Philosophers often discuss an example in which a person is presented with a dilemma. If he kills one innocent person, ten others will be saved. If he does not, they will all be killed.
Raimond Gaita in his book “Good and Evil, An Absolute Conception” (1991) puts it this way:
“The deeper issue is that those who think it obvious that one should be shot to save ten have no serious sense of evil – neither of evil done nor of evil suffered.”
A serious statement. The primary assumption is, that we as human beings should do no evil. And thence the question is, what should the person with the gun DO?
Will he do good or evil when he comes to a decision? We can interpret evil done as an action of power, power to alter, control and arrange. We have power for good and evil.
Moral behavior is a matter of practical and purposive action: its purpose is to make life better for ourselves and others.
Is it not clear, you could say, that once someone is in such an awful situation the aim of moral thinking is to ‘ameliorate’ it,
and is that not done by having one corpse rather than ten? What can someone who refuses to shoot be thinking of?
It is a characteristic feature of discussions of such examples that the dilemma is presented from the point of view of the one who might do the killing.
That seems perfectly natural, for is it not his problem? However, he is not the only one in the situation who has a problem.
Everyone is caught up in the evil of it. The one who might be shot and the ten who might be saved must ask themselves what they hope for, and hopes, like actions, may be good or evil.
Their problem is not whether at the end of the day there will be one dead or ten dead – that is not within their power.
It is, whether they may justifiably hope for and inwardly consent to the killing of another for themselves.
One important question in this awful situation is “What OUGHT to be done?”, but of equal importance is how to characterize this situation and capture the evil in it.
One crops at the end or ten? What could be the moral justification for the person, who is put in this situation?
In a Kantian or deontological approach to morally evaluating acts of violence, one considers the principles one deems valid that would yield judgments about particular actions.
The actions are seen to have characteristics that make them wrong or right in themselves, regardless of their consequences.
For instance, it is inherently wrong to lie or deceive, even if doing so may on occasion have good results.
Similarly, acts of violence can often be judged to violate people’s rights and thus to be inherently wrong, or they can be acts of law enforcement and thereby often justified.
We can contrast this with a consequentialist approach to morality, of which utilitarianism is the leading example, in which actions in themselves are neither right nor wrong
but are to be judged on the basis of their consequences. From this viewpoint, violence is often considered as unfortunate but necessary to enable to achieve a desirable outcome.
Whether the good consequences of a violent act outweigh the bad depends in our case on considerations such as how many people will die.
Our evaluations of these factors usually rest on empirical estimates, but that we cannot avoid acting on.
This is a peculiar philosophical situation, for what is the answer to the question “Should he kill the one person or not?” What is evil here? What is immoral?
Thank you…feel free to come up with questions or remarks. The floor is yours… ^_^
Max Chatnoir: What could be the moral justification for the person who has set up that situation? Who or what is going to kill the 10 people?
herman Bergson: a firing squad , Max..
Rodney Handrick: As a soul we have our own journey to reconnect to the source.
Max Chatnoir: who is giving the orders to the firing squad. why can't I just say, don't shoot?
CB Axel: So kill them all so they can reconnect to a source?
Rodney Handrick: It maybe the lesson that needs to be experienced by that particular soul.
CB Axel: Max, maybe it's the one person who's going to kill the ten. °͜°
Max Chatnoir: Ah, the one that I have to shoot?
herman Bergson: Have you seen the movie Fury?
Max Chatnoir: No.
Rodney Handrick: No
CB Axel: No.
herman Bergson: ok :-)
CB Axel: It was playing at the Second Cinema not long ago, but I didn't go.
herman Bergson: There is a similar situation....more or less
Rodney Handrick: don't go to movies much
herman Bergson: Is not a fun movie....
Max Chatnoir: Doesn't sound like it.
herman Bergson: But the problem here is....what to DO in this situation....
Rodney Handrick: synopsis of the movie...
herman Bergson: and is doing what you do evil or good?
CB Axel: It would depend on who all the people are.
herman Bergson: No...we leave out all circumstantial features
herman Bergson: it is about who is gonna be killed
CB Axel: If the one person was someone I cared deeply for and the 10 were Republican members of the US Congress, there would be no dilemma.
herman Bergson: lol
herman Bergson: The issue here is what is morality.....
Rodney Handrick: All people want the same...to live
Max Chatnoir: We've had multiple cases of people walking into schools or theaters and waving a gun around. They pretty much always wind up shot.
herman Bergson: Is Kant right with his deontic approach or is the consequentialist right....?
Max Chatnoir: Or shoot themselves. Unfortunately, they get it in the wrong order.
