• Taneras
    18
    Suppose an undercover cop was assigned to infiltrate a gang - a particularly gruesome gang. In order to join the gang they make you pass an initiation, which consists of them kidnapping a person and having you kill them. Would killing them be morally wrong?

    Before you answer please consider the following facts that might have weight in your decision.

    - The undercover officer had no idea about the initiation test, they were unaware that they'd be required to kill an innocent person to join.
    - There are too many gang members present for the undercover officer to fight back and possibly save the kidnapped victim.
    - If the officer refuses, the gang will kill both of them.

    Thanks in advance for your answers.
  • TheMadFool
    2.9k
    One could say that to be moral one must be free.

    Under duress moral considerations take a backseat in my opinion. Things are beyond your control. The best the cop can do is end it for the victim in a quick and merciful manner.
  • Echarmion
    191
    I would say it is moral, since the act would follow the maxim that, if an act can either save one life or none, one should save the one life. That it's your own life you're saving doesn't change the morality of the act.
  • TheMadFool
    2.9k
    What about the fact that the cop is under duress? He's no longer a free agency and so his actions can't be morally judged. I think to be morally responsible one must be free to exercise a choice. This agrees with the common understanding of a moral agent as one fully in control of his faculties and therefore responsible for his/her actions. In this situation the cop is no longer a free agency - he's being coerced to act. If this scenario has any moral dimension it must apply to the gang members who are, apparently, free agencies and therefore responsible for the death of the victim.
  • Echarmion
    191
    What about the fact that the cop is under duress? He's no longer a free agency and so his actions can't be morally judged. I think to be morally responsible one must be free to exercise a choice. This agrees with the common understanding of a moral agent as one fully in control of his faculties and therefore responsible for his/her actions. In this situation the cop is no longer a free agency - he's being coerced to act. If this scenario has any moral dimension it must apply to the gang members who are, apparently, free agencies and therefore responsible for the death of the victim.TheMadFool

    I think we need to differentiate freedom in a legal sense, that is freedom from duress, full control of faculties etc, from metaphysical freedom of will. The former is used to determine whether actions are legally binding or carry consequences. The latter is the basis of morality.

    From the standpoint of morality, you always have a choice. It's making a choice that demonstrates your free will, not the other way around. Choosing to refuse is still a choice, even it it gets you killed.

    Of course the gang members are also responsible, but responsibility is not a zero-sum game. It can rest with many people simultaneously, or just with one.

    If we excluded situations of duress from moral judgement entirely, morality would no longer be a general rule for conduct, and the definition of duress would turn into a subject of moral philosophy, where I do not think it belongs.
  • Amity
    187
    The undercover officer had no idea about the initiation test, they were unaware that they'd be required to kill an innocent person to join.Taneras

    Undercover officers already know that they have to assume an identity whereby they might be asked to perform illegal or immoral activities associated with whatever group they are penetrating.

    If they have no idea about such tests, then they have been inadequately prepared. I pity those in such circumstances being put in such a moral, life- threatening spot. It is difficult to see how anyone could judge any decision or action taken as being immoral.

    It could be argued that an undercover role in itself is immoral. I think it is a case of whether the final outcome is worth all the deceit and the means to reach that point.
  • hachit
    94
    I would say no because I believe there should be no exceptions to one's moral code. Also all people should be respected. (Yes, I basically quoted Kant, but I agree with him)
  • Amity
    187
    Would killing them be morally wrong?Taneras

    I would say no because I believe there should be no exceptions to one's moral code. Also all people should be respected. (Yes, I basically quoted Kant, but I agree with him)hachit

    I think you meant you would say 'Yes, killing them would be morally wrong'.
    So would you then say that an undercover officer is morally wrong simply for taking the job which involves lying ? Because in your world, lying is always wrong.
    How then would this tie in with 'All people should be respected' ?
  • Mww
    277


    Under the assumption that preservation of life is the primary marker for moral agency:

    Being intelligent enough to be a law enforcement officer, and therefore having knowledge of extant immoral atrocities of gangs, the officer should never have volunteered to infiltrate such gang in the first place, knowing full well the possible requirement for his participation in similar atrocities henceforth expected of him as a “prospect”.

