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Shaker

Thought experiment re: morality

A passing whimsy suggested by current reading ...

An individual is stranded an on otherwise humanly uninhabited island. Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?
Ketty

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
A passing whimsy suggested by current reading ...

An individual is stranded an on otherwise humanly uninhabited island. Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?


Given that morality is concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character . . . then I guess whatever is already established as one's moral compass, it is possible to commit an immoral act.  Though I'm struggling to think of one.
Lexilogio

That would depend on what you considered to be immoral.

Some would consider suicide to be immoral.

However, being a bit of a lateral thinker..... were he to then spend his time on the island to build a weapon which could destroy all life on the island - that would be immoral.
The Boyg

Some people consider eating other animals to be immoral.

I guess that the individual on that island could only really judge their own behaviour according to the moral standards that they personally subscribe to.
Powwow

Not in your case Shaker. You have never had any morals in the first place. But the thought of you all alone on a little island really warms me. Thanks for that.
northernstar

From where do you get your morals, my Canuck friend?
Shaker

Ketty wrote:
Given that morality is concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character . . . then I guess whatever is already established as one's moral compass, it is possible to commit an immoral act.  Though I'm struggling to think of one.


Lexilogio wrote:
That would depend on what you considered to be immoral.

Some would consider suicide to be immoral.


The Boyg wrote:
Some people consider eating other animals to be immoral.

I guess that the individual on that island could only really judge their own behaviour according to the moral standards that they personally subscribe to.


Up to a point, though only up to a point, there's a theist/non-theist difference here: for instance, Catholicism holds masturbation and suicide to be immoral behaviours, so our Robinson Crusoe would by these lights be behaving immorally by knocking one out or knocking himself off. That's not a universal thing, though: other acts of perceived immorality, such as killing and eating the island's animals, don't inherently depend upon any particular religious viewpoint.

The thinking behind this thought experiment was suggested by a comment I read which sought to give a capsule definition of morality as that which concerns the happiness and unhappiness (broadly construed) of other people: it wouldn't be a great stretch to extend that to include the happiness and unhappiness of sentient organisms, which would include non-human animals as well as human ones. The implication is that morality inherently needs some object, some other, before moral or immoral behaviour (moral or immoral behaviour to this or to that) can be called as much, hence the desert island scenario.

As a capsule definition it does what it's supposed to do (i.e be extremely short and succinct) though perhaps when you start to apply some thought to it you could find a great deal wrong with it.  

pow wow wrote:
Not in your case Shaker. You have never had any morals in the first place. But the thought of you all alone on a little island really warms me. Thanks for that.

... aaaaand a timely reminder that the thoughtless are rarely wordless.
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Some people consider eating other animals to be immoral.

I guess that the individual on that island could only really judge their own behaviour according to the moral standards that they personally subscribe to.

Up to a point, though only up to a point, there's a theist/non-theist difference here: for instance, Catholicism holds masturbation and suicide to be immoral behaviours, so our Robinson Crusoe would by these lights be behaving immorally by knocking one out or knocking himself off. That's not a universal thing, though: other acts of perceived immorality, such as killing and eating the island's animals, don't inherently depend upon any particular religious viewpoint.


So if the person who subscibes to those moral standards would judge themselves as behaving immorally if they acted contrary to the moral standards that they subscribe to whereas someone who does not subscribe to these moral behaviours can behave in these ways without judging their behaviour to be immoral.

This is the same for the person who masturbates contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to as for the person who eats the fauna contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to, irrespective of the source of either moral injunction.
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
The thinking behind this thought experiment was suggested by a comment I read which sought to give a capsule definition of morality as that which concerns the happiness and unhappiness (broadly construed) of other people


That would appear to be a definition of what someone thinks that morality ought to be, and not what people actually consider to be "morality" in practice.
Shaker

The Boyg wrote:
This is the same for the person who masturbates contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to as for the person who eats the fauna contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to, irrespective of the source of either moral injunction.