Rodney Handrick: They do that because it gives them a sense of godlike power
Max Chatnoir: I don't think that the shooters of the shooter are generally regarded as evil. However there was one woman in a school case who actually managed to talk the shooter down.
Max Chatnoir: I thought that was pretty remarkable.
Rodney Handrick: Those individuals are cowards...
herman Bergson: Yes....
CB Axel: I think it's the consequences that matter.
herman Bergson: And here were have the issue of justiefied violence...
Rodney Handrick: They're looking for attention
CB Axel: It' not the body count, it's what will happen afterward that matters more.
herman Bergson: which is justified evil if you take violence toward any person as evil
herman Bergson: Can the person who is ordered to kil the innocent other person and thus save the other ten feel justified if he shoots?
herman Bergson: Can taking a human live ever be justiefied?
CB Axel: I think so, but he could also be justified in letting the 10 go.
Rodney Handrick: They always need a justification (ie dogma)
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): oops I forgot
Max Chatnoir: Hi, Beertje.
herman Bergson: But this reduces morality to a kind of quantitative administration, CB
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): soooo sorry
Rodney Handrick: Hi Beertje
CB Axel: Well, one reason I'm against the death penalty is that I wouldn't want to kill someone and don't feel it's right to ask someone else to do the killing for me.
herman Bergson: Hi Beertje :-)
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Goodevening Herman Max and Rodney
CB Axel: Hi, Beertje.
Rodney Handrick: I don't have that problem
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): hi CB:)
herman Bergson: Indeed CB...that was on my mind to...the death penalty debate
Max Chatnoir: There you have a person who has already been taken out of social circulation, and who is threatening nobody.
CB Axel: I'm actually in a position where I could start and IV and infuse lethal drugs, but I wouldn't do that job.
Rodney Handrick: I don't have a problem with the death penalty.
CB Axel: *start an IV
Max Chatnoir: I do, if only because the legal system sometimes gets it wrong.
CB Axel: Well, I also feel that life in prison is a worse fate than death.
herman Bergson: I'd think so too CB
Max Chatnoir: I would agree.
Rodney Handrick: Getting it wrong has been going on for centuries.
herman Bergson: Getting wrong what, Rodney?
Max Chatnoir: No doubt. But once the guy is dead, you can't apologize.
CB Axel: A death sentence, Herman.
Rodney Handrick: death penalty judgments
herman Bergson: If that is the case then you never should apply a death sentence, I would say
Rodney Handrick: You don't apologize...you make sure you get it right before it reaches that point!
CB Axel: People have died in prison waiting to appeal their case.
Rodney Handrick: this is true CB
herman Bergson: Well..the basic question is.....Is taking a human life ever justifiable yes or no...
Max Chatnoir: Well, I don't think I expect either police or the justice system to be infallible.
CB Axel: Getting it right isn't always easy.
Rodney Handrick: Yes and NO
Rodney Handrick: That's the challenge CB
herman Bergson: unfortunately, that answer doesn’t apply in a philosophy class, Rodney :-)))
Rodney Handrick: It's "hard" work!
herman Bergson: Something can not be true and false at the same time
herman Bergson: So we HAVE to choose...
herman Bergson: And that is so amazing in the human condition here....
Rodney Handrick: And that is the lesson...free will - choice!
herman Bergson: If we adopt the rule that you NEVER kill a fellowman....and when you do it is evil...all is clear
CB Axel: Either way you go with our 1 vs 10 question, you will have had a hand in someone's death. It's just that the you would have one more degree of separation with the death of the 10 than you would with the 1.
herman Bergson: If you say....there are situations where you have to kill....in war for instance....self defense...we have a problem....
herman Bergson: Yes CB...the idea that ten deaths is a greater evil than one death....
Rodney Handrick: I was CB...Vietnam - desert storm
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): how great is that evil is that one death is your child?
herman Bergson: I think we reach here the limits of our mind....
Max Chatnoir: I think that part of the reason so many people come back with PTSD is the stress of making that kind of decision.
herman Bergson: I think so too, Max....
CB Axel: I think you're right, Max.
herman Bergson: because we have no answer to the question actually
Rodney Handrick: I think the problem is we have to connect to our "higher" selves to understand
herman Bergson: But situations force you to an answer based on your own will to survive...
CB Axel: What if I don't have a higher self?
herman Bergson: I don’t have one too, Rodney :-)
herman Bergson: Wouldn't have the slightest idea what and where to look for
herman Bergson: or even how to look....with what sensses?
Rodney Handrick: I think the Zen Buddhist would know...
herman Bergson: I guess I leave you pondering about this issue...:-)
herman Bergson: Here we won't come up with a definite answer...
