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Thread: Cruel Ultimatums

  1. #1 Cruel Ultimatums 
    Forum Ph.D. verzen's Avatar
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    I had a discussion with a room mate earlier about ultimatums and choices. If a person is told that if they do not kill someone specific, then their family will die... should that person be charged with murder or should the murder sentence be charged to the one who threatened his families life?

    My room mate seems to think that the person committing the murder should be charged with murder even though his hand was forced.
    I tried explaining that it is simply not the case. If someone forces your hand and you are FORCED to do what they want you to do (since you practically have no choice) then the murder charges should be placed on the person threatening your family members.

    This is a conversation of morals and ethics and what the law should do against the person committing the crimes.
    What are your views?


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    The person chose to have one die instead of 1-4 others that they loved. I say they saved a life, the person who instigated the threat is most definitely the one in the wrong, and is the one who deserves the death penalty. I put no moral injustice on a person who kills to save.


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    I would like to pose an alternate question to you though.

    A man is given a reading of the near future, (assume, for the sake of argument, that fortunetelling is real) and it is fortold that his son will kill 47 people regardless of anything the father does to try to curb his intentions, and never be prosecuted for his transgressions. The police don't believe the man when he tells them of this fortune, and so the man is left with a choice. Should he;
    a) allow the events to happen as they were fortold
    b) make the sacrifice of killing his son to save 47 lives
    Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools, because they have to say something.
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  5. #4 Re: Cruel Ultimatums 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by verzen
    I had a discussion with a room mate earlier about ultimatums and choices. If a person is told that if they do not kill someone specific, then their family will die... should that person be charged with murder or should the murder sentence be charged to the one who threatened his families life?

    My room mate seems to think that the person committing the murder should be charged with murder even though his hand was forced.
    I tried explaining that it is simply not the case. If someone forces your hand and you are FORCED to do what they want you to do (since you practically have no choice) then the murder charges should be placed on the person threatening your family members.

    This is a conversation of morals and ethics and what the law should do against the person committing the crimes.
    What are your views?
    I agree with your room mate and the law. You do have a choice and your hand is not forced. You would be as guilty as the nazis in WWII were no matter how much they thought that they had no choice. This is not to say that the other person should not be charged with murder as well, in addition to kidnapping and extortion, or that the court might not consider extenuating circumstances when it comes to sentencing you. But I, for example, in that situation would absolutely refuse (and I have a wife and three sons). For the fact of the matter is that I would not believe the kidnapper's lie. This is the lie that whether my family dies is up to me. That remains and always was the kidnapper's choice and if he is willing to do it if I do not do what he says then I see no reason why he would not do it if I did do what he says. It is also a question of whether I have a reason to trust the kidnapper's word and I say that it is obvious that I have no reason at all to trust his word, but quite the opposite. I would shoot him in the head if I had the chance but I would not be his slave just because he is a piece of human manure.


    Quote Originally Posted by Arcane_Mathamatition
    I would like to pose an alternate question to you though.

    A man is given a reading of the near future, (assume, for the sake of argument, that fortunetelling is real) and it is fortold that his son will kill 47 people regardless of anything the father does to try to curb his intentions, and never be prosecuted for his transgressions. The police don't believe the man when he tells them of this fortune, and so the man is left with a choice. Should he;
    a) allow the events to happen as they were fortold
    b) make the sacrifice of killing his son to save 47 lives
    No I would not allow a fortune teller to manipulate me in such a manner but if my son were about to do such a thing and the only way I could stop him was to kill him then I would do so. The number is irrelevent, for I am no utilitarian in this or the other question. If my son were about to murder just a single other person then my answer is the same. The only thing that would make this question more difficult is the reasons he had for doing so and the nature of the person he was about to murder. My answer above assumes that the intended victim was just a random stranger. Otherwise it is possible that my efforts to stop my son would not go as far as killing him.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    I agree with Mitchell, to blame the murder on the kidnapper is to act in bad faith. You had a choice, albeit a difficult one, but the existence of a choice makes one responsible.
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    I agree with Mitchell, to blame the murder on the kidnapper is to act in bad faith. You had a choice, albeit a difficult one, but the existence of a choice makes one responsible.
    There really shouldn't be any question that this is the case. To think otherwise is to totally give up responsibilities for ones actions. That would be the decision of a child or a coward.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    I agree with Mitchell, to blame the murder on the kidnapper is to act in bad faith. You had a choice, albeit a difficult one, but the existence of a choice makes one responsible.
    There really shouldn't be any question that this is the case. To think otherwise is to totally give up responsibilities for ones actions. That would be the decision of a child or a coward.
    Even if you know for certain that the kidnapper will do what he says? Let's say he is a serial killer and both scenarios have been played to conclusion before.
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  9. #8  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Even if you know for certain that the kidnapper will do what he says?
    I don't believe in certainty.
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Even if you know for certain that the kidnapper will do what he says?
    I don't believe in certainty.
    Well, seriously, don't you think that is a bit of a copout reply? If you are the 10th victim of this guy and all his previous murders played out exactly as he stipulated, would that not sway your decision or consideration for another victim at all?
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  11. #10  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Even if you know for certain that the kidnapper will do what he says?
    I don't believe in certainty.
    Well, seriously, don't you think that is a bit of a copout reply? If you are the 10th victim of this guy and all his previous murders played out exactly as he stipulated, would that not sway your decision or consideration for another victim at all?
    No because it is not really the point. The point is that the kidnapper cannot pawn the responsibility for what he does on anyone but himself, no more than you can put the responsibility for what you do on anyone but yourself. There is no certainty because it remains his free will choice to do what he does no matter what and whether you do what he says really has nothing to do with it.
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    I tend to agree with Mitch, though would put it perhaps this simple: It's a strange logic that wouldn't hold the dude who pulled the trigger with as most responsible for the murder...regardless of the circumstances.

