• Matei
    5
    Hello everyone! I have been struggling to find an answer to the question: "When is someone morally accountable for an action, what about for a result of an action?". This question arose recently when I have finished a book(it is specific romanian literature so saying it's title would be meaningless). In it the husband was treating his wife miserably, he was beating and abusing her constantly. At one point she comitted suicide for that she failed to see a purpose in her life (her husband was treating her quite nicely before they married and he was her greatest love).
    The husband has obviously done immoral and unvirtuous things and he is responsible for those indeed, but is he morally responsible for her suicide?
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    I wasn't there. I don't condone violence, but there may have been causes why the husband became abusive. I did not read the book.

    Again, violence is not a moral issue, it is a deplorable act, especially when committed against an otherwise defenseless person. In my country (Canada) legal action can be taken. I don't know the situation in Romania.

    I don't know how to answer your question. He may have been the cause of her suicide, but was it morally caused? I don't even think it was legally caused. If abuse that leads to suicide is a cause for action, then half the police force and many jail guards could become prison inmates themselves.

    I think I don't know how to answer your question.

    I hope I was very helpful.
  • Matei
    5
    Can he be the cause of her suicide? Wouldn't her own weakness be the reason? Wasn't he an obstacle which she failed to overcome? Can anything but weakness be the cause of suicide? (The book isn't that important I just gave it as an example, I want to know when a person is morally responsabile for something).
  • Pinprick
    455
    Can he be the cause of her suicide?Matei

    As a determinist, I would say that none of us are truly responsible for our own actions. So his actions, along with various other factors (each of which has their own causal chain), may have contributed to the outcome, but it’s unlikely to be able to definitively know to what extent his actions affected her actions.

    From a strictly moral position, I believe we all should be considered to be responsible for our own actions. Throughout life you will find yourself in unpleasant situations, but it’s your responsibility to recognize this and find a way to escape or overcome them. In this particular situation, that may or may not have been possible. Was she entirely powerless? Were there options available to her that she either failed to see, or chose not to pursue?

    Can anything but weakness be the cause of suicide?Matei

    I know you aren’t meaning to make this thread about suicide, but I disagree with this view. People kill themselves for many different reasons, and some would argue that the act of killing oneself requires strength and bravery, rather than weakness and cowardice.
  • god must be atheist
    2.4k
    Can he be the cause of her suicide? Wouldn't her own weakness be the reason? Wasn't he an obstacle which she failed to overcome?Matei

    All good questions. When a person shoots someone else down, he can argue. "I did not kill the person. The bullet did." Who is to blame? the person who pulled the trigger? The original cause why the shot person died could be many things. Pulling trigger. cardiac arrest due to bullet wound. the reason the person wanted him dead. The manufacturer of weapons. The national collective conscious that equates liberty with gun toting. The inventor of the gun. The inventor of gun powder.

    You see, if any one (not more but one)_ of these contributions did not happen, the shooting could not have happened. Even the ejaculation of the grandfather of the person who invented handguns could be blamed.

    So you know how philosophers handle this conondrum? By not handling it at all. Staying waaaay clear of its sight.
  • tim wood
    5.6k
    Questions are easy to ask, but to be meaningful either in the asking or the answering, the question must first be firmly placed in the understanding of the person asking. This is exactly not to say that the person asking must understand the question, but instead he or she at the least must have established for themselves their own understanding of the question.

    And to establish that understanding, questions are often first approached. The meanings of the words and terms of the question - or candidate forms of the question - are considered and weighed. For example, there is much difference between asking what something is, and asking what you think or understand something to be.

    Without care in formulating the question or understanding it, the enterprise may be knocked off track before it begins.

    You ask,
    but is he morally responsible for her suicide?Matei

    I invite you to think about your question. In particular to put into play the words, "is, morally, responsible, suicide"; How many different understandings can be got by looking past the surface of these words and into their substance? As it sits, I can answer your question with yes, no, maybe, and everything in between and on the sides, A question for which all possible answers are correct is not much of a question.

    Or in much shorter form, what exactly do you mean? What exactly are you asking? .
  • Mapping the Medium
    177
    is he morally responsibleMatei

    If there is enough freedom in a given reactive situation that an outcome can be avoided, then I think it would be hard to argue for direct cause.