Isn't that just a hugely unnecessarily wordy version of

Quote:
Up to a point, though only up to a point, there's a theist/non-theist difference here


?
Lexilogio

I do agree that if you follow ulilitarianism, the moral absolutes become a tad null and void. There is only one person, therefore there is no "greatest happiness", only the happiness of the one. This could be argued to be the weak point in ultilitarianism. Without others, a person could be free to do their own choice, with no moral code. How would they then react if put in a society or community? Would they be able to adapt.

Should utlitarianism have a greatest good moral code which applied based on probability? What it would be if there WERE others present. But how would that be decided? What one group consider to be immoral, another group would have no problem with. For example, there have been groups which practice cannibalism, infanticide etc... Does there become a greatest good across all known societies to define the moral code? How does one decide which has precedent? Is it purely on numbers? Could you then breed a new moral code?
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
This is the same for the person who masturbates contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to as for the person who eats the fauna contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to, irrespective of the source of either moral injunction.

Isn't that just a hugely unnecessarily wordy version of
Quote:
Up to a point, though only up to a point, there's a theist/non-theist difference here

?


Not really, since I'm not saying that it's only true up to a point.
Ketty

Shaker wrote:

The thinking behind this thought experiment was suggested by a comment I read which sought to give a capsule definition of morality as that which concerns the happiness and unhappiness (broadly construed) of other people:


Interesting.  'No man is an island' and all that, but where does our 'happiness' have its root?  I suggest that it's only me who is responsible for my own happiness.  You may try to make me happy, but I'm the one in control of whether or not I accept that from you - so ultimately it's me who 'makes' me happy.

All alone on a desert island my happiness would come from having enough water to drink and food to eat, and shelter to keep me warm/dry/cool.  It would also come from observing nature, and in prayer and contemplation.
Shaker

The Boyg wrote:
Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
This is the same for the person who masturbates contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to as for the person who eats the fauna contrary to the moral code that they subscribe to, irrespective of the source of either moral injunction.

Isn't that just a hugely unnecessarily wordy version of
Quote:
Up to a point, though only up to a point, there's a theist/non-theist difference here

?


Not really, since I'm not saying that it's only true up to a point.

So you're denying that there's a difference between moralities conceived in theistic and non-theistic terms, apparently.
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
So you're denying that there's a difference between moralities conceived in theistic and non-theistic terms, apparently.


I'm not considering the source of the morality that the individual on the desert island subscribes to since it is irrelevant to the scenario.

They are the only person on the island to judge the morality of their behaviour and they will make that judgement on the basis of the morality that they subscribe to.

So, yes, they can behave in an immoral way, according to their own judgement of themselves.
Shaker

The Boyg wrote:
Shaker wrote:
So you're denying that there's a difference between moralities conceived in theistic and non-theistic terms, apparently.


I'm not considering the source of the morality that the individual on the desert island subscribes to since it is irrelevant to the scenario.

I thought we'd already established fairly definitively that in certain cases it couldn't be more relevant - masturbation and suicide for the Catholic Crusoe, for instance. The source of the morality is precisely what determines moral and immoral behaviour.

Still, doubtless you have your own conception of relevance ...
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Shaker wrote:
So you're denying that there's a difference between moralities conceived in theistic and non-theistic terms, apparently.

I'm not considering the source of the morality that the individual on the desert island subscribes to since it is irrelevant to the scenario.

I thought we'd already established fairly definitively that in certain cases it couldn't be more relevant


You may have asserted this but that doesn't make it "established".

Whatever the moral rules they subscribe to and for whatever reason makes no difference to the fact that they can behave in an immoral fashion according to their personal morality.
Shaker

The Boyg wrote:
Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Shaker wrote:
So you're denying that there's a difference between moralities conceived in theistic and non-theistic terms, apparently.

I'm not considering the source of the morality that the individual on the desert island subscribes to since it is irrelevant to the scenario.

I thought we'd already established fairly definitively that in certain cases it couldn't be more relevant


You may have asserted this but that doesn't make it "established".

Whatever the moral rules they subscribe to and for whatever reason makes no difference to the fact that they can behave in an immoral fashion according to their personal morality.