    This thread would have been juicier if the subject had been torture
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  13. #12  
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    Here is a question for you all... Is this a strawman.
    I had said to my roommate that the person making the threat should be the one imprisoned instead simply because if you kill someone in order to save the lives of your loved ones, you do not technically have a choice in the matter. Your hand is forced.
    He said its a strawman argument.
    Is this true or not? I said its not a strawman because I did not attack my position. I first made the position. He did not. He refuted me. If he refutes it, it automatically means that I am not using a strawman since I have to refute it for it to be a strawman. Is this correct?
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    I guess the question isn't so much is it legal, as is it morally right. In terms of morals, is it right to kill someone, to save another. In that sense, Mitch, I gather from your response you would say yes, killing to save is morally right. that was more what I was getting at, and the number was just there by example, since killing one to save one is utilitarily non-useful (and some people are run by utilitarian morals)
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arcane_Mathamatition
    I guess the question isn't so much is it legal, as is it morally right. In terms of morals, is it right to kill someone, to save another. In that sense, Mitch, I gather from your response you would say yes, killing to save is morally right. that was more what I was getting at, and the number was just there by example, since killing one to save one is utilitarily non-useful (and some people are run by utilitarian morals)
    But it is not just the fact that it is saving people that makes it right. It is all about making an approriate response to the actions of another person, to prevent him from harming others.
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    Regarding choice...

    A robber comes to your store and tells you to give him all your money or die. Do you have a choice?

    What if we draw a parallel with the christian God. He gives us the "choice" between burning in Hell forever or to follow and believe in him. Choice or not?

    Obviously there's a choice, but is it a free or fair choice?

    I think what one needs to take into account is the risk and consequence of choices in question and try and assess whether they're fair/free.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Obviously
    Regarding choice...

    A robber comes to your store and tells you to give him all your money or die. Do you have a choice?

    What if we draw a parallel with the christian God. He gives us the "choice" between burning in Hell forever or to follow and believe in him. Choice or not?
    Darn! You beat me to it.

    Yes of course we have a choice. We can either be a fawning lap dog coward or we can make a stand against what is contemptible and be satisfied that whatever abuses this being makes are implicitly an affirmation of your moral integrity.


    Quote Originally Posted by Obviously
    Obviously there's a choice, but is it a free or fair choice?
    Well the fawning coward gets to be the slave of the despicable tyrant which is just what he deserves.


    Quote Originally Posted by Obviously
    I think what one needs to take into account is the risk and consequence of choices in question and try and assess whether they're fair/free.
    I think we need to decide what kind of person we want to be. And if the god someone is pushing isn't up to your standards then it is clear where this so called god has come from.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Obviously
    Regarding choice...

    A robber comes to your store and tells you to give him all your money or die. Do you have a choice?

    What if we draw a parallel with the christian God. He gives us the "choice" between burning in Hell forever or to follow and believe in him. Choice or not?

    Obviously there's a choice, but is it a free or fair choice?

