To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, Just War theory and other such hot topics.

Moderators: AMod, iMod

prof
Posts: 856
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:57 am

To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by prof » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:49 am

If I throw a switch one person will die, but if I don't his bomb may go off and many will get hurt, some fatally. What should I do? :?: :!:


If I willfully kill one, I am a murderer.

I agree with those who point out that if we perform the actions of a terrorist by killing many others, we have then reduced ourselves to that level (to that low degree of morality), and are equally guilty as is the “terrorist.”

Yet I don’t have to choose between being a murder or being a terrorist. There are many other alternatives in life.

I hold that ethics is logical: that is to say, we can derive ethically-relevant interpretations of the logical symbols and relations employed in a Logic of Entailments, which is one of the Relevance Logics described in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Here is a link to it: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-relevance/
(See esp. #3 on that page.)


I am not a logician so I haven’t done it, but that of course does not mean that it can’t be done. I predict that it will be done once a logician familiar with such a logic is also well-trained in a formal value- theory and in its applications to Ethics. The day is coming.

What I have done is produced a framework which starts with the structure of concepts, procerds to the structure of value, and defines its terms as it develops the theory of Ethics as a discipline characterized by cumulative knowledge.

Its basic premises are Non-Naturalist (as required by G. E. Moore’s keen analysis) while its research is to be informed by the latest finding about human nature, especially as discovered by the disciplines of Moral Psychology, Economics, Clinical Psychiatry, and Social Psychology. Here is a link to the manuscript designed for an audience of philosophy professors specializing in ethics: http://www.myqol.com/wadeharvey/Ethics_ ... Course.pdf
An informal, popularized, more readable, summary of its main points with new material added is here: http://www.myqol.com/wadeharvey/Living_ ... _Lifef.pdf


The choic presented is: to actively kill one or to deliberately kill many. I fully agree with those who write: “Perhaps both the choices are morally unsound.” They are right on point there!

I disagree with anyone who says: “We must choose the lesser of two evils.” In my life I strive to choose the greater good (rather than choose among lesser evils.)

A moralist is one who engages in making moral judgments of other people. To assert that ‘one who chooses neither horn of the dilemma is “lazy,” because he has chosen inaction over action,’ is to moralize, to be a moralist.

The policy of choosing inaction in such a dilemma is legitimate. Why? It is human nature to be “lazy” unless we are strongly motivated toward some goal – such as to survive, or to amass great wealth, or to lose weight, etc. We are often relatively inactive! Inaction cannot reasonably be said to be immoral.

My book, with the title ETHICS: A College Course, holds with the view of Dr. Karl Menninger in his classic THE CRIME OF PUNISHMENT. As I understand the case he argues, he would arrest a murderer, lock the perpetrator up in a mental ward, and “throw away the key” until that perp can meet some very-high standards (criteria) of rehabilitation: violence must be totally rejected by the prisoner, as measured by some quite strict tests, before the killer is ever to have anything resembling the privileges of a normal life. (There would be a screening board of specially-trained and qualified non-sadistic psychiatrists making the decision.)

I would love to know how it is possible to precisely define “the consequences of inaction” that Utilitarians speak of at times. How do we measure a consequence”?

IMHO people are not evil, but their actions and situations may be. Some may be deranged; or may ave brain damage. Thus they are handicapped, and are to be treated as such – probably requiring ospitalization (in that mental ward.)

And, yes, there is a difference between declining to pull a switch that will cause the death of one person and actually murdering someone with your own hands – by pulling that switch! Don’t give me all that hooey about “saving lives” in the future. None of that is guaranteed. And the 100 you ‘save’ may go on to commit very evil acts. We (as the fallible human beings we are) cannot judge this.

Bottom line: Err on the side of not being a killer. Aim instead to be a highly-moral person of integrity and authenticity.
Let the experience - in real life, not in a hypothetical dilemma - of Ms. Ashley Smith in Atlanta
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.h ... nted=print - someone who was held hostage by a murderer – let that be your guide….not that she claims to be – or is - a saint!

Comments? Questions?

User avatar
henry quirk
Posts: 2528
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 8:07 pm
Location: too close

Post by henry quirk » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:49 pm

"The choic presented is: to actively kill one or to deliberately kill many."

Particulars change the equation...

Kill my ten year old (turning eleven this week) to save a group of strangers?

Nope.

Kill someone I hate to save a group of strangers?

Yep.