.. said personal morality depending entirely on its source. If they're behaving in an immoral fashion according to Catholicism, that makes a world of difference to behaving immorally according to rule utilitarianism or another - any other - moral system.
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Whatever the moral rules they subscribe to and for whatever reason makes no difference to the fact that they can behave in an immoral fashion according to their personal morality.


.. said personal morality depending entirely on its source.


Only in the details of the moral rules that the individual has adopted.

However, they will still have an internalised morality and so can still judge themselves to have behaved immorally if they act contrary to it.

The specific detail of the moral rule that they have broken is therefore irrelevant to your original question: "Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?".
Shaker

The Boyg wrote:
Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Whatever the moral rules they subscribe to and for whatever reason makes no difference to the fact that they can behave in an immoral fashion according to their personal morality.


.. said personal morality depending entirely on its source.


Only in the details of the moral rules that the individual has adopted.

Well, yes. And, indeed, duh.

Quote:
The specific detail of the moral rule that they have broken is therefore irrelevant to your original question: "Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?".

Nope. Couldn't be more relevant. Masturbation will be immoral for the Catholic castaway but not for the sex-positive atheist (or sex-positive religionist, for that matter). Killing an animal even for naked survival is likely to be immoral and guilt-inducing (though, for some, permissible in such a scenario) for the animal rights-supporting vegan but not for the avid meat-eater. And so on.

In other words, moral or immoral behaviour hinges entirely upon the pre-existing moral belief system. It makes a difference, and is not irrelevant as you bizarrely seem to think. It's the detail of the moral rules which define moral and immoral even for the castaway.
The Boyg

Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Shaker wrote:
The Boyg wrote:
Whatever the moral rules they subscribe to and for whatever reason makes no difference to the fact that they can behave in an immoral fashion according to their personal morality.


.. said personal morality depending entirely on its source.


Only in the details of the moral rules that the individual has adopted.

Well, yes. And, indeed, duh.

Quote:
The specific detail of the moral rule that they have broken is therefore irrelevant to your original question: "Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?".

Nope. Couldn't be more relevant.


It is irrelevant to the question that you posed, i.e. "Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?".

A vegetarian atheist (who is vegetarian for moral reasons) who is isolated on a desert island can still act immorally by acting contrary to their internalised moral code, e.g. by eating animals.



I naively thought that you were simply starting an interesting moral discussion with this thread.

I should have realised that as a self-confessed "rabid anti-theist" it would actually be a thinly disguised excuse to once again assuage your sense of personal inadequacy with another irrational attack on theists.

As such there seems little point in trying to engage further in what, but for this, could have been an interesting discussion and I shall depart this thread so that you can continue to indulge your self-gratification in private.  
Shaker

The Boyg wrote:
your sense of personal inadequacy

Goodness me, no - that's something with which I've never been afflicted. People who are as great as I am tend not to be.

Quote:
As such there seems little point in trying to engage further in what, but for this, could have been an interesting discussion and I shall depart this thread so that you can continue to indulge your self-gratification in private.  

Oh, phew. Not as soon as hoped but sooner than expected.

Lexi and Ketty, you can come back now - he's flounced  
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
A passing whimsy suggested by current reading ...

An individual is stranded an on otherwise humanly uninhabited island. Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?


Would you consider wilful damage to the envirnonment to be immoral? Maybe he could pour toxins into the sea, or destroy plants for no reason.
Shaker

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:
Shaker wrote:
A passing whimsy suggested by current reading ...

An individual is stranded an on otherwise humanly uninhabited island. Is it possible for them to commit an immoral act?


Would you consider wilful damage to the envirnonment to be immoral? Maybe he could pour toxins into the sea, or destroy plants for no reason.

I would yes, certainly - others wouldn't, of course, and that's why it makes all the difference which particular moral belief system you adhere to.

The amount of environmental damage a lone individual could inflict would be minimal, of course: there wouldn't be much in the way of repercussions for other life.
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:

The amount of environmental damage a lone individual could inflict would be minimal, of course: there wouldn't be much in the way of repercussions for other life.


It depends what gets washed up with him! He might have a nuclear sub to play with.