    While it is reasonable to suppose a freely acting person’s moral credo would not prohibit some gang related atrocities, in the interest of an objectively greater good, it is hardly moral in any case to arbitrarily extinguish a human life. Under the conditions of ignorance of an expectation for the officer having to take a life in order to save his own, he is necessarily obligated by his duty to his moral law, to self-sacrifice.

    All this talk about miscellaneous moral dilemmas, but never a consideration of the requisite “moral feeling” necessarily associated with them. Their proper examination is sufficient to qualify the moral worth of the dilemma itself.
  • hachit
    94

    So would you then say that an undercover officer is morally wrong simply for taking the job which involves lying ? Because in your world, lying is always wrong.

    Yes, in my world is always wrong.

    How then would this tie in with 'All people should be respected' ?

    (Again, prarifrasing Kant) all human deserve to be treated as an individual person with there what's and needs.

    To lie to someone undermines there judgment.
    Is there job wrong, yes because lie is part of the job.
    I prefer to say nothing than to lie.

    I understand you point.

    So a try to understand this when a cop lies it sends a message saying sometimes liying is ok. If living is sometimes ok, but when is that sometimes. To people like me is like saying liying is not a big deal, wich I think is not true.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.2k
    Without amending the situation there is no moral judgement one could make on either course of action the cop chooses. We are all free to opine action A or action B is preferable, for whatever reason we find suits us. But to pass a moral judgement on the impossibly difficult situation the officer is in, well that may be immoral itself.
  • Echarmion
    191
    While it is reasonable to suppose a freely acting person’s moral credo would not prohibit some gang related atrocities, in the interest of an objectively greater good, it is hardly moral in any case to arbitrarily extinguish a human life. Under the conditions of ignorance of an expectation for the officer having to take a life in order to save his own, he is necessarily obligated by his duty to his moral law, to self-sacrifice.Mww

    But the officer's self sacrifice, by the terms of the dilemma, accomplishes nothing. Sacrificing a life for no gain seems contrary to preservation of life being the primary marker.

    I don't think that merely the fact that the officer pulls the trigger, rather than allows others to kill the victim, should change the outcome of the moral judgement.

    (Again, prarifrasing Kant) all human deserve to be treated as an individual person with there what's and needs.

    To lie to someone undermines there judgment.
    Is there job wrong, yes because lie is part of the job.
    I prefer to say nothing than to lie.

    I understand you point.

    So a try to understand this when a cop lies it sends a message saying sometimes liying is ok. If living is sometimes ok, but when is that sometimes. To people like me is like saying liying is not a big deal, wich I think is not true.
    hachit

    I don't think that is an entirely accurate application of Kant's philosophy. Kant accepts e.g. self defense as part of the general rule on killing. Kant states that moral judgements must be applicable in general, but not that they must have the simplest possible form.
  • Mww
    277
    But the officer's self sacrifice, by the terms of the dilemma, accomplishes nothing. Sacrificing a life for no gain seems contrary to preservation of life being the primary marker.Echarmion

    Perhaps by the terms of the dilemma, but the dilemma itself is merely an occassion for the exploration of the predicates of moral behavior. With respect to that behavior, self-sacrifice is the epitome of the obligation to never be the cause of the arbitrary extinguishment of a human life. Even if you lose yours, you have fulfilled your obligation not to take a life.

    Of course, there is nothing given which makes that specific moral obligation in itself absolutely necessary. It is only upon the determination by an autonomous free will, which declares such obligation, that the adherence to it is mandatory in order to fulfill that particular self-imposed moral duty.

    I agree with your critique of the application of Kantian philosophy.
  • hachit
    94

    I don't think that is an entirely accurate application of Kant's philosophy.