Kill a stranger to save a group of strangers?

Depends on my mood at the time (right now, for example, I'm feelin' misanthropic...don't think I'd do diddly squat to help or hinder).

prof
Posts: 856
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:57 am

Re:

Post by prof » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:40 pm

henry quirk wrote:
Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:49 pm
"
Kill someone I hate to save a group of strangers?

Yep.

Kill a stranger to save a group of strangers?

Depends on my mood at the time.
You know, Henry, people would have a better quality of life if they would give up hating. They will give up hating when they know their Ethics; know how to comply with it, and devote themselves to it.

When I say "Ethics", I mean scientific Ethics ...the science of Ethics.
See: https://www.amazon.com/LIVING-SUCCESSFU ... B01NBKS42C

Also, would you agree that Ethics ought not depend upon moodiness? Maybe Ethics should have principles. And maybe we ought to live by them?

Comments?
.

ken
Posts: 1289
Joined: Mon May 09, 2016 4:14 am

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by ken » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:24 pm

prof wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:49 am
If I throw a switch one person will die, but if I don't his bomb may go off and many will get hurt, some fatally. What should I do? :?: :!:


If I willfully kill one, I am a murderer.

I agree with those who point out that if we perform the actions of a terrorist by killing many others, we have then reduced ourselves to that level (to that low degree of morality), and are equally guilty as is the “terrorist.”

Yet I don’t have to choose between being a murder or being a terrorist. There are many other alternatives in life.

I hold that ethics is logical: that is to say, we can derive ethically-relevant interpretations of the logical symbols and relations employed in a Logic of Entailments, which is one of the Relevance Logics described in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Here is a link to it: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-relevance/
(See esp. #3 on that page.)


I am not a logician so I haven’t done it, but that of course does not mean that it can’t be done. I predict that it will be done once a logician familiar with such a logic is also well-trained in a formal value- theory and in its applications to Ethics. The day is coming.

What I have done is produced a framework which starts with the structure of concepts, procerds to the structure of value, and defines its terms as it develops the theory of Ethics as a discipline characterized by cumulative knowledge.

Its basic premises are Non-Naturalist (as required by G. E. Moore’s keen analysis) while its research is to be informed by the latest finding about human nature, especially as discovered by the disciplines of Moral Psychology, Economics, Clinical Psychiatry, and Social Psychology. Here is a link to the manuscript designed for an audience of philosophy professors specializing in ethics: http://www.myqol.com/wadeharvey/Ethics_ ... Course.pdf
An informal, popularized, more readable, summary of its main points with new material added is here: http://www.myqol.com/wadeharvey/Living_ ... _Lifef.pdf


The choic presented is: to actively kill one or to deliberately kill many. I fully agree with those who write: “Perhaps both the choices are morally unsound.” They are right on point there!

I disagree with anyone who says: “We must choose the lesser of two evils.” In my life I strive to choose the greater good (rather than choose among lesser evils.)

A moralist is one who engages in making moral judgments of other people. To assert that ‘one who chooses neither horn of the dilemma is “lazy,” because he has chosen inaction over action,’ is to moralize, to be a moralist.

The policy of choosing inaction in such a dilemma is legitimate. Why? It is human nature to be “lazy” unless we are strongly motivated toward some goal – such as to survive, or to amass great wealth, or to lose weight, etc. We are often relatively inactive! Inaction cannot reasonably be said to be immoral.

My book, with the title ETHICS: A College Course, holds with the view of Dr. Karl Menninger in his classic THE CRIME OF PUNISHMENT. As I understand the case he argues, he would arrest a murderer, lock the perpetrator up in a mental ward, and “throw away the key” until that perp can meet some very-high standards (criteria) of rehabilitation: violence must be totally rejected by the prisoner, as measured by some quite strict tests, before the killer is ever to have anything resembling the privileges of a normal life. (There would be a screening board of specially-trained and qualified non-sadistic psychiatrists making the decision.)

I would love to know how it is possible to precisely define “the consequences of inaction” that Utilitarians speak of at times. How do we measure a consequence”?

IMHO people are not evil, but their actions and situations may be. Some may be deranged; or may ave brain damage. Thus they are handicapped, and are to be treated as such – probably requiring ospitalization (in that mental ward.)

And, yes, there is a difference between declining to pull a switch that will cause the death of one person and actually murdering someone with your own hands – by pulling that switch! Don’t give me all that hooey about “saving lives” in the future. None of that is guaranteed. And the 100 you ‘save’ may go on to commit very evil acts. We (as the fallible human beings we are) cannot judge this.