    I think what one needs to take into account is the risk and consequence of choices in question and try and assess whether they're fair/free.
    err ... "free will" and "fair choice" don't share any parallel
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    How are the two scenarios different then? In one you kill your son, one person, to save the lives of 10. In the other you kill an innocent, one person, in order to save the lives of your loved ones.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Quote Originally Posted by John Galt
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Even if you know for certain that the kidnapper will do what he says?
    I don't believe in certainty.
    Well, seriously, don't you think that is a bit of a copout reply?
    No. I have never given a cop out reply to any question on any forum under any name. I would consider a cop out answer to be morally indefensible. I vomit at the thought of doing such.

    I do not believe in certainty. That disbelief informs all of my actions. It is why I am essentially optimistic - while planning for the worst I expect the best. I would be hoping for and looking for some way out of the situation. I might say I agreed to the kidnappers demands to buy time. I might go as far as carrying out a botched attack on the intended victim. If, under the pressure of the moment I actually carried out his wishes, I would not be so cowardly as to claim I had no choice in the matter.
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  21. #20  
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    No. I have never given a cop out reply to any question on any forum under any name. I would consider a cop out answer to be morally indefensible. I vomit at the thought of doing such.
    I hope you didn't take offence. Your moral defensibility has never been suspect to me and still isn't.

    It is just that this is a pretty difficult question and one would be in a severe state of distress if you ever were to be put in such a position. I thought that your statement might be a way to deal with the question somewhat superficially because of the intensity of it (i.e. not a wilful copout), but your clarification has made your position clear. I should have known better! :wink:
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  22. #21  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    How are the two scenarios different then? In one you kill your son, one person, to save the lives of 10. In the other you kill an innocent, one person, in order to save the lives of your loved ones.
    I told you, it is all about making an approriate response to the actions of another person, in the second case you are opposing with violence the person who is choosing violence, but in the first case you are helping the person who is choosing violence carry out that violence. The question is, are you opposing violence and murder or are facilitating it? And by the way I did not mean to suggest that you are above the law or free from legal consequences in the second case. Nevertheless, I only think that the second case can be called saving a life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    How are the two scenarios different then? In one you kill your son, one person, to save the lives of 10. In the other you kill an innocent, one person, in order to save the lives of your loved ones.
    I told you, it is all about making an approriate response to the actions of another person, in the second case you are opposinging with violence the person who is choosing violence, but in the first case you are helping the person who is choosing violence carry out that violence. The question is, are you opposing violence and murder or are facilitating it? And by the way I did not mean to suggest that you are above the law or free from legal consequences in the second case. Nevertheless, I only think that the second case can be called saving a life.
    I am just fishing a bit I guess. If I were put in that position I would understand if I was held responsible as well. A person would be dead because I decided to kill him. I get that.

    If you recall, my position is that if a God existed, that a hell still would not exist, since nobody would qualify for it. The moral dilemma presented here pertains to it in a way. It comes down to where people get their morals from and how they define them. How much of what we do or don't do has to do with the repercussions of the action or inaction for us personally or for others. Would you not kill someone because you would go to jail, because of how it would affect the way people regard you, because you would never forgive yourself for it, because of the grief it would cause the victim's loved ones or simply because you have predetermined that doing it is a bad thing. Etc.

    Most people would say that it is a mix between them and I think that the situation determines which reasons have the greatest impact on your decision. Some situations would have one reason dominate and when juxtaposed with a strong counter reason to go through with it, you get interesting results in terms of our moral compass. Each person's compass is different and is directly affected by their growth through life. I think most people have a built-up set of default morals that they refer to in certain situations. Submitting these morals to direct and honest scrutiny and mind-experimentation is essential, as you'd agree. One cannot achieve any level of empathy without it.
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  24. #23  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    I told you, it is all about making an approriate response to the actions of another person, in the second case you are opposinging with violence the person who is choosing violence, but in the first case you are helping the person who is choosing violence carry out that violence. The question is, are you opposing violence and murder or are facilitating it? And by the way I did not mean to suggest that you are above the law or free from legal consequences in the second case. Nevertheless, I only think that the second case can be called saving a life.
    I am just fishing a bit I guess. If I were put in that position I would understand if I was held responsible as well. A person would be dead because I decided to kill him. I get that.
    I quite understand. I am sorry if I make the answers I gave seem obvious or easy. I only have the answers I do because I have thought about questions like this A LOT.

    Some might call that morbid, but I for me it is a part of being alive that one thinks ahead about what can happen and what you will do in such cases rather than just reacting thoughtlessly to things as they happen. The latter is like sleeping your way through life.