    No it isn't all kant philosophy. I included him because there are two ideas in agree with. (The principal of universalization, and the mere means principle).

    The first is as you said
     they must have the simplest possible form.

    The second is you should consider that everyone else is human to.

    The rest comes from the bibles teachings. Things like sin is a seed that if you grow it it will spread into parts of your life you thought it would not affect.

    But because the bible is not applicable to everyone, I try to make a secondary argument without it.
  • TheMadFool
    2.9k
    I think we need to differentiate freedom in a legal sense, that is freedom from duress, full control of faculties etc, from metaphysical freedom of will. The former is used to determine whether actions are legally binding or carry consequences. The latter is the basis of morality.

    From the standpoint of morality, you always have a choice. It's making a choice that demonstrates your free will, not the other way around. Choosing to refuse is still a choice, even it it gets you killed.

    Of course the gang members are also responsible, but responsibility is not a zero-sum game. It can rest with many people simultaneously, or just with one.

    If we excluded situations of duress from moral judgement entirely, morality would no longer be a general rule for conduct, and the definition of duress would turn into a subject of moral philosophy, where I do not think it belongs.
    Echarmion

    This seems a bit difficult to swallow. If someone were to force you to do something i.e. you have no choice in the matter, as is the case in the OP, would you hold yourself responsible for your actions?

    Before you answer that question you have to remember that what you're doing is not your wish but someone else. You are used only as a means to an end, like a weapon as it were.
  • unenlightened
    3.1k
    This happens to me all the time. The gruesome gang not only corrupts me directly, it but also gives them something to blackmail me with. So I have learned from bitter experience that if one cannot bluff a way out of it, one might as well simply refuse, and get killed oneself. Unfortunately one cannot conduct a moral crusade without casualties.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.2k
    that's OK because all of us can hang back in our comfortable philosophy chairs and debate the relative morality of your life and death impossible decision.
  • DaqHarGuul
    2


    Albert Camus.

    Perfect.
  • Echarmion
    191
    This seems a bit difficult to swallow. If someone were to force you to do something i.e. you have no choice in the matter, as is the case in the OP, would you hold yourself responsible for your actions?

    Before you answer that question you have to remember that what you're doing is not your wish but someone else. You are used only as a means to an end, like a weapon as it were.
    TheMadFool

    But would not resisting that outside influence be the epitome of freedom, proving that you are indeed not just a means to an end, but an actor with free will?

    In the real world, outside influences abound. The thief might steal because they are hungry, or addicted to drugs. Their decisions might be constrained by a difficult childhood, poverty, or their peers. Where does freedom end and coercion begin? The law sets somewhat arbitrary boundaries, but it has the advantage of being able to tailor those boundaries to a specific purpose. The ability to engage in contracts, for example, is not the same standard as criminal responsibility. Morality, though, would need a general line to be drawn. But in a deterministic world, how can you draw such a line? Is not everything part of the same causality?
  • Bitter Crank
    7.2k
    It is not clear to me what the purpose of this sort of exercise is. Placing someone in this hypothetical situation where there is essentially no moral choice available and then asking what the moral choice would be is pointless.

    I don't doubt that gangs as vile as this exist. The purpose of this sort of exercise is to bind the subject to the group by drinking from the trough of guilt and moral degradation. Should the undercover agent carry out the murder, as ordered, he or she will survive to face further impossible moral choices. I can imagine that a Mexican drug cartel like the Sinaloa gang might trap people through this sort of maneuver.

    Just as vile but small local gangs (operating in a neighborhood near you) are known to require a felony crime of new members -- at the very least, an armed robbery or rape. Purse snatching won't suffice.

    The morally appropriate approach would be to seduce a member of the gang to become a prosecution witness for what goes on in the gang.
  • Taneras
    18
    Its a thought experiment, similar to the trolley dilemma, which, at least in my opinion, digs at the question "from where does morality reside?". Does it reside in the act itself or the consequences of the act?