Bottom line: Err on the side of not being a killer. Aim instead to be a highly-moral person of integrity and authenticity.
Let the experience - in real life, not in a hypothetical dilemma - of Ms. Ashley Smith in Atlanta
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.h ... nted=print - someone who was held hostage by a murderer – let that be your guide….not that she claims to be – or is - a saint!

Comments? Questions?
Until you provide ALL of the variables I will NOT know what I should do.

User avatar
henry quirk
Posts: 2528
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 8:07 pm
Location: too close

Post by henry quirk » Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:19 pm

"You know, Henry, people would have a better quality of life if they would give up hating."

Nope. Hate is the on-going result of an assessment. If the assessment is in error, then so is the hate. But, if the assessment is spot on, then the hate is wholly justified.

#

"They will give up hating when they know their Ethics; know how to comply with it, and devote themselves to it."

Well, I know mine: a full-bodied set of principles that ain't got nuthin' to do with 'science'.

#

"Also, would you agree that Ethics ought not depend upon moodiness?"

Nope. Mood is a frame of mine, a status of the moment. True ethics takes this dynamicism into account; it doesn't ignore, dismiss, or denigrate it.

Walker
Posts: 3528
Joined: Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:00 am

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by Walker » Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:04 am

prof wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:49 am
If I throw a switch one person will die, but if I don't his bomb may go off and many will get hurt, some fatally. What should I do? :?: :!:
Comments? Questions?
How did you ever get yourself into such a situation?

Dubious
Posts: 1157
Joined: Tue May 19, 2015 7:40 am

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by Dubious » Wed Jul 19, 2017 10:23 am

prof wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:49 am
If I throw a switch one person will die, but if I don't his bomb may go off and many will get hurt, some fatally. What should I do? :?: :!:
It should be obvious; you throw the switch.
If I willfully kill one, I am a murderer.
Since you didn't will the choice you cannot be accused of having "willfully" killed and therefore not a murderer in spite of having killed in order to save.
I agree with those who point out that if we perform the actions of a terrorist by killing many others, we have then reduced ourselves to that level (to that low degree of morality), and are equally guilty as is the “terrorist.”
It all depends! One can easily counter your conclusion that by killing any number of terrorists only causes one to be a terror against them, not those they have chosen to victimize. Why would that be wrong having only destroyed those who kill innocent people in some of the worst ways imaginable? A reaction against terrorism - "reaction" being the key word - in at least equal measure against those who have instigated it wouldn't make me guilty of anything except being a benefactor. You don't read vermin its rights; you kill it.

User avatar
Lacewing
Posts: 1879
Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2015 2:25 am

Re:

Post by Lacewing » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:21 pm

henry quirk wrote:
Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:19 pm
"You know, Henry, people would have a better quality of life if they would give up hating."

Nope. Hate is the on-going result of an assessment. If the assessment is in error, then so is the hate. But, if the assessment is spot on, then the hate is wholly justified.

#

"They will give up hating when they know their Ethics; know how to comply with it, and devote themselves to it."

Well, I know mine: a full-bodied set of principles that ain't got nuthin' to do with 'science'.

#

"Also, would you agree that Ethics ought not depend upon moodiness?"

Nope. Mood is a frame of mine, a status of the moment. True ethics takes this dynamicism into account; it doesn't ignore, dismiss, or denigrate it.
Well, I don't hate you DESPITE my assessment of you, so hate isn't a given.
Last edited by Lacewing on Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
henry quirk
Posts: 2528
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 8:07 pm
Location: too close

meh

Post by henry quirk » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:59 pm

:|

fooloso4
Posts: 35
Joined: Mon May 01, 2017 4:42 pm

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by fooloso4 » Thu Jul 20, 2017 11:19 pm

Contemporary versions involve self driving cars - hit one person to avoid hitting several. Hit one person or imperil the passenger or passengers. In the latter case, if it is a matter of numbers then the car would have to sense the number of passengers. So, if you are alone in the car then the car would not save you if there was more than one person to be avoided. If the numbers are equal then does priority go to the passengers or the pedestrian? Suppose instead that the choice is between two pedestrians and an unknown number of passengers in another vehicle. Should the owner of the vehicle have a say in whether his or her life takes precedent? Suppose the owner of a vehicle is an animal lover should he or she have the option or programming the car to save the animal or give preference to dogs but not cats?