I thought of another one too - plotting to do something bad. If I was planning to murder my neighbour, but didn't ever get round to doing so, I think that devoting my time and thoughts to such a plot, and harbouring the genuine intent to carry it out, would be an immoral thing to do. Not daydreaming but actually planning to really do it. So, our desert island chum could do this, as long as he thought there was a reasonable hope that he might one day return home.  

After all, premeditation makes the difference between manslaughter and murder, so the law (not that the law is necessarily the ultimate arbiter), but the law does not consider the private planning in the mind to be morally neutral.
Shaker

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:
I thought of another one too - plotting to do something bad. If I was planning to murder my neighbour, but didn't ever get round to doing so, I think that devoting my time and thoughts to such a plot, and harbouring the genuine intent to carry it out, would be an immoral thing to do. Not daydreaming but actually planning to really do it. So, our desert island chum could do this, as long as he thought there was a reasonable hope that he might one day return home.

Sounds like thoughtcrime to me - plotting to do something but not actually doing it is almost as bad as the actual doing. If it's just plotting and planning, so what, really? This is the same sort of twaddle as espoused by Jesus who drew a moral equivalence between lustful thoughts about a woman - just thoughts, remember - and actual adultery. This is utter insanity.

Quote:
After all, premeditation makes the difference between manslaughter and murder, so the law (not that the law is necessarily the ultimate arbiter), but the law does not consider the private planning in the mind to be morally neutral.

In the case of both manslaughter and murder there is an actual death, though - a body or bodies somewhere: in your previous paragraph you stipulated planning to murder your neighbour but never getting round to doing so. The law, to me, clearly does consider private planning in the mind to be morally neutral: the law sees a distinction once a death has occurred between whether that death was carried out with malice aforethought or whether it wasn't. But that's only once there's a body.
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
I thought of another one too - plotting to do something bad. If I was planning to murder my neighbour, but didn't ever get round to doing so, I think that devoting my time and thoughts to such a plot, and harbouring the genuine intent to carry it out, would be an immoral thing to do. Not daydreaming but actually planning to really do it. So, our desert island chum could do this, as long as he thought there was a reasonable hope that he might one day return home.

Sounds like thoughtcrime to me - plotting to do something but not actually doing it is almost as bad as the actual doing. If it's just plotting and planning, so what, really? This is the same sort of twaddle as espoused by Jesus who drew a moral equivalence between lustful thoughts about a woman - just thoughts, remember - and actual adultery. This is utter insanity.

Quote:
After all, premeditation makes the difference between manslaughter and murder, so the law (not that the law is necessarily the ultimate arbiter), but the law does not consider the private planning in the mind to be morally neutral.

In the case of both manslaughter and murder there is an actual death, though - a body or bodies somewhere: in your previous paragraph you stipulated planning to murder your neighbour but never getting round to doing so. The law, to me, clearly does consider private planning in the mind to be morally neutral: the law sees a distinction once a death has occurred between whether that death was carried out with malice aforethought or whether it wasn't. But that's only once there's a body.


I agree that thinking about shagging another woman is not as bad as actually shagging them. (At least, I hope not!). However, while not as bad, do you think that there is anything wrong at all with wishing your parents were dead and harbouring a genuine intention to kill them?
Shaker

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:
I agree that thinking about shagging another woman is not as bad as actually shagging them. (At least, I hope not!).

Jesus apparently takes a different view, however!

Quote:
However, while not as bad, do you think that there is anything wrong at all with wishing your parents were dead and harbouring a genuine intention to kill them?

Well, it's clearly not nice, and indicative of a lot that's wrong with the individual doing such a thing - anger and resentment are the least of it -, but I can't see it as immoral per se because provided we're still talking about thoughts and not deeds nothing has actually happened. A genuine intention to kill them - no, more: an actual plan, complete with details, to do so - is a nasty, nasty thing, but to my mind there's a fixed barrier between the thought and the deed. Once you step over that line we're into completely different territory altogether.