    One can always suggest ways to avoid the dilemma, maybe install a mechanical break on the trolley and check its function prior to driving it, but that's just avoiding the truth attempting to be uncovered with the thought experiment.

    Personally I'm exploring how far you could push a hero and some readers still think that they could be considered a hero. But the previous implications would feed into that.
  • Mww
    277


    May I offer a nice Tuscan Chianti and perhaps a Hoyo de Monterrey to accompany, so to celebrate the good man’s martyrdom? My treat, of course.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.2k
    where does morality resideTaneras

    Surely in the real world.

    I understand that this is an extreme hypothetical situation. I get that part.

    It may not even be all that artificial. I gather that gangs and cartels at least sometimes perform rituals which are similar to the hypothetical.
  • Taneras
    18
    It may not even be all that artificial. I gather that gangs and cartels at least sometimes perform rituals which are similar to the hypothetical.Bitter Crank

    I agree, while scenarios might not play out exactly as I've described, I do think its close enough to reality to pass off as realistic in a story setting - which is what I was trying to accomplish. While likely not intended, I did enjoy reading the following line:

    The purpose of this sort of exercise is to bind the subject to the group by drinking from the trough of guilt and moral degradation.Bitter Crank

    That's pretty much what I was aiming for. The vision I have for this story is fairly dark, and it's about a hero, if the reader sees this person as such but that's my goal, attempting to pull himself back out of that trough. Thanks for the non-sugarcoated observation :)
  • TheMadFool
    2.9k
    But would not resisting that outside influence be the epitome of freedom, proving that you are indeed not just a means to an end, but an actor with free will?

    In the real world, outside influences abound. The thief might steal because they are hungry, or addicted to drugs. Their decisions might be constrained by a difficult childhood, poverty, or their peers. Where does freedom end and coercion begin? The law sets somewhat arbitrary boundaries, but it has the advantage of being able to tailor those boundaries to a specific purpose. The ability to engage in contracts, for example, is not the same standard as criminal responsibility. Morality, though, would need a general line to be drawn. But in a deterministic world, how can you draw such a line? Is not everything part of the same causality?
    Echarmion

    You mention a distinction between metaphysical free will and a legal free will. Are you saying that the latter is being constrained and not the former? What exactly do you hope to achieve through this?

    Are you saying that despite the gang’s influence the cop still has freedom to choose?

    In my opinion the situation is such that free will, even the metaphysical free will you mention, is absent in the calculus. The cop simply has no choice but to do as told. I think there’s a precedence regarding such a situation. If I remember correctly only the top Nazi members were executed for the Holocaust; the soldiers who actually did the killing were pardoned or their sentences commuted because they were just “following orders”.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.2k
    If I remember correctly only the top Nazi members were executed for the Holocaust; the soldiers who actually did the killing were pardoned or their sentences commuted because they were just “following orders”.TheMadFool

    I'm not sure that is correct. When the allies closed in on Germany proper, they had a list of top Nazis who they sought, and if found, arrested. Some (like Hitler, Goebbles, Goring, Himmler, and a few dozen others) committed suicide. Some escaped (Eichmann, Mengele and others). Those who were not tried for various crimes against humanity were subject to the not very thorough denazification program. It isn't that the allies didn't care about punishing nazis, it was that there were too many less-than-top-level nazis to deal with--hundreds of thousands, if not a few million. Plus, having pulverized much of Germany, having killed many Germans, having won the war, having occupied Germany, the allies had their hands full and were, I gather, anxious to be done with the whole thing.

    "Just following orders" was not an acceptable alibi at any of the trials, Nuremberg on down to the present. It didn't work for Eichmann at his trial in 1961. (Eichmann was responsible for organizing much of the Holocaust effort; he was a high level administrator, not a low level operative.) It didn't work for those who were tried immediately after the war. It didn't work for lower level SS officers who were, at one time or another, tried. It isn't an acceptable defense in those cases where prosecutions continue (even in 2019) of the occasional now aged concentration camp guard who is identified and brought to prosecutorial attention.