It is all well and good to say that as moral agents we should strive to do good, but real life may demand that we make choices where none of the options lead to good results.

prof
Posts: 856
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:57 am

Re:

Post by prof » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:21 am

henry quirk wrote:
Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:19 pm
...mine: a full-bodied set of principles that ain't got nuthin' to do with 'science'.

#

"Also, would you agree that Ethics ought not depend upon moodiness?"

Nope. Mood is a frame of mine, a status of the moment. True ethics takes this dynamicism into account; it doesn't ignore, dismiss, or denigrate it.
If you would spell out for us how true ethics takes this moodiness into account you would be making an excellent contribution to the new science (which is named Ethics.)

prof
Posts: 856
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:57 am

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by prof » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:21 am

Walker wrote:
Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:04 am
prof wrote:
Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:49 am
If I throw a switch one person will die, but if I don't his bomb may go off and many will get hurt, some fatally. What should I do? :?: :!:
Comments? Questions?
How did you ever get yourself into such a situation?
Thanks, Walker, for giving me a good laugh; and for bringing us back to reality. This dilemma is not original with me. The hypothesis is known in Philosophical circles as "a thought experiment."

I agree, after reflecting upon it, with Kant who wrote that anyone who - with even very-slight premeditation - damages another human being is a criminal. Shooting someone with intent to kill is - in U.S. legal circles - First-degree Murder.

Even though it takes a better marksman, why don't police shoot an offender in the leg to slow him down, rather than aim at the heart? Once they know their Ethics they more-likely will wound rather than kill in fear and anger. To get them to do this requires better hiring practices, and better Academy training courses than exist now.

Ethics teaches us to be considerate of one another, to be ready to be of service, to be respectful or deferential, to have a single standard toward everyone, to take on responsibility, to be kind and helpful ...or in some way to create value in each interaction or encounter with another person.



Any questions? Reviews of the documents? Etc.?

User avatar
Sir-Sister-of-Suck
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:09 am

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by Sir-Sister-of-Suck » Sat Jul 22, 2017 12:15 am

I don't think the example using a terrorist is a very good one or very particularly provoking. Obviously I would rather kill the man with the bomb to save the many.

Usually, these sorts of ethical questions involve killing someone who is innocent to save others.

ken
Posts: 1289
Joined: Mon May 09, 2016 4:14 am

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by ken » Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:45 am

Sir-Sister-of-Suck wrote:
Sat Jul 22, 2017 12:15 am
I don't think the example using a terrorist is a very good one or very particularly provoking. Obviously I would rather kill the man with the bomb to save the many.

Usually, these sorts of ethical questions involve killing someone who is innocent to save others.
Was an actual 'terrorist', in the general usage of the word, used in the example? The person holding the bomb could after all be trying to kill many human beings who had killed the innocent child of the one holding the bomb.

As I said earlier until ALL of the different variables and/or scenarios are fully explained, then how would any person know exactly what they would do?

Also, if a 'terrorist' is defined as killing many others, as it is defined in the opening post, then that would mean the "defense" forces of countries that have killed many others ARE terrorists.

User avatar
Sir-Sister-of-Suck
Posts: 24
Joined: Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:09 am

Re: To kill one or to kill many - a dilemma

Post by Sir-Sister-of-Suck » Sun Jul 23, 2017 2:36 am

ken wrote:
Sun Jul 23, 2017 1:45 am
Sir-Sister-of-Suck wrote:
Sat Jul 22, 2017 12:15 am
I don't think the example using a terrorist is a very good one or very particularly provoking. Obviously I would rather kill the man with the bomb to save the many.

Usually, these sorts of ethical questions involve killing someone who is innocent to save others.
Was an actual 'terrorist', in the general usage of the word, used in the example? The person holding the bomb could after all be trying to kill many human beings who had killed the innocent child of the one holding the bomb.

As I said earlier until ALL of the different variables and/or scenarios are fully explained, then how would any person know exactly what they would do?

Also, if a 'terrorist' is defined as killing many others, as it is defined in the opening post, then that would mean the "defense" forces of countries that have killed many others ARE terrorists.
I thought terrorist because that's what it sounds like what you have in mind when you say 'a man with a bomb' trying to blow up others. That doesn't usually describe self-defense. Normally I'd say kill the bomber, but if we're talking about every conceivable possible and not every practical possible then things are different.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests