• Taneras
    19
    Not quite :)

    No offense to you or anyone else here, but the "golden nuggets" are found in the works from Kant, Bentham, J.S. Mills, Carl Jung, etc. While I won't claim to be an expert in the field of ethics, and I have no doubt many of you know a lot more about this subject than me, I'm confident I know enough from reading the aforementioned great thinkers to create my story. I'm interested in what people think about this scenario, would killing the kidnapped victim be considered moral? You could have two people with the same education and understanding of this topic have two completely different answers because they give different factors different weights. I'm only interested in what I asked for.

    I will say this though, if you think you have a golden nugget with respect to the major or minor disciplines, don't post it on a public forum. I'm particularly pleased with the dilemma I've thought up, I think it's an interesting twist on the trolley problem. Imagine the side track option where you kill the one worker is modified to where the one worker is simply further down the main track and the side track only lets you bypass the 5 workers. Your choice is between killing the 5 plus the one further down the track or bypassing them and only killing the one person who was going to die either way. It's also a bit more realistic imo, is the horn out on the trolley too? Even the mechanical break? They won't hear it coming? Or hear you yelling? It also makes it much more personal, you're directly killing someone, you're not just driving a trolley. Sure there's the modified trolley dilemma where you're asked if you'd push a large person in front of the trolley in order to save the five, but that doesn't include the first thing I mentioned that my dilemma introduces, the fact that no matter the choice one specific person will die.

    Maybe I've stumbled across a very good moral dilemma that might make it into an ethics book later on, or maybe I've overestimated my own creativity. It's almost assuredly the latter, which is why I didn't have an issue posting it on a public forum where anyone could read it.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    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?TheMadFool

    As you say, Hitler is literally blamed for the whole thing (see: great man theory of history). In a different context, American presidents like to take the credit for a good economy, and they are blamed for a bad one. It's absurd. There are far too many powerful economic players for the president to claim much credit or take much blame.

    The Nazi era sprang from deep roots. Authoritarian government, antisemitism, rigid social systems, elitism, militarism, and so on and so forth were present before Adolph Hitler's parents were born. The new unified German State of the 19th century was not particularly liberal, even if some progressive programs existed.

    What Hitler managed to do was precipitate out a new political party from the turgid turbid mess of Germany following WWI. He led. Lesser but very able leaders gathered around him and more minor leaders and many followers flocked to the Nazi Party. Hitler didn't have to invent very much. The SA, for instance, the brown shirted storm troopers, were essentially the Freikorps--unemployed demobilized soldiers with nothing to do. The Krupp family's huge armaments business in the Ruhr anticipated future business well in advance of Hitler. Big Business in Germany didn't especially like decentralized, competitive free enterprise. They appreciated the Nazi's approach, for the most part.

    Had Hitler not committed suicide, had he been arrested, he would certainly have been executed. There were many more who were not arrested, not tried, not convicted, not executed for war crimes, who ought to have been. Hitler didn't pull off his various evil works single handed.
  • Hanover
    4.8k
    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.
    Taneras

    These are the sorts of questions that divide the Kantianists from the Utilitarians. The former will allow the universe to burn to the ground before they allow a moral rule to be violated, consequences be damned. The latter would just add up the pain and tears from option A versus B and then choose.

    I think that it would be hard to judge a man harshly for choosing either option, but I think we can all agree that the true morally corrupt were the gang members. Of course, these hypotheticals need not require there be a morally corrupt agent. You could have asked if it were ok to cook and serve several babies in order to save a dozen others who had been shipwrecked.
  • tim wood
    2.9k
    The former will allow the universe to burn to the ground before they allow a moral rule to be violated,Hanover
    Not so. Do you suppose that one of the foremost thinkers that ever inhabited this planet would espouse a system that permitted that? There's an art to identifying the correct categorical imperative to apply in a given situation, and once found, any other falls away. If there should exist no CI such that it would prevent the universe from burning to the ground, then just maybe....
  • Hanover
    4.8k
    Not so. Do you suppose that one of the foremost thinkers that ever inhabited this planet would espouse a system that permitted that? There's an art to identifying the correct categorical imperative to apply in a given situation, and once found, any other falls away. If there should exist no CI such that it would prevent the universe from burning to the ground, then just maybe..tim wood