    What saved most of the Nazis from trial--from low level operatives to the SS Einsatzgruppen who followed the Wehrmacht into the USSR and conducted huge Jew-killing operations by firing squad (3 million?) to mid-level Gestapo was the inordinately complicated task of combing out and sorting all these people. There were around 8,000,000 Nazi Party members. Not all party members were engaged in criminal activities, and many people who were engaged in criminal activity were not party members. The Nazis kept very good records, and the mass of records was so great no single investigative team could plow through very much of it quickly.

    By the early 50s the occupation was wound down and investigations and prosecutions were turned over to the German Courts. Not surprisingly, the German courts were not terribly anxious to to pursue all the potential cases.
  • TheMadFool
    2.9k
    Thanks for the clarification.

    What about the degree of blame assigned to Nazis. Hitler is literally blamed for the whole thing. Doesn't this show that moral responsibility is graded according to the degree of autonomy one has in one's actions?
  • Echarmion
    191
    Its a thought experiment, similar to the trolley dilemma, which, at least in my opinion, digs at the question "from where does morality reside?". Does it reside in the act itself or the consequences of the act?Taneras

    I always felt this was a false dilemma, or at least the wrong name for the actual dilemma. Acts are about consequences. An act is designed to bring about some change, how could it's morality ever be divorced from the those changes? At the same time, it's impossible to judge the entirety of the consequences of an act. So far as we know, all acts lead toward the heat death of the universe. Where are we supposed to draw the line and judge?

    The actual dilemma the question hints at is whether consequences for individuals can be relative to the consequences of other individuals, or whether they are always absolute. That is what the Trolley dilemma is about.

    You mention a distinction between metaphysical free will and a legal free will. Are you saying that the latter is being constrained and not the former? What exactly do you hope to achieve through this?TheMadFool

    Yes. The cop is under duress, but still has the theoretical freedom of will. What I am trying to achieve is, ultimately, to show how the notion of free will interacts with a deterministic universe.

    Are you saying that despite the gang’s influence the cop still has freedom to choose?TheMadFool

    He technically has, as there is more than one way to resolve the situation. His hand is not literally forced.

    In my opinion the situation is such that free will, even the metaphysical free will you mention, is absent in the calculus. The cop simply has no choice but to do as told.TheMadFool

    I would argue that this position necessarily leads to the conclusion that metaphysical free will is "absent in the calculus" for every possible situation, since outside influences are deterministic.

    If I remember correctly only the top Nazi members were executed for the Holocaust; the soldiers who actually did the killing were pardoned or their sentences commuted because they were just “following orders”.TheMadFool

    You remember the Nuremberg trials, but individual soldiers could be prosecuted. Germany has recently put one of the last surviving KZ guards on trial. "Following orders" is not a legal defense under German law. But either way, that is a statement about law, not morality.
  • Amity
    187
    That's pretty much what I was aiming for. The vision I have for this story is fairly dark, and it's about a hero, if the reader sees this person as such but that's my goal, attempting to pull himself back out of that trough. Thanks for the non-sugarcoated observation :)Taneras

    An undercover author infiltrates a particularly gruesome gang of dangerous, babbling thinkers.
    No initiation required; although will be put to the test eventually by a bitter crank. His laser sabre language cutting right to the chase.

    The question remains would the real assignment ever have been discovered.
    Given the lack of feedback to a variety of responses, it would only have been a matter of time.
    Or would it ?

    Taking advantage of the group's fascination with yacking speculation, addiction to drug-fuelled opinion, the undercover agent would slyly glean material for the dark story.
    Brains picked and observations mined for golden nuggets.
    How moral is that ?
    I feel used and abused :gasp: :naughty:
    Nothing new there then :roll:
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