CB Axel: It's an old conundrum and no one has ever come up with a definitive answer.
CB Axel: I doubt we ever would.
Max Chatnoir: I honestly don't know whether failing to act would be worse than acting in the situation you describe. It's the kind of decision that people in the police or the miliatry have to make frequently.
herman Bergson: But the dreadful question still stand...should he kill the one person or not...
Max Chatnoir: Well, you could say "Hey, I didn't start this," and just bow out.
herman Bergson: yes Max....a terrible condition...
Max Chatnoir: or you could say, Please don't do that because I'd rather not have to kill you.
Rodney Handrick: It's the same problem as eating...animal /vegetable both forms of life.
Max Chatnoir: Or you could just shoot and sort it out later.
CB Axel: You could always just turn the gun on yourself.
Rodney Handrick: Max and CB - both true
Max Chatnoir: I'm not sure that solves the moral question, CB. Just another way of taking yourself out of the situation.
herman Bergson: Doesn’t change the question, CB...you still take a human life
CB Axel: If I had come here in my mouse avatar that would change THAT argument. LOL
herman Bergson: Same problem as euthanasia...
Rodney Handrick: I still go back to the issue of the individual soul and the lessons that needs to be experienced
herman Bergson: But that assumes a lot of metaphysics, Rodney....
herman Bergson: More a kind of religious approach
Rodney Handrick: Yes CB I would tyre to takeout the Rat...lol
Max Chatnoir: Is killing something that needs to be experienced?
Rodney Handrick: True Herman
herman Bergson: Yes CB..live in SL is much easier that in RL :-))
herman Bergson: Here I take morals now and then too with a wink
Max Chatnoir: I've hit dogs while driving a couple of times because I wasn't quick enough to avoid them. That was bad enough.
Rodney Handrick: Yes Max...go on a hunt for wild game.
herman Bergson: Difficult issue Rodney.....
herman Bergson: killing human being in contrast with killing animals....
herman Bergson: Here again it is about basic choises...
Rodney Handrick: Can't help you there Max...you have to provide an answer to the dog god...lol
Max Chatnoir: Oh, I still think those Chinese millionaires that make dog food out of their expensive pets when they get bored are doing evil.
Max Chatnoir: And serial killers often begin by killing animals.
Rodney Handrick: I agree Max
herman Bergson: Yes Max.....general respect for life....
Max Chatnoir: Hunting for food is a different issue. I'm not a vegetarian and I don't go out and slaughter my own cows.
CB Axel: But I've known plenty of huntsmen who would not kill a person.
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): do you eat meat Max?
Rodney Handrick: Good guard dogs
Max Chatnoir: If I had to slaughter my own animals, I would probably have to become a vegetarian, so I let somebody else take that hit for me. I do recognize that I'm just dodging the issue.
Rodney Handrick: Yes you are Max
herman Bergson: I think it is time to end our discussion here....
herman Bergson: You got enough to think about, I'd say :-)
CB Axel: I eat meat. I don't hunt. But that has more to do with not wanting to go slogging through the woods at dawn in the cold than with not wanting to kill for food.
herman Bergson: So, thank you all again :-)
CB Axel: Thank you, Herman. Good discussion!
Rodney Handrick: In a real survival situation the will to survive cause us to reevaluate our views.
herman Bergson: yes, Rodney...
Max Chatnoir: I can well believe that, and if somebody were coming at me with a machete, I would probably shoot back.
Rodney Handrick: That applies to both human and animal
Max Chatnoir: Or some really sharp teeth.
herman Bergson: Well...thank you all again....class dismissed :-)
Rodney Handrick: Thanks Herman
Max Chatnoir: Thank you, Herman.
Max Chatnoir: I always enjoy these discussions.
CB Axel: I'll be looking forward to that picture you took of me, Herman. °͜°
Max Chatnoir: I will see you all next week.
herman Bergson: You will be surprised CB :-))
CB Axel: See you all next week.
Max Chatnoir: I need to go see what my student is up to. :-)
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): excuses for being late tonight...i have to read the blg I guess
CB Axel: Beertje, did you make that dress?
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes CB i did
CB Axel: Wow! That's gorgeous.
Rodney Handrick: Well, I guess if I stop over for a meal...can't count on steak and potatoes...:-)
herman Bergson: She is gooooooooood, CB!
CB Axel: OK. See you next week.
Rodney Handrick: where's the photo?
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol..Herman looks thru pink glasses...
herman Bergson: Nice you dropped in Rodney :-))
Rodney Handrick: Thanks Herman
Rodney Handrick: Bye all
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): goodnight ㋡
herman Bergson: By eRodney
herman Bergson: ok...op naar de beta grid
.: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): ok