    I disagree. If you avoid a moral judgment based upon the negative consequences, you're not Kantian.
  • Taneras
    19
    I disagree. If you avoid a moral judgment based upon the negative consequences, you're not Kantian.Hanover

    This is my understanding as well. Kant believed that morality resided in the act itself. An unjust killing could never be justified no matter the consequence. While the calculations of Utilitarianism may seem cold, they at least allow for wiggle room in extreme circumstances. That's not to say that Utilitarianism isn't without its flaws, at some point you might find yourself putting a dollar value on human life and weighing it against all sorts of things you might find distasteful.

    It's not straight forward, at least not for me. Which is why I wanted some opinions outside of my own.
  • tim wood
    2.9k
    I do not know how you read that in. Kant isn't to be supposed to be recommending shopping CIs, He does say explicitly in Metaphysics of Morals that CIs do not compete. If you find you're aware of more than one, then the best one rules. And there's clearly no law against thinking about them - thus the art of them, as opposed to the mathematics of them. As to negative consequences, from that I have to infer what I do not actually believe: that you do not know what a CI is or how it works. In any case, negative consequences famously ("The Murderer at the Door) have nothing to do with CIs.
  • Mww
    861


    I think your basic idea is correct. A Kantian, because he considers himself, first, a deontologist, and second, affiliated with the moral, or categorical, imperative, certainly would accord with the volition the duty to his moral obligation demands, regardless of the consequences to himself, recognizing that a Roasted Universe is merely a metaphor for an extreme circumstance with vanishing probability.

    Besides, Kant just expresses his philosophy on how to be as morally inclined as possible, not that anyone is actually forced to be that way, and indeed, there is not all that much evidence to say anyone actually does. Moral in their own way, maybe, but without realizing the authority of pure practical reason.
  • Echarmion
    480
    I disagree. If you avoid a moral judgment based upon the negative consequences, you're not Kantian.Hanover

    According to Kant, the morality of an action is based on the maxim behind that action. Also according to Kant, if you intend an end, you also intend the means, which includes consequences that are not directly the end of your intent. Since a maxim is the principle according to which an end is selected, it follows that it also includes the consequences of that intention. Therefore, consequences do matter.

    This is my understanding as well. Kant believed that morality resided in the act itself. An unjust killing could never be justified no matter the consequence. While the calculations of Utilitarianism may seem cold, they at least allow for wiggle room in extreme circumstances. That's not to say that Utilitarianism isn't without its flaws, at some point you might find yourself putting a dollar value on human life and weighing it against all sorts of things you might find distasteful.Taneras

    Not in the act, but in the intention that governed the act. For Kant, what makes a killing unjust is an unjust intention. If the intention cannot be justified, then neither can the outcome because it just so happens to have a "positive" outcome (whatever that may be). Kant does not say that consequences don't matter, since intentions are nothing if not intended consequences. What makes Kant's philosophy seen "unconcerned with consequences" is that it does not account for the suffering of any one individual.

    I think your basic idea is correct. A Kantian, because he considers himself, first, a deontologist, and second, affiliated with the moral, or categorical, imperative, certainly would accord with the volition the duty to his moral obligation demands, regardless of the consequences to himself, recognizing that a Roasted Universe is merely a metaphor for an extreme circumstance with vanishing probability.Mww

    Unless the rule that this consequence to oneself should be avoided can be made a general rule. Kant argued that suicide is immoral, for example, which is clearly a "consequence to oneself".
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    Hitler didn't pull off his various evil works single handed.Bitter Crank

    Opens up a door I don't want to walk through. Here I am supposing there's ''good'' reason for blaming one person, in this case Hitler, for the evils of WW2. I'm doing so mainly because he was the authority who signed all those people into gas chambers and firing squads. This does put the actual executioners of Hitler's will in a favorable light - they were simply means to Hitler's ends.