If the thoughts, dreams, wishes, plots, plans and desires of every single one of us were somehow to be made visible/knowable to everybody else, the human world would collapse within a matter of hours, and that's being generous. It would make the very worst writings of the Marquis de Sade look like Timmy and Janet Visit the Farm. I haven't given it a lot of thought, I admit, but I don't think I'm on board with the idea that thoughts per se are necessarily immoral - not even the sexual fantasies (fantasies, remember ...) of the most rapacious paedophile. I don't hold with the notion of thoughtcrime: that something you confine to the four pounds or so of grey-ish blue-ish pâté inside your cranium can be inherently wrong so long as it stays there. If given some sort of concrete form, in speech or writing, then like the vast majority I would of course find such fantasies stomach-churning in the extreme ... but before that point, well, obviously, who would ever know?

Also at the perpetual risk of stating the bleeding obvious, this leaves us wide open to the discussion about the minority of individuals who, for one reason or another, don't have the behavioural brakes that the rest of us do: those who can't keep their plots and plans in their heads only. Of course there are such people and they have to be either dissuaded or, after the fact, sequestered somehow. I fully agree that there must always be a suspicion, perhaps even a worry, that somebody who does have sexual and/or violent thoughts - rape fantasies either as a victim or perpetrator; a plot to assassinate the President, etc. - might, by dwelling on them, be tempted to carry them out, but this is part of the human condition and I don't see how you can possibly stop it. They're a minority though: for the vast majority of us the vast majority of the time, we can all entertain the wildest fantasies (violent, sexual, sexually violent, avaricious, malicious, whatever) without ever bodying them forth in speech or writing let alone action. Some people can be made to feel very guilty about the sexual or otherwise fantasies they idly entertain in the privacy of their own skull and I'm not convinced that it's helpful to make people feel bad for their own thoughts. I remember once reading a book, years and years ago, about people with severe, debilitating, truly horrifically life-destroying anxiety disorders: I never knew that a great many people who suffer from anxiety can go through tortures because they have intrusive thoughts which they find very disturbing - new parents having unstoppable thoughts of harming their baby and so forth. It seems to be a slightly higher pitch of the well-known and perfectly normal phenomenon, common to a vast swathe of the population, of having a momentary urge to jump onto the tracks when a train is coming into the station or to step off the edge of a very high building. I'm no expert but the person who wrote the book was and they put it down to the human capacity for imagination, simply to ponder "What would happen if I ...?" Alas, people with anxiety problems and some other mental disorders like OCD can't shake it off easily as a bizarre but natural capacity of the brain.

ETA: I should also add that there's a legal aspect to this which I find extremely creepy and concerning, and I refer to certain cases where people have been under investigation, arrested, charged and even in a few cases imprisoned for what I would regard as thoughtcrime - not for any actual crime carried out but on the the assumption of police and other law enforcement agencies that the accused had an intent to do something, very often on the basis of oral testimony (having said something online, for example) or evidence such as website histories, books, DVDs and the like. I find this sort of thing sinister in the extreme.
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
provided we're still talking about thoughts and not deeds nothing has actually happened. A genuine intention to kill them - no, more: an actual plan, complete with details, to do so - is a nasty, nasty thing, but to my mind there's a fixed barrier between the thought and the deed. Once you step over that line we're into completely different territory altogether. .


Does any action towards carrying out the plan count as stepping over the libe from thought to action? So, say the person who wants to kill his folks (not the desert island man, now) actually walks to the place where he would have to be to start out on his plan. But then he gets cold feet and goes home to watch telly instead. Was walking to the park an immoral act?
Shaker

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:
Does any action towards carrying out the plan count as stepping over the libe from thought to action?

To my mind, yes, absolutely it does. It's some sort of action however minimal which means that it's not just thought now. However ...

Quote:
So, say the person who wants to kill his folks (not the desert island man, now) actually walks to the place where he would have to be to start out on his plan. But then he gets cold feet and goes home to watch telly instead. Was walking to the park an immoral act?

