yes, the larger the support group the less likely a punishment is to occur. It seems that within a country, we condemn killing as a crime, yet when it comes to international murder with political motive and government support, we change our view.

What good is a moral code against killing if it doesn't extend to all people and groups? How is that better than judging one man's reason for killing against another and saying one has the right to end a life and serve less time than another? We already do that too I guess. I'm easily defining murder in black and white terms, and it seems you all agree that killing is wrong. The legal system then introduces shades of grey, but not the entire spectrum.

The statement that killing is wrong is very far reaching and absolute. And I've been criticized here for pondering two different cases of an overall morally corrupt deed. Yet that's exactly what we do in the legal system. If we're going to though, we should do it correctly, and that's what isn't happening.
Didymos Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Fri 22 May, 2009 09:27 am
@Mathematicaverde,
If we agree that killing is wrong, the circumstances should not matter.

Whether or not killing is universally wrong, though, is a matter of debate - and most people seem to think that under some circumstances killing is acceptable.

It is strange, though. How many people read their scripture or moral philosophy, read the phrases "thou shall not kill' and the like and immediately concoct some reason as to why the words mean something other than what they say, how they imagine that the authors must have meant something other than what they say?

What is this strange human obsession with death? Why do we fear the experience and simultaneously demand that others have the experience?

People enjoy death - the death of others, the suffering of people who are either despised or deemed as useless or simply unknown. We cheer as two gladiators mutilate one another (and before you claim that you would protest such sport wonder how people just like yourself cheered in awe).

We do not blink an eye when we hear how many civilians were slaughtered today in some war. Ah, but when we hear of how many soldiers will return home in body bags we erupt with anger.

I do not understand. Perhaps it is a lack of empathy: the inability to step into another's shoes, to sympathize with the circumstances of our brethren.
0 Replies
 
pinkpanda
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2009 05:00 pm
@Mathematicaverde,
I think the main difference is that during war you aren't killing a member of a peaceful sovereign nation because the nation you belong to has revoked that status in the act of declaring war on said nation. In times of peace though, killing another member of a sovereign nation is a threat to the state itself, mainly in democratic nations, because it's their responsibility of ensure that our rights are protected and if the fail to do that then why are we living under the rule of the government?
0 Replies
 
Krumple
 
  1  
Reply Sat 30 May, 2009 07:57 pm
@Mathematicaverde,
Quote:
I think the main difference is that during war you aren't killing a member of a peaceful sovereign nation because the nation you belong to has revoked that status in the act of declaring war on said nation.


Wait a second, are you saying it's okay because you revoke the other's status? So if I wanted to call someone evil, it would be alright to kill them? After all I just revoked their status, so it would be okay. Is this what you were implying?
0 Replies
 
pinkpanda
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 11:49 am
@Mathematicaverde,
Not at all, an individual in no way can do that because it's the sovereign nation's responsibility to confer the status of citizen upon the individuals under it's jurisdiction. When one nation is at war with another nation, the before mentioned nations revokes it's recognition of the latter nations status as a peaceful and sovereign nation and also makes all it's citizens no longer citizens in the warring nations view making it "acceptable" to kill them.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 02:38 pm
@pinkpanda,
I agree that there is a difference between taking a person's life in times of peace and taking a person's life in a battle field scenario. But what I have yet to hear is an argument as to why one is morally acceptable and the other is not morally acceptable.

pinkpanda, you said something interesting about peace-time killings being a threat to the state. But isn't war also a threat to the state?
You also make a good point about rights - so I wonder, do you think rights change when a nation goes to war? Should our rights change when the nation goes to war?
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 03:03 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas;66071 wrote:
I agree that there is a difference between taking a person's life in times of peace and taking a person's life in a battle field scenario. But what I have yet to hear is an argument as to why one is morally acceptable and the other is not morally acceptable.

