• Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    I'm almost done sorting through over a decade of old notes to myself to make sure I didn't miss anything I meant to cover in my philosophy book, and I came across one that I think is too narrow a comment to be worth including in the book but might be worth starting a topic here. It's about something called the Paradox of Gentle Murder, also known, funny enough, as Forrester's Paradox (funny because my name is Forrest).

    The supposed paradox is that formalizations of the sentence "if you murder, you ought to murder gently" into different kinds of deontic logics seems to produce the apparently absurd result that that sentence entails "you ought to murder". What follows is just my old note to myself verbatim:


    "If you murder, you ought to murder gently":

    Interpret as "it ought to be that (if you murder, you murder gently)"

    Let "M" = "you murder" and let "G" = "you are gentle", ergo "M ^ G" = "you murder gently"

    Thus symbolized:

    "it ought to be that (M -> (M ^ G))"

    Classical objection:
    (M -> (M ^ G)) = ((M ^ G) v ~M),
    therefore (M ^ G) ("you murder gently") satisfies the expressed exhortation;
    but
    (M ^ G) => M,
    and thus the exhortation can be taken as an exhortation to murder, an apparent absurdity.


    My response:
    All true, given *only* the exhortation that (M -> (M ^ G))
    But we have, as an aside, the implicit exhortation that "not-M", which also satisfies the first exhortation.
    Conjoined, these two sentences exhort (that (M -> (M ^ G)) ^ ~M)".
    But ~M => ~(M ^ G), which conjoined with the object of the initial exhortation entails, trivially, ~M.

    In short:
    the absurd conclusion that "you murder gently" satisfies the initial exhortation is only absurd in light of the implicit, background exhortation that "you do not murder". But "you murder gently" does not satisfy the conjunction of that implicit exhortation with the initial exhortation. Thus under the assumptions in which the purportedly absurd conclusion in indeed absurd, that conclusion does actually not follow from our interpretation of the sentence in question.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    You ought not to murder... why not? It is carved in stone or something?

    Sure you ought to murder. There are times when it can't be avoided, and there are times when it is even beneficial. But when you do, do it painlessly, without glee (or with hidden glee), doing it as if doing a kind deed or a favour to the victim. This will make the victim (supposedly, I don't believe it) feel good about himself, the murder, and his death. Therefore murdering gently is a good thing.

    The funny thing is, it is easiest to die and it is with the least amount of anxiety when you die while your adrenaline levels are high. I am thinking of battle, the old fashioned kind. The old fashioned kind, when you go into battle because you want to, because you are angry, because you want to destroy the other person. If the other person destroys you, instead, in the proceedings, then it's the easiest way out, I think. The easiest way out while conscious and sentient. Even the pain of the blade in your throat is lessened, due to high adrenaline levels, compared to the largest anxiety when you are tied to the stake after extended and very painful periods of torture, getting the amount of wood and tree branches lit up to fire under you with no escape from the certainty of burning to death.
  • TheMadFool
    5.3k
    as far as I can understand Forrester's argument is like below:

    1. If you commit murder then it is obligatory that you murder gently
    2. If you murder gently then you commit murder
    3. If it is obligatory to murder gently then it is obligatory that you commit murder (?????)
    4. It is obligatory to murder gently
    5. It is obligatory that you murder (from 3, 4 Modus ponens)
    .
    .
    .
    6. It is obligatory that you don't murder
    7. It is obligatory that you murder & It is obligatory that you don't murder (5, 6 Conj)

    Firstly, statement 3 is problematic because it's quite clearly wrong e.g if it's obligatory to tone done an action doesn't imply that it's obligatory to perform the action. For instance, parents dial down on the punishment they mete out to their children but that doesn't imply that it's obligatory to punish their children. Put another way, if it's obligatory to be merciful it doesn't follow that it's obligatory to put yourself in situations you have to be merciful. :rofl:

    Also, I think the argument is missing the critical premise which is this: It is obligatory that you don't murder. Notice, it isn't qualified with a conditional like proposition 1 and is to be applied universally i.e. this premise has to be included in this argument too. Including this missing premise leads to a contradiction, line 7. Since you can't reject the premise that it is obligatory that you don't murder you'll have to reject one of the premises in the argument. It can't be 1 for we accept that one has to be merciful. It can't be 2 because well if you've murdered someone, gently or not, you have murdered. It can't be 4 because it is obligatory that if you murder then you do it gently. That leaves us with only one proposition to reject, to wit, 3. If it is obligatory to murder gently then it is obligatory that you commit murder.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Also, I think the argument is missing the critical premise which is this: It is obligatory that you don't murder.TheMadFool

    I appreciate this. Many a classic or modern conundrum is often served up missing essential elements.