Your example doesn't make it completely clear but let's say, on the basis of your imaginary (see what I did there   ) scenario that Mr X has a plan to kill his parents in the local park - bending over backwards to play the devil's advocate (like any good, or rather effective, defence lawyer), it could be said that the park is a public space for the free use and enjoyment of all, so how could it be proven that Mr X, in going for a stroll in the local park, was there solely and explicitly for the purposes of strengthening his parenticidal plan? If we're taking the, ahem, God's eye view as the author of such a scenario then I'd be concerned to say the least if Mr X's plan involved killing his parents in the park and then he was found in the park - it could suggest that he's actually starting to make definite plans to commit a double murder. Good luck proving it though  
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
Does any action towards carrying out the plan count as stepping over the libe from thought to action?

To my mind, yes, absolutely it does. It's some sort of action however minimal which means that it's not just thought now. However ...

Quote:
So, say the person who wants to kill his folks (not the desert island man, now) actually walks to the place where he would have to be to start out on his plan. But then he gets cold feet and goes home to watch telly instead. Was walking to the park an immoral act?

Your example doesn't make it completely clear but let's say, on the basis of your imaginary (see what I did there   ) scenario that Mr X has a plan to kill his parents in the local park - bending over backwards to play the devil's advocate (like any good, or rather effective, defence lawyer), it could be said that the park is a public space for the free use and enjoyment of all, so how could it be proven that Mr X, in going for a stroll in the local park, was there solely and explicitly for the purposes of strengthening his parenticidal plan? If we're taking the, ahem, God's eye view as the author of such a scenario then I'd be concerned to say the least if Mr X's plan involved killing his parents in the park and then he was found in the park - it could suggest that he's actually starting to make definite plans to commit a double murder. Good luck proving it though  


No no no, I'm not asking whether he has done anything illegal or provable. I'm just asking you whether you think he has done anything immoral.
Shaker

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:
No no no, I'm not asking whether he has done anything illegal or provable. I'm just asking you whether you think he has done anything immoral.


I don't know.

On balance I incline towards 'no.' But I genuinely don't actually know ... I tend to think of moral or immoral almost exclusively in terms of actions rather than thoughts, which would make me a consequentialist without ever having explicitly nailed my colours to that particular mast.

One to think about a lot further and harder, I reckon.
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
No no no, I'm not asking whether he has done anything illegal or provable. I'm just asking you whether you think he has done anything immoral.


I don't know.

On balance I incline towards 'no.' But I genuinely don't actually know ... I tend to think of moral or immoral almost exclusively in terms of actions rather than thoughts, which would make me a consequentialist without ever having explicitly nailed my colours to that particular mast.

One to think about a lot further and harder, I reckon.


It is tricky isn't it?

Here's a fun one I heard a while ago:

John wants to kill Fred. They are on a walking trip in the wilderness with their mate Bill. John tries to kill Fred by putting poison in his water canteen. Bill also wants to kill Fred. He tries to kill Fred by punching a hole in the canteen (hoping this would cause him to die of thirst), thereby saving Fred from the poison.

Is Bill guilty of anything? (Morally or legally)
Shaker

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:


It is tricky isn't it?

Here's a fun one I heard a while ago:

John wants to kill Fred. They are on a walking trip in the wilderness with their mate Bill. John tries to kill Fred by putting poison in his water canteen. Bill also wants to kill Fred. He tries to kill Fred by punching a hole in the canteen (hoping this would cause him to die of thirst), thereby saving Fred from the poison.

Is Bill guilty of anything? (Morally or legally)

That Fred must be a right ****  

Actual answer:

Legally: could well be.

Bill's intention is to cause Fred to die of thirst by not having any water to drink and takes steps to ensure that end. He doesn't just think it, he tried to do something about it. Bill (I assume?) knows nothing at all of the poison in the water which John has put there: his intention is to cause death by withholding water, which - no legal expert I - is presumably attempted murder. Both John and Bill have malice aforethought (both John and Bill want to kill Fred) and both John and Bill take a course of action which they want and believe will kill Fred. Bill's action cancels out that of John but by pure accident. Fred's life is saved by sheer chance, unless Fred goes on to die of dehydration by not having any water to drink. As I understand it both Bill and John are guilty of attempted murder (in the legal jargon they both have the mens rea, surely).
Ketty

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:

Is Bill guilty of anything? (Morally or legally)


Bill is guilty of wanting somebody dead.  He is guilty of taking a positive action towards ensuring somebody's death.  That is both immoral and illegal.  He was not to know that his actions would actually save Fred.  A lawyer would have a field day with all of that, and the fact that his actions saved Fred would act as mitigation.  

