...Ethics is a subject matter notoriously fraught with disagreement. Many ethicists have fruitlessly sought to establish universal moral truths or tenets. Moral facts are hard to come by. In the end, the most compelling moral judgments we share are intuitive ones (which is not to say there‘s nothing but our intuitions speaking for them). So compelling are some that they are not susceptible to being undermined, nor should they be. They are grounded in common sense, our sense of fairness (or justice), and are a product of our humanity. We all, for example, find it morally impermissible to dismember babies for sport. We all, for example, believe that beating old people on a whim is morally impermissible. So compelling are certain of these beliefs that if God Himself came down and told us that dismembering babies for sport was morally permissible, we wouldn’t accept it. We would continue to think it was morally impermissible. No moral theory exists, has existed or will ever exist that could undermine that moral judgment. Ultimately, it is these moral judgments which serve as a litmus test for ethical theories. If, for example, applying Ethical Theory X results in the proposition that dismembering babies for sport is morally permissible, then Ethical Theory X goes in the scrap heap. No ethical theory can undermine our moral judgment that dismembering babies for sport is morally impermissible, but instead our moral judgment can be used to undermine an ethical theory.
So its only for sport its not morally permissable, just dismembering babies is fine? As history is replete with such stuff.
Part 1: The Home Intruders Scenario
Suppose that you are home, it's 2 AM and your family are sleeping in their rooms. Your daughter is in the first room up the stairs. Your son is in the next room, a bit further down. And you, your spouse, and your newborn are in the last room. You are startled from your sleep and soon come to realize that six men have broken into your home, they're armed, and, obviously, pose a threat to your family. Before you know what to do, they go into your daughter's room and shoot her to death. They exit her room and begin heading toward your son's room. Before you can load your semi-automatic rifle, they’ve killed your son too. They’re now exiting his room and walking towards yours.
Is this an example of one of those fantasy scenarios you accused me of?
Here's the moral question: Is it morally permissible to come out of your room with your semi-automatic rifle and attempt to kill them all? Or, is something else, perhaps something “less drastic”, morally required of you? Are you morally required, for instance, to try to shoot the guns from their hands? Are you morally required to try to reason with them?
"shoot the guns from their hands", are you being serious with this moral alternative? But since you plan to fire a semi-automatic rifle I'd be more worried about your neighbours lives or have you brought a bunker for a house? I'd also guess that reason would tell you that reasoning with them is probably not an option.
Given the circumstances, the vast majority of people believe that it's morally permissible to kill the home intruders. Sometimes I phrase this as “shoot to kill the home intruders,“ but it would be preposterous to morally sanction shooting to kill but not killing, so I’ll just do away with the ‘shooting to kill’ talk. I take this, then, to be an uncontroversial ethical judgment: it is morally permissible to kill the home intruders.
You've neatly slipped from the moral permissablity to kill those who've entered your house and killed members of your family, to morally permissible to kill home intruders?
But it’s more than uncontroversial, it's so compelling that it cannot be undermined by either a conflicting intuition (e.g. “that it's morally impermissible to kill people”) or by any ethical theory which would have us conclude that it's not morally permissible (or, it is morally impermissible) to kill the home intruders.
At most it says its morally permissable to defend oneself and loved ones, whether this means its morally permissable to kill home intruders might upset the cop who has entered to investigate why the back-door was open.
This is the first part of my argument, and I’d like now to hear if anyone wishes to argue that it’s not morally permissible to kill the home intruders.
Depends upon the circumstances I'd say. If they've done what you say then I'd say yes, even if you are a drug-baron and your son and daughter went for their guns when they saw the DEA.
I think since this is a commonsense view, the putative view, that the philosophical onus is on anyone who wishes to challenge the claim that it’s morally permissible to kill the home intruders. Another way to say this is that this isn’t a belief we need to be argued into -- but out of. So, I’ll wait a bit to see if there are any objections. If not, I’ll move on to Part 2 of my argument.
So my objection is that your case does not generalize from the specific fantasy that you put forward. At most it says its morally permissable to defend oneself and family from threat of death.