    Well spotted, TMF. I did not have the wherewithal to assume this may be missing something.
  • Dawnstorm
    91
    1. It's obligatory that you not murder.
    2. (a) If you violate 1., it is obligatory that you choose a manner of execution that is gentle.
    2. (b) If you don't violate 1., it is impossible that you choose a manner of exuction that is gentle.
    3. If you choose a manner of exuction (of the act of murder) that is gentle, it is necessary that you commit the act of murder. (This follows from 2.(b))

    I think it's just a natural-language confusion. Under the above "if you are obligated to murder gently, you are obligated to murder," is invalid. It ought to be: "If you are obligated to murder gently, it is necessary that you murder."

    Simply put, If faced with choice A(a1, a2) you choose a2 and only a2 triggers choice B(b1, b2), then choosing either b1 or b2 implies that you have chosen a2. This isn't an obligation; it's a necessity.
  • TheMadFool
    5.3k
    I appreciate this. Many a classic or modern conundrum is often served up missing essential elements.

    Well spotted, TMF. I did not have the wherewithal to assume this may be missing something.
    god must be atheist

    You're joking, right? I wish the OP had a comment to make.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    Your point about the hidden premise that it’s obligatory to not murder was a key part of my OP.
  • fdrake
    3.3k
    Is it appropriate to formalise an adjective in that way? As separate from the proposition it applies to? If G is "you are gentle" and M is "you murder", the conjunction "M & G" is "you are gentle and you murder" vs "you murder gently". Analogous to "X is a red apple" being independent (without additional assumptions) from "X is red" and "X is an apple" in propositional logic.

    Does it change much if you formalise it as "ought( murder => murder gently)" as two separate propositions without introducing "gently" through a conjunction? Say M and MG, in that form "ought (M => MG)" so that ought M implies ought MG and then (not ought MG => not ought M) through transposition.
  • TheMadFool
    5.3k
    Your point about the hidden premise that it’s obligatory to not murder was a key part of my OP.Pfhorrest

    I have absolutely zero understanding of deontic logic but there's a key rule that applies to Forrester's argument and it's this:

    1. p -> q implies that p is obligatory -> q is obligatory which leads us from Smith murders Jones gently -> Smith murders Jones to the problematic premise it's obligatory that Smith murders Jones gently -> it's obligatory that Smith murders Jones.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    Yeah, that is a key rule, but I don't think that that is the source of the problem. It's true that if Smith ought to murder Jones gently, that Smith ought to murder Jones.

    That's not the only way of encoding the "if you murder, you ought to murder gently" sentence into deontic logic though. It's not even the one Forrester himself uses. Forrester encodes it as "Smith murders Jones" implies "Smith ought to murder Jones gently", which then suggests that in any case that Smith does murder Jones, that is the right thing to do (provided he did so gently). That no murder is ever wrong, so long as it's happens, and it's gentle. If it's not gentle then it's wrong, and if it doesn't happen, then it's wrong. That's the weird thing about Forrester's encoding.

    An alternative encoding, which I prefer, is to take the entire conditional "if Smith murders Jones then Smith murders Jones gently" and say that that whole thing is obligatory: it's not that there's an obligation that holds in the case of certain facts, it's that there's a conditional relationship between obligations. It's only if you ought to murder than you ought to murder gently, not just if you do murder.

    The usual objection to that solution is that "if P then Q" is logically equivalent to "Q or not P", so obliging "if Smith murders Jones then Smith murders Jones gently" is equivalent to obliging "Smith murders Jones gently or Smith doesn't murder Jones" (which is fine by me so far), and therefore "Smith murders Jones gently" satisfies the obligation: so long as you murder gently, you've still done the right thing.

    My retort to that is, as you brought up, the background assumption that you ought to not murder at all. That assumption is the only thing that makes "you ought to murder gently" (and therefore you ought to murder in the first place) sound like an absurd conclusion. But given that assumption, one of the disjuncts of "Smith ought to murder Jones gently or Smith ought to not murder" is ruled out, and the other affirmed: it is not the case that Smith ought to murder Jones gently, because it is not the case that Smith ought to murder Jones, which means it must instead be the case that Smith ought to not murder, which... yeah, he oughtn't. No problem.