    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    If you recall, my position is that if a God existed, that a hell still would not exist, since nobody would qualify for it. The moral dilemma presented here pertains to it in a way. It comes down to where people get their morals from and how they define them.
    Yes I quite agree and that is why I do not believe that hell as an eternal punishment makes any sense at all. But it does not follow from this that hell does not exist. When I look at the behavior of human beings what I see is people stubbornly making a hell out of whatever place they live in. The main think that is wrong with the world are the people in it. And it is no wonder that when rational and thoughtful people think about the ideas of heaven and hell, their thoughts go automatically to what kind of people will be there, and conclude that that is the most important criteria about whether they would want to be there or not.


    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    How much of what we do or don't do has to do with the repercussions of the action or inaction for us personally or for others. Would you not kill someone because you would go to jail, because of how it would affect the way people regard you, because you would never forgive yourself for it, because of the grief it would cause the victim's loved ones or simply because you have predetermined that doing it is a bad thing. Etc.
    Yes. In my case, I am a virtue ethicist, which means it is all about decide what kind person I am.

    I almost said it is about what you see in the mirror, but I realized that is not really true. Because too often what people see in the mirror has more to do with what people have said to them than the choices they have made.


    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    I think most people have a built-up set of default morals that they refer to in certain situations. Submitting these morals to direct and honest scrutiny and mind-experimentation is essential, as you'd agree. One cannot achieve any level of empathy without it.
    Indeed I do. I quite agree.
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  25. #24 Re: Cruel Ultimatums 
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    Quote Originally Posted by verzen
    I had a discussion with a room mate earlier about ultimatums and choices. If a person is told that if they do not kill someone specific, then their family will die... should that person be charged with murder or should the murder sentence be charged to the one who threatened his families life?

    My room mate seems to think that the person committing the murder should be charged with murder even though his hand was forced.
    I tried explaining that it is simply not the case. If someone forces your hand and you are FORCED to do what they want you to do (since you practically have no choice) then the murder charges should be placed on the person threatening your family members.

    This is a conversation of morals and ethics and what the law should do against the person committing the crimes.
    What are your views?
    I think the law would hold both people responsible. I think the only defenses for lethal violence are legitimate self defense (as defined by law) and insanity where the person is both insane and does not know right from wrong.

    Apart from the legal issue, I am always wary of false choices or "dichotomous thinking". There are rarely only two choices in a situation. It is one thing to create a hypothetical on a forum. But in real life when people try and imply that there are only two choices it is a cause for alarm (at least for me).

    This is because it tells me that the person is extremely biased and not thinking clearly.
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  26. #25 Re: Cruel Ultimatums 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dedo
    Quote Originally Posted by verzen
    I had a discussion with a room mate earlier about ultimatums and choices. If a person is told that if they do not kill someone specific, then their family will die... should that person be charged with murder or should the murder sentence be charged to the one who threatened his families life?

    My room mate seems to think that the person committing the murder should be charged with murder even though his hand was forced.
    I tried explaining that it is simply not the case. If someone forces your hand and you are FORCED to do what they want you to do (since you practically have no choice) then the murder charges should be placed on the person threatening your family members.

    This is a conversation of morals and ethics and what the law should do against the person committing the crimes.
    What are your views?
    I think the law would hold both people responsible. I think the only defenses for lethal violence are legitimate self defense (as defined by law) and insanity where the person is both insane and does not know right from wrong.

    Apart from the legal issue, I am always wary of false choices or "dichotomous thinking". There are rarely only two choices in a situation. It is one thing to create a hypothetical on a forum. But in real life when people try and imply that there are only two choices it is a cause for alarm (at least for me).

    This is because it tells me that the person is extremely biased and not thinking clearly.
    That is quite right! Apparently verzen actually sees no choice at all. But of course the whole point is that what choice one sees is no excuse because seeing the choices we have is part of our responsibility.
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

    I now have a blog too: http://astahost.blogspot.com/
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  27. #26  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    No. I have never given a cop out reply to any question on any forum under any name. I would consider a cop out answer to be morally indefensible. I vomit at the thought of doing such.
    I hope you didn't take offence. Your moral defensibility has never been suspect to me and still isn't.

    It is just that this is a pretty difficult question and one would be in a severe state of distress if you ever were to be put in such a position. I thought that your statement might be a way to deal with the question somewhat superficially because of the intensity of it (i.e. not a wilful copout), but your clarification has made your position clear. I should have known better! :wink:
    One is doing, while the other is allowing.

    Consequentialist consider these to be conceptually equivalent, but most deontological moral philosophies, like Christian or in my case ''rights based'' theory, would consider there to be a difference. In one you would be negatively responsible, while in the other you would be positively responsible for a death.
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