    Yet I wonder if there ever would have been so many deaths (6 million?) if the soldier's didn't share some, if not all, of Hitler's worldview?
  • TheMadFool
    3.4k
    I'm still having difficulty as to how the unfortunate cop has a choice. Even if I grant that the cop has freedom, his choices are limited to 1 or 2 death(s). It's not a choice between good and bad which would've been a moral issue. It's a choice between bad and worse. That in itself should indicate that morality is of less importance than, say, prudence.

    You say the restriction on the cop's freedom is a legal one and not a metaphysical one. However, legality is about practical ethics, which is probably more real than any other form of morality. If I'm physically limited in my choices then metaphysical free will is no longer of significance.
  • Mww
    861
    clearly a "consequence to oneself".Echarmion

    Consequence could just as well be self-conceit, or an over abundance of personal happiness, as self-destruction. The subjective moral maxim is thus regulated in its form, by its attribution to a universal law, such that both being overly happy from egotism about an action and overly dead by suicide, is tempered by practical reason.

    My use of “consequence to himself” was in response to a condition correct in principle but not in reasonable possibility. In reality, *every* moral volition has a consequence of some kind and degree, which is why consequence itself should never ground the principle from which the volition follows.
  • Echarmion
    480
    Consequence could just as well be self-conceit, or an over abundance of personal happiness, as self-destruction. The subjective moral maxim is thus regulated in its form, by its attribution to a universal law, such that both being overly happy from egotism about an action and overly dead by suicide, is tempered by practical reason.

    My use of “consequence to himself” was in response to a condition correct in principle but not in reasonable possibility. In reality, *every* moral volition has a consequence of some kind and degree, which is why consequence itself should never ground the principle from which the volition follows.
    Mww

    I would put it like this: Kantian moral philosophy is concerned with the consequences a given maxim would have if implemented as a general law. It is not concerned with the consequences of any specific act following that maxim.

    So, consequences matter, but only in determining the moral imperative, not in applying it.
  • Bitter Crank
    8.1k
    Opens up a door I don't want to walk through. Here I am supposing there's ''good'' reason for blaming one person, in this case Hitler, for the evils of WW2.TheMadFool

    I'm still having difficulty as to how the unfortunate cop has a choice.TheMadFool

    Let's bring WW2 and the Cop & Gang Story back together. There were at least a few million Germans in the policeman's shoes. "I, a good German, must either cooperate with the murderous Hitler regime or I will be murdered."

    Hiding Jews, for instance, could get one killed. Openly opposing the regime could result in arrest, torture, death, or a trip to a concentration camp (like Dachau). Too much complaining could result in at least a trip to Gestapo headquarters and threats of worse things to come. The vice grip of control over Germans tightened over the course of the war.

    There were 70 million Germans--80 million if you count annexed Austrians and the Sudeten Germans. How did the Nazis control everybody? A highly efficient civil service and police establishment, tight control over information, served to isolate dissenters. One either ran with the herd (with a reasonable level of enthusiasm) or one tended to get pushed to the edge where one would get picked off by informers, spies, the Gestapo, observant party members, and the like.

    Plus, a good share of the 80 million Germans herd did not need to be coerced into the Nazi corral. They were willing members of the Gang. Who, in this vicious gang requiring the cop to kill or be killed, was responsible? The Top Thug, or the whole gang of thugs?