QUOTE]


I think idea is that the moral responsibility of killing and its reprocussions are transfered from the individual to the state. If the State is making the decision for the individual to kill, the individual is in a morally suspended state. It may seem like manufactured distinction, but it is a reality, and a convenient reality at that, because the state being a non-individual entity has no conscience. Even the leaders of said state can transfer their blame or suspend their morality by making decisions that "are good for the state". The manufactured entity of state or even local band beaurocracy is in effect a morality vacuum where morality can be suspended, or at least the psychological and (spiritual) effect of immorality can be suspended.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 03:44 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;66077 wrote:

I think idea is that the moral responsibility of killing and its reprocussions are transfered from the individual to the state. If the State is making the decision for the individual to kill, the individual is in a morally suspended state.


Perhaps this is the case, but if we are going to talk about morality we have to be mindful of the is/ought distinction. We cannot rightly derive an ought from an is without at least one moral premise.

The general public may think that the moral responsibility is transferred from the individual to the state in wartime, and we might accurately say that people believe this to be the case. But if we are going to attempt to establish this transfer of moral responsibility, we have to explain why this transfer occurs in moral terms.

I am not sure that a state can make decisions for the individual. Is that what happens, or does the individual decide to follow orders?

GoshisDead;66077 wrote:
It may seem like manufactured distinction, but it is a reality, and a convenient reality at that, because the state being a non-individual entity has no conscience.


I do not deny that this transfer occurs, but we need a justification for that transfer.

One problem is to explain how moral responsibility can be placed upon the shoulders of a non-moral agent. Can moral responsibility be transferred by the group onto a rock? Sure. But can a rock actually bear moral responsibility?

Maybe it does not matter if the rock can bear the moral responsibility. Maybe all that matters is that the responsibility is transferred, that the rock is scapegoated. But this does not sit well. If we can dump our moral responsibilities onto non-moral objects, then why do we not do this everywhere and always?

GoshisDead;66077 wrote:
Even the leaders of said state can transfer their blame or suspend their morality by making decisions that "are good for the state". The manufactured entity of state or even local band beaurocracy is in effect a morality vacuum where morality can be suspended, or at least the psychological and (spiritual) effect of immorality can be suspended.


I do not see how the psychological and spiritual effects can be transferred onto anything other than the agent. If I kill a person and scapegoat a rock, or the state, or even another person, I am still the one who committed the act and therefore I am still the one who feels the effects on my action upon myself. For example, I would feel remorse for my actions, another could not feel remorse for my actions.

But the main point: so we transfer moral responsibility onto the state. By what justification?
0 Replies
 
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 04:15 pm
@Mathematicaverde,
Quote:
The general public may think that the moral responsibility is transferred from the individual to the state in wartime, and we might accurately say that people believe this to be the case. But if we are going to attempt to establish this transfer of moral responsibility, we have to explain why this transfer occurs in moral terms.

I am not sure that a state can make decisions for the individual. Is that what happens, or does the individual decide to follow orders?


The state makes decisions for the individual all the time. It makes a suspended morality for the individual because the individual "must" follow orders, rule of law etc... It effectivly removes the choice from the individual and thus moral responsibility. If the individual isn't "really choosing" to kill the person is not morally responsible. I'm not saying that the person can't choose to break the law and in the case of not killing when ordered while in military service, it is breaking the law. I am saying that as communal creatures we use the "state" or some other abstracted hierarchical power structure to regulate both ourselves and others as their actions/inactions pertain to us. And this is the justification, it is an amoral justification, the state is necessarily by exectutive function amoral, meaning that law and policy might be morally influenced or created from and by people with morals, but the execution thereof is amoral it is totally blind like lady justice. Just like as an individual it is immoral to imprison another as a state it is no longer immoral. The amorality of the state's execution is what makes the immoral acts necessary for communal stability possible.


Quote:
I do not see how the psychological and spiritual effects can be transferred onto anything other than the agent. If I kill a person and scapegoat a rock, or the state, or even another person, I am still the one who committed the act and therefore I am still the one who feels the effects on my action upon myself. For example, I would feel remorse for my actions, another could not feel remorse for my actions.