    To put it another way, "it ought to be that (if you murder then you murder gently)" is also logically equivalent to "it ought to be that (you don't murder un-gently)", which is true if it ought to be that you don't murder at all, which we presume is the case. So there is no problem with this encoding of the sentence in question.

    Interestingly enough this circles back around to the same thing at issue in the "Everything, Something, Nothing" thread. If it ought to be that all murders are gentle, that doesn't imply that there ought to be any murders, because "all murders are gentle" is true when there are no murders at all.
  • TheMadFool
    5.3k
    It seems that Forrester's argument turns on one premise which is that if we murder then we must murder gently which he bases on the brutal/savage murder vs merciful murder which is a widely held moral intuition. So we get the following:

    Let Ox = it's obligatory to do x

    1. We ought to murder gently (Og)
    2. If we murder gently (g) then we murder (m)
    3. If we ought to murder gently (Og) then we ought to murder (Om)
    Ergo
    4. We ought to murder (Om)

    1. Og
    2. g -> m
    3. Og -> Om
    Ergo
    4. Om

    As I said before, premise 3 is questionable but it seems that in deontic logic it's true that if we murder gently then we murder, it implies that if we ought to murder gently then we ought to murder i.e. p -> q implies that p is obligatory -> q is obligatory too.

    Actually if Ox = obligatory to do x, then p -> q implies that Op -> Oq makes complete sense in the following example:

    5. If to save a million lives (s), it's necessary to kill a mass-murderer (k) then if it's obligatory to save a million lives, it's obligatory to kill a mass-murder. In symbols it becomes...

    6. s -> k
    7. Os -> Ok

    Notice the word "necessary" in 5 above. I think there's a difference between necessary and obligatory. The word "necessary" describes an inevitability and can be easily deduced in 6 and 7 above. In Forrester's argument the obligatory part (Og -> Om) describes a necessity of murder if one ever murders gently but you aren't obligated to murder just because of the belief that one has to merciful while murdering someone.

    Basically, on some occasions the necessary is obligatory and at other times the necessary isn't obligatory, morally speaking.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    I think the problematic premise is 1, not 3. It is not the case that we ought to murder gently, for it is the case that we ought not murder at all, which precludes murdering gently as well. Instead, it is the case that we ought not murder un-gently, and that is perfectly compatible with it being the case that we ought not murder at all. That's why I would encode the intended meaning of "if you murder, then you ought to murder gently" as "you ought to (if murder then murder gently)" or the logically equivalent and less awkward sounding "you ought to murder gently or not murder at all". That's true, because you ought to not murder at all, but it were the case that you ought to murder, then it would be the case that you ought to murder gently.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    the hidden premise that it’s obligatory to not murder was a key part of my OPPfhorrest

    Hehe, i completely missed that.

    Leave it to a psychopathic immoralist, to misunderstand a question which has one of the basic human values as an unspoken premise.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    Instead, it is the case that we ought not murder un-gently, and that is perfectly compatible with it being the case that we ought not murder at all.Pfhorrest

    This is a flashback to the empty set being both red and not red (with the blood of the murder victim, presumably.)

    So if you ought not to murder, then there is no murder, and if you do the non-murder, then that is compatible with the withheld action of doing the murder cruelly.

    But I don't think "do it gently" means hands down "don't do it ungently", unless there is no murder taking place.

    You're a one-negation logician, Pfhorrest. (-:
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    This is a flashback to the empty set being both red and not red (with the blood of the murder victim, presumably.)god must be atheist

    Yeah, I mentioned that upthread, in my second post.

    But I don't think "do it gently" means hands down "don't do it ungently", unless there is no murder taking place.god must be atheist

    That is correct. If you were in fact obliged to murder gently, then not murdering would be incompatible with that: you have to murder, and you have to be gentle about it.

    That's why I think formalizing the sentence "if you murder, you ought to murder gently" the way Forrester formalizes it doesn't get at what is naturally meant by it. The way he formalizes it -- which, I'll concede, is the superficial reading of the grammatical structure of the sentence -- is equivalent to saying that either there is an obligation to murder gently (and therefore to murder in the first place), or else there is not a fact that you murder; or also equivalently, there is no state of affairs where you commited a murder and were not obliged to do so (and do so gently), so all murders that actually happen were obligatory.

    That's why instead I think the intended meaning behind the natural sentence "if you murder, you ought to murder gently" is, in essence, "make sure that any murders that you do are are done gently", or equivalently, "don't do any un-gentle murders". Which can be accomplished by not doing any murders at all.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    Somehow I missed your post earlier. You make a good point about my formalization of "you murder gently" as a conjunction of "you murder" and "you are gentle". But your reformalization of it into separate propositions doesn't really change much, no, other than that you can't just logically infer M from MG the way you can infer M from (M ^ G), and instead you would need a separate premise to tell you that MG -> M.