    Probably the Top Thug was more responsible than everybody else. The TT had probably built up the gang by similar acts of coercion. But the rest of the gang can't be dismissed as victims, surely. There would be too many acts of criminal commission.
  • Mww
    861


    A maxim is a subjective principle that justifies a volition of will, such as, e.g., the principle that my utterance of a known falsehood for personal interest is never good, hence serving as the form of a law, that such false utterances to that end evolves universally in order to adhere in everyone else. What I mean is, the maxim is never implemented as a general, or universal, law; it is a subjective principle only and can never be a universal law, even if it can be universally lawful among all moral agents as individual rational subjects. Consequently, the moral imperative, the “command of reason”, the volition of the will, thereafter, is formulated *as if* this particular subjective principle were indeed a universal law, *as if* all rational agents do actually hold with the same principle, and the will that holds with that principle can do nothing else but subscribe to an action that conforms to it. In this case, the moral imperative would be, never permit a false utterance of which personal benefit alone is its end. The result of all this is, no one would utter a known falsehood for personal profit, if he consider himself morally obligated by a freely determinate will.

    I think the concern does in fact have to do with the consequences of a specific act, because such act is already called for in its compliance with a principle, and failing to meet the obligation of it, is the very epitome of being “immoral”, or more accurately, having no moral worth. The consequences are in the application of the action, or in the failing in the application of the action, the determination of it already given by reason, that is, a principle, of will.

    It goes without saying, that how one goes about formulating his various imperatives, the judgements he must make and the understanding he must have from which those judgements follow, are the purview of practical reason, and should verify the proposition that all morality is intrinsically subjective.

    What say you?
  • Amity
    591
    Maybe I've stumbled across a very good moral dilemma that might make it into an ethics book later on, or maybe I've overestimated my own creativity. It's almost assuredly the latter, which is why I didn't have an issue posting it on a public forum where anyone could read it.Taneras

    Don't underestimate yourself or your golden gem. Best get it copyrighted. I have designs on it :cool:

    I will say this though, if you think you have a golden nugget with respect to the major or minor disciplines, don't post it on a public forum.Taneras

    Don't worry. The secret of the Hard Problem of Consciousness is in my back pocket. See ya at the Nobel
    Prize Award Ceremony :nerd:
  • Echarmion
    480


    I don't quite understand what you're trying to tell me. Perhaps it's lost in translation

    A maxim is a subjective principle that justifies a volition of will, such as, e.g., the principle that my utterance of a known falsehood for personal interest is never good, hence serving as the form of a law, that such false utterances to that end evolves universally in order to adhere in everyone else. What I mean is, the maxim is never implemented as a general, or universal, law; it is a subjective principle only and can never be a universal law, even if it can be universally lawful among all moral agents as individual rational subjects. Consequently, the moral imperative, the “command of reason”, the volition of the will, thereafter, is formulated *as if* this particular subjective principle were indeed a universal law, *as if* all rational agents do actually hold with the same principle, and the will that holds with that principle can do nothing else but subscribe to an action that conforms to it.Mww

    I do get the general gist here, the categorical imperative looks at a hypothetical general law, not an actual one. I don't understand what you mean when you say the law "evolves universally in order to adhere to anyone else".

    In this case, the moral imperative would be, never permit a false utterance of which personal benefit alone is its end. The result of all this is, no one would utter a known falsehood for personal profit, if he consider himself morally obligated by a freely determinate will.Mww

    The usage of free will here seems odd. Kant says freedom is the result of following the moral imperative. The obligation comes from reason, the result of following that obligation is freedom.

    I think the concern does in fact have to do with the consequences of a specific act, because such act is already called for in its compliance with a principle, and failing to meet the obligation of it, is the very epitome of being “immoral”, or more accurately, having no moral worth. The consequences are in the application of the action, or in the failing in the application of the action, the determination of it already given by reason, that is, a principle, of will.Mww

    I don't understand this at all. Are you referring to the moral judgement (moral/immoral) when you say "consequences"? Because I was referring to practical, "physical" consequences.

    It goes without saying, that how one goes about formulating his various imperatives, the judgements he must make and the understanding he must have from which those judgements follow, are the purview of practical reason, and should verify the proposition that all morality is intrinsically subjective.Mww

    It is subjective, but it is not about the single subject. It's intersubjective, as it takes into account all subjects in general.
  • Mww
    861


    Easy stuff first: Morality is subjective, it is intersubjective in its employment, and moral philosophy does take into account all subjects in general, of the same intrinsic rationality. However, when investigating what morality is, what it means to be moral, where moral values come from, and possible proofs of its grounds, it is entirely subjective on an individual basis. I have no right to critique, nor should I have any inclinations to determine, what qualifies your personal moral predicates. How you treat me because of them, sure, but how you came by them is not within my scope of judgement. But if it be agreed we all think the same way, then it becomes possible to understand morality in general by understanding how a simple subject comes into it.