Fred needs to know to get more trustworthy friends.

A thing which made me ponder this week: my friend's young son asked the question why is it okay to wee when in the sea, but it's not okay to wee into the sea?
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:


It is tricky isn't it?

Here's a fun one I heard a while ago:

John wants to kill Fred. They are on a walking trip in the wilderness with their mate Bill. John tries to kill Fred by putting poison in his water canteen. Bill also wants to kill Fred. He tries to kill Fred by punching a hole in the canteen (hoping this would cause him to die of thirst), thereby saving Fred from the poison.

Is Bill guilty of anything? (Morally or legally)

That Fred must be a right ****  

Actual answer:

Legally: could well be.

Bill's intention is to cause Fred to die of thirst by not having any water to drink and takes steps to ensure that end. He doesn't just think it, he tried to do something about it. Bill (I assume?) knows nothing at all of the poison in the water which John has put there: his intention is to cause death by withholding water, which - no legal expert I - is presumably attempted murder. Both John and Bill have malice aforethought (both John and Bill want to kill Fred) and both John and Bill take a course of action which they want and believe will kill Fred. Bill's action cancels out that of John but by pure accident. Fred's life is saved by sheer chance, unless Fred goes on to die of dehydration by not having any water to drink. As I understand it both Bill and John are guilty of attempted murder (in the legal jargon they both have the mens rea, surely).


I think I agree. It does create the possibility of Desert Island Dick doing something immoral, if he has something which he hopes will be administered to someone else later. e.g., he could impregnate the pages of his diary with poison from the skin of a bright yellow frog in the hope that one day it would be found and handled by his relatives....
Shaker

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

cyberman wrote:
I think I agree.

Sure?  

Quote:
It does create the possibility of Desert Island Dick doing something immoral, if he has something which he hopes will be administered to someone else later. e.g., he could impregnate the pages of his diary with poison from the skin of a bright yellow frog in the hope that one day it would be found and handled by his relatives....


This reminds me of one of the better episodes of Jonathan Creek (a very good series, IMHO: especially the earlier ones) where an animal rights extremist wrote to a prominent scientist, known for experimenting on animals, under the pretext of simply wanting an autographed copy of the scientist's book to be sent back by return of post, SAE and all. So far so normal. In actual fact the extremist had smeared a poisonous psychedelic drug on the flap of the stamped addressed return envelope, so that of course when chappy innocently licks it ... it was a good plot, though it struck me then and still does now just how easy it can be for a random nutjob to come up with this sort of thing. David Renwick could have a lot to answer for  
cyberman

Re: Thought experiment re: morality

Shaker wrote:
cyberman wrote:
I think I agree.

Sure?  

Quote:
It does create the possibility of Desert Island Dick doing something immoral, if he has something which he hopes will be administered to someone else later. e.g., he could impregnate the pages of his diary with poison from the skin of a bright yellow frog in the hope that one day it would be found and handled by his relatives....


This reminds me of one of the better episodes of Jonathan Creek (a very good series, IMHO: especially the earlier ones) where an animal rights extremist wrote to a prominent scientist, known for experimenting on animals, under the pretext of simply wanting an autographed copy of the scientist's book to be sent back by return of post, SAE and all. So far so normal. In actual fact the extremist had smeared a poisonous psychedelic drug on the flap of the stamped addressed return envelope, so that of course when chappy innocently licks it ... it was a good plot, though it struck me then and still does now just how easy it can be for a random nutjob to come up with this sort of thing. David Renwick could have a lot to answer for  


We watched a Jonathan Creek on Drama the other day - my wife worked it out before me, grrrr.

I do enjoy them.

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