    I think it is very helpful if we can formalize it in a way that shows that gentle murder is a subset of murder. Logical conjunction is isomorphic to set intersection, which is why I went with conjunction as the way to show that (the intersection of murder and gentleness is a subset of murder), but if you're familiar with a better way to formalize something like that I'd be interested to learn about it.
  • Wayfarer
    9.5k
    You ought not to murder... why not? It is carved in stone or something?god must be atheist

    ten-commandments.jpg
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    ... Glad you got the joke, Wayfarer.

    By-the-by, the ten commandments were carved into stone for Moses in Hebrew or Arameic,when no Hebrew or Arameic writing existed yet. I think a Rosetta stone was attached, with Egyptian hieroglyphs, to explain what was actually written on the tablets in letters that were created several centuries later.
  • Artemis
    1.8k


    Murder is defined as an "unjustified killing." Self-defense, etc. don't count as murder, just killings, homicides, or manslaughter. Whether the wrongness of murder is set in stone therefore is missing the point: it's by definition wrong. You can only quibble over which killings might constitute murder, i.e., a wrongful killing.

    As to the OP, I think it makes sense that one wrong doesn't justify more wrongs or being wronger. It only seems odd to suggest a person might be willing to do something so wrong as murder but then have qualms about compounding that wrong. In other words, the logic is sound, but the application seems rather limited.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    The logic as Forrester interprets it means that every murder that was ever done, ought to have been done. That seems like something has gone wrong in that logic somewhere, as I’ve already elaborated upon above.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    it's by definition wrong.Artemis

    I suppose the definition is "murder is unjustified killing". This is the definition you used, and I accept it now.

    If the qualifier "unjustified" renders the act wrong, then there are lots of acts that we think of as benign or even beneficial, are wrong.

    I picked a flower and put it in my lapel. Was this justified? No. Was it wrong? No. Yet your definition renders this to be wrong.

    I looked at the sky and took a big breath of air. Was it justified for me to look at the sky? No. Was it wrong to look at the sky? No.

    CLEARLY the qualifier "unjustified" in and by itself does not render anything wrong automatically.

    Yet you claim that murder is wrong because it is unjustified killing. Killing itself is not wrong; murder is, according to you, because it is unjustified. Yet unjustified does not turn anything from right to wrong.

    Therefore I put it to you that murder is not wrong by definition. It may be wrong for other reasons, but not by definition.
  • Artemis
    1.8k


    I can rephrase it: murder is by definition a wrongful killing. You can only quibble over which, if any, killings constitute murder.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    We can always just rephrase it as the Paradox of Gentle Killing and still have the same formal problem to sort out. It actually works out a little better, because it's a pretty common opinion that some killings ought to happen, and that when a killing has to happen, it ought to be done gently. But the formal paradox Forrester raises still suggests that every killing that ever happened ought to have happened.
  • god must be atheist
    2.1k
    I can rephrase it: murder is by definition a wrongful killing. You can only quibble over which, if any, killings constitute murder.Artemis

    Would you call the killing of people by a government appointed executioner, whose job is to kill convicts sentenced to the death penalty, murder, or just killing?

    If you call it killing, then it is not wrong by an executioner to kill people.

    How bout a person sentenced to die by execution, and he or she gets executed, only to be revealed after the fact that he was innocent of the crime he was convicted of and for which he earned the death penalty?

    Furthermore, would you call it a murder when an innocent person, removed from any causality of his or her killing, gets killed?

    I wouldn't know which is murder and which is killing. Except for the innocent person who gets murdered, and for the convict who gets sentenced to death for his or her crime.
  • Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    Murder is a subset of killing, not an alternative.
  • Artemis
    1.8k


    When killing precisely counts as a murder is a whole different can of worms. I'm just pointing out that murder is predefined as being wrong.

    You might think it is often falsely applied, or you might even say it is an empty category, or that you don't know when/ how we can know to apply it. But all that doesn't change the definition of murder, which is a wrongful killing.
  • Qwex
    366
    You can kill a high value person, in which case you did something wrong to a particular one or group - you might be punished.

    You can kill someone and no-one finds out. Is it murder then?

    Killing in this universe is already a high probability from the beginning, there is no moderation.

    Are we expected to moderate ourselves? Is killing ok in some contexts (such as a hunger - related kill?)
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.