    Yes, I am also referring to practical physical consequences, because such are the manifestions of moral worth. A consequence, a practical, physical action, iff it be called a categorical imperative, in order to have moral worth, absolutely must be in accordance with the principle which determines it. If it isn’t it is an “immoral” act, or, it was only a hypothetical and not categorical imperative to begin with.
    No action at all, ever, within the context of reason, whether moral or merely empirical in general, can occur without a judgement which permits the action to occur (except in the case of pure reflex or accident). In other words, the judgement is not the action, it is the permission for the action.

    The freedom of following a moral imperative is not the same freedom connected to the will. We are free to determine, or will, our personal CI’s, but once determined, or willed, we are obligated to act in accordance with them, or, which is the same thing, we are not free to NOT so act and still consider ourselves morally worthy. There needs to be a way to make the conception of “freedom” non-contradictory, even if it remains controversial, which Kantian moral philosophy does.

    By evolving universally in order to adhere in everyone means simply a multitude of individual subjects having or developing the same sense of morality, from which the same CI’s would advance. In no other way can a subjective principle become a universal law, then if all subjects hold with the same principle. Then we can still say it is a subjective principle holds universally. The need arises here, to choose wisely which principle one holds; I wouldn’t want my subjective principle “no good deed goes unpunished” to be held by every other rational agent, in which case the CI as a universal law for every single one of them would absolutely have to be “therefore never do a good deed”.

    You’re more than welcome to critique my understandings here. We both know it’s mighty hard to put Kant’s words into non-scholastic interpretation, without just simply c&p’ing his stuff right out of a book, which half the time just makes things worse.
  • DaqHarGuul
    3
    Elaborate?

    How is Albert Camus' argument regarding this situation absurd?
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    just making a joke, Camus- absurd- get it ?
  • I like sushi
    1.2k
    I generally choose to adopt the rouh distinction between “ethical” and “moral” choices. The moral choice is never publicly announced whilst the ethical choice is. Meaning what we say is coloured by how we perceived we’ll be viewed by our hypothetical choices.

    Morally I’d struggle with the idea if I was the police. I do believe I would kill the person though because I ca logically justify it even if I know, in my mind, that the act is morally wrong.

    The problem comes from a the pull between sustaining our own being (life) and looking for logical validity to do so even when we have to do something we view in many, if not all, other situations as morally reprehensible. The logical reasoning, which no doubt some have presented in the replies, woudl be to validate the killing of this person by helping the investigation to stop eve more possible murders. The sacrifice you make to your ow sense of self and moral well-being may well be fully justified, but even so killing someone is not something that can be undone.

    It is a question of exploring the problem as intricately as you can in the hypothetical and coming to a moral decision as to how you’d prefer to act and then pushing the lines lf the question further in order to knwo where prefered actions would be in vaguely equivalent circumstances - logical validation has a limit. Understanding where you wish to position yourself morally is a tough call, and even then actually acting in the manner you’d wish to is even more unlikely. Hence the need for regular self-contemplation on such difficult problems that require some logical analysis but at the end of the day end with you having to live with our actions and their emotional baggage.

    If we were to alter the question and say kill one to save another or let two people die the choice may be even harder. The reason being if you take the question seriously enough you’d have to choose between having to live with killing someone directly or having two people die because of your inaction.

    The balance of what is good for you, the people involved and society at large is an impossible equation to balance on logical propositions alone. I’d even fo as far to say that to rely on logical reason alone is “immoral” yet I’m not sure if it’s “unethical” - in light of how I’ve differentiated these terms at the start of the post.
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