I'm not saying soldiers do not feel the trauma of taking a life, only that they most often do not feel the guilt to the degree that you or I would after taking a life while not under order to do so. Military training is designed to remove the guilt of killing "for country" by replacing one's personal ideology for said killing with a nationalistic or communal ideology. Just as policemen and jailors justify their actions of imprisonment with state/national/communal ideologies. They have adopted a social role or persona that requires their otherwise immoral actions to be suspended. It really doesn't matter to the individual that has adopted one of these personae, in practice, why a war is being fought or a kill order is given only that it gets carried out or they have broken the law, and thereby not killing are really no better than a person in Nebraska who murders his wife.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 04:24 pm
@GoshisDead,
Making an amoral argument supporting the actual occurrence of scapegoating is one thing - sure, it exists.

But you go so far as to say that the state and justice are amoral. I do not understand how we suspend moral consideration when we address the state and justice. If the state is amoral, then how can we condemn state sponsored genocide? If justice is amoral, then how can we condemn the persecution of minorities by the justice system?

If we eliminate morality from the equation, then anything goes. Anything is justifiable.

True, we have an easier time justifying that a state performs some acts than justifying that an individual performs some acts. But to make the leap and claim that states and justice are immune to moral considerations does not make much sense to me.

For example: how many Nazi war criminals have you exonerated of all moral responsibility?
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 04:48 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
The state itself is built from and by moral people with moral intentions. People in that state and other states commit immoral acts, which if allowed to continue or go unpunished will degrade the stability of the state and the persons that make up the state. There must be an amoral function within the state that can commit immoral acts in order to counteract the immorality of people within the state or other states. One could even call that function imoral, but we don't because we have suspended morality for this state function, why I think its just part of the group nature. One might even call it the "Batman Function" or Sanctioned Vigilante (I know its an oxymoron). This function does not eliminate morality it is the executor of morality. Like the policeforce or any other executor it needs to fulfil the law without bias, or in other words amorally.

Rival states can be condemned as immoral because they are not our state. As far as war criminals they are only war criminals after their state is defunct, rather they can only be conviced as war criminals after their state is defunct, and they are condemned by an amoral executor of morals, an entity that commits the immoral to preseerve and perpetuate the moral.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 05:22 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;66092 wrote:
The state itself is built from and by moral people with moral intentions. People in that state and other states commit immoral acts, which if allowed to continue or go unpunished will degrade the stability of the state and the persons that make up the state. There must be an amoral function within the state that can commit immoral acts in order to counteract the immorality of people within the state or other states.


So, this argument supposes that immoral responses to immorality are what... pragmatic? utilitarian? By what measure do we decide when an immoral response to immorality is to be pursued?

So far, I am not sure how we justify state immorality in response to immorality and not also justify state immorality in response to morality if said morality threatens state stability. If our justification for state immorality hinges upon the state's stability, wouldn't we have to justify any kind of immorality committed for the sake of state security?

This is essentially what the Bush administration proposed. Torture (immoral) is justified for the sake of national security (supposedly moral good).

GoshisDead;66092 wrote:
One could even call that function imoral, but we don't because we have suspended morality for this state function, why I think its just part of the group nature. One might even call it the "Batman Function" or Sanctioned Vigilante (I know its an oxymoron). This function does not eliminate morality it is the executor of morality. Like the policeforce or any other executor it needs to fulfil the law without bias, or in other words amorally.


Reconcile these things for me:
The Batman Function is the executor of morality
The executor needs to fulfill the law amorally

How can the Batman function be an amoral executor of morality? It is one thing to make moral judgments without personal bias, but to make moral judgments without consideration for morality seems, if not impossible, insane. If the judgment is a moral one, to leave morality out of the consideration seems to defeat the whole purpose of the moral judgment.

GoshisDead;66092 wrote:
Rival states can be condemned as immoral because they are not our state.


And what prevents, or what should prevent, us from condemning as immoral the actions of our own state?

Can we condemn genocide committed by our own state?

GoshisDead;66092 wrote:
As far as war criminals they are only war criminals after their state is defunct, rather they can only be conviced as war criminals after their state is defunct, and they are condemned by an amoral executor of morals, an entity that commits the immoral to preseerve and perpetuate the moral.


Let's forget for a moment the label 'war criminal'.

The state can certainly influence an individual, but I am not convinced that a state's influence eliminates an individual's moral agency. Regardless of a state's order, an individual still has the decision of whether or not to pull the trigger, even if disobeying the state might result in the individual being harmed.

You argue that the state does compel people to act immorally, but you also admit that people still have the choice to act morally despite the state's influence. So, by what moral argument do you arrive at the moral conclusion that people should discard their moral responsibility and act immorally? This does seem to be a moral conclusion (as it tells us how we should act, according to the state's dictates, and when, whenever state stability is threatened). If this is a moral conclusion, then we need a moral premise in addition to the explanation of what is.

But there lies a deeper problem: a moral act is a good act, an immoral act is a bad act. If some action is necessary for the stability of the state, and if we recognize the stability of the state to be good, then why do we call the necessary action for state stabilization immoral? Wouldn't such an action be moral by some utilitarian calculus?

***EDIT****

With the topic getting muddled, I get a creeping feeling that I am just lost. Let's start with something simple:

How is it that an individual's decision to act or not to act, and how to act, is not a moral decision?

When the state says 'Act in X way' the individual has the choice to obey or disobey. This choice seems to be the question "how should I act?" and therefore a question of normative ethics.
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Jun, 2009 05:52 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:
You argue that the state does compel people to act immorally, but you also admit that people still have the choice to act morally despite the state's influence. So, by what moral argument do you arrive at the moral conclusion that people should discard their moral responsibility and act immorally? This does seem to be a moral conclusion (as it tells us how we should act, according to the state's dictates, and when, whenever state stability is threatened). If this is a moral conclusion, then we need a moral premise in addition to the explanation of what is.


This is the crux of the issue, personal responsibility in regards to morality and that of the state. This is why I am calling the function within the state amoral, or maybe I should say mechanical it is a function a process, abstracted from the morals by nature of necessity. Yes the Bush doctrine was essentially this, and just because it is an unpopular doctrine doesn't make it less functionally true.Every administration has done and will do the same. on a personal note i agree that the Bush admin stepped outside of its constitutional role of executive to make new policy it had no right to, but this would be for another thread and has no bearing on this argument. To assume that Obama or any other president will never order an 'immoral' act is itself insane. And yes they are very pragmatic, notice that I have also given examples of police force and other state functions practicing what would be immoral acts if they didn't enjoy the authority of amorality provided by the state and ultimately by the people. It is the same argument, the law is made morally, executed amorally. It is why we call the exectutive branch in the U.S. the exectutive branch it executes the laws, there are other branches endowed with the responsibility of morality, judicial interprets and legislative creates. This is the reason why law enforcement and the military are under the exectutive branch, and why lady justice is blind.

I attempting to approach this explanation from a functional direction, stating what functions in the interaction between state and individual are expressed. On a personal level i would argue the machination of state function, with the state being an entity hired by the people as a police force/body guard, however that is just how i see it personally. The interaction between person and state seems to be more complex, a series of negotiations between personal morals and the desire to have actions committed on the individual's behalf that the individual cannot or will not do for him or herself. Thus there is a functional amorality in state execution of law and national/cultural ideal that suspends all morality for those directly in employ of the state. BEcause the state is not subject to executive morals because to execute a law is necessarily amoral neither are the individuals the state uses to execute them.

I am at this point going to call all state executive acts amoral as to stop confusing their acts as 'good' or 'bad', they are neither, they are executions of policy necessary for stability.
 

Related Topics

How can we be sure? - Discussion by Raishu-tensho
DOES NOTHING EXIST??? - Question by mark noble
Proof of nonexistence of free will - Discussion by litewave
morals and ethics, how are they different? - Question by existential potential
Destroy My Belief System, Please! - Discussion by Thomas
Star Wars in Philosophy. - Discussion by Logicus
Existence of Everything. - Discussion by Logicus
Is it better to be feared or loved? - Discussion by Black King
 
  1. Forums
  2. » War vs. Murder
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 09/20/2019 at 05:10:19