    In other words, did he hold a knife to her throat and tell her that she must shoot herself? Was she so emotionally unstable that she felt she had no other choice? There are too many variables to your question. An outside observer will only judge her according to their own perspective and experiences. One person's emotional strength can be very different from another's. I think that if a person actually stops, looks back and reflects upon whether or not they could have done something to prevent a tragedy, that in itself implies that they may have had some moral responsibility that they neglected to act upon. I think we should all be more aware of how we affect or neglect others.
  • Gnomon
    1.1k
    but is he morally responsible for her suicide?Matei
    That question is subject to debate, depending on various personal moralities. And that's what a philosophical forum is for.

    But, I will note, that in a court of law, the husband could be declared a "contributing cause" to the wife's death. Therefore, culpable to some extent, but not enough to be found legally guilty of murder. Whether he is "morally" responsible, I'd have to say "yes". And he should feel guilty, and remorseful. But that's just my opinion. :smile:

    Contributing Cause : A contributing cause is any cause that is not self-sufficient.
    https://www.jargondatabase.com/Category/Occupation-and-Profession/Engineering-Jargon/Contributing-Cause
  • Book273
    65
    She made a choice to commit suicide. Moral implications of that choice are hers, not her husbands. By allowing the husband to assume the moral responsibility of her action she is denied the responsibility of said action, which means, sadly, that even her last action will be attributed to her husband.
  • Judaka
    967

    When someone is "morally responsible", we are not talking about them being the only or absolute cause and that is missing the point. I think moral accountability ultimately comes down to whether a person can be praised or blamed in moral terms for their involvement in an event. When it comes to bullying, we don't know how the other person will react but that's not an excuse. We could hold him morally accountable for her suicide because the husband is intellectually capable of understanding that his actions could have had this effect. There no real mitigating circumstances here, the husband isn't being forced to beat his wife by anyone. The husband acted of his own free will, with full knowledge of the potential consequences. It doesn't really matter that the wife would still be alive if she did not choose to die.

    Many situations have this kind of "luck" involved, say someone is stabbed, perhaps the puncture is fatal or a flesh wound, maybe medical attention will be available in time to save the victim or perhaps it won't be. So whether the attacker is a murderer or just gave someone a tiny scar, maybe it will be decided by luck but they'll be held morally accountable for either outcome. So too for the husband, maybe his wife could've been stronger and more resilient and not take her own life but that wasn't the case. That really has nothing to do with the husband, he must be held accountable for what happens even if it mightn't have happened if things outside of his control didn't happen or weren't the way they were.
  • Matei
    5
    But, I will note, that in a court of law, the husband could be declared a "contributing cause" to the wife's death. Therefore, culpable to some extent, but enough to be found legally guilty of murder.Gnomon

    Indeed, but isn't there a difference between penal responsability and moral responsability? He can, of course, be seen as a cause of he death, but that would make him only causal responsable.

    And he should feel guilty, and remorseful.Gnomon

    Undoubtable, but what should he feel guilty about? Shouldn't he feel just as guilty if his wife would not have died? If that is the case that he doesn't feel guilty about her death, but about his actions. He is, obviously morally accountable for his actions, for willingly bringing pain and for violence, and he should feel guilty for these said action. Should he actually feel guilty for her death though?
  • Matei
    5
    the husband isn't being forced to beat his wife by anyoneJudaka

    But the wife was not forced to kill herself either. And yes, he is morally responsible for beating her, bringing her pain, but can he be morally responsible for her actions?

    held morally accountable for either outcome.Judaka

    Does that really sound right? Let's say we have two criminals who stab two persons(one each). The stabbing is exactly the same, in the case of the first criminal his victim is unlucky and dies, in the second case the victim lives. Don't you think the criminals should recieve the same punishment? They did the same thing, it was not thanks to the first criminal that the first victim lived so why should he recieve an easier punishment than the second one? Both intended the same and both did the same, one victim simply had more luck. But was that luck thanks to the criminal? Of course not and then why should he recieve an easier punishment?

    could've been stronger and more resilient and not take her own life but that wasn't the case.Judaka

    Well we can just turn this around and say that the husband could have been wiser and less violent, but that wasn't the case.
  • Judaka
    967

    But the wife was not forced to kill herself either. And yes, he is morally responsible for beating her, bringing her pain, but can he be morally responsible for her actions?Matei

    But that's not what moral responsibility is about, at the point where the husband literally forced the wife to kill herself, that's no longer suicide but murder. A husband could feel morally responsible for his wife's suicide even if he did absolutely nothing to cause it just by feeling guilty about not having noticed the signs. Moral responsibility is not a question of whether you directly caused an act, you seem to be asking whether the husband is literally responsible for her death but you already said it's suicide.

    Does that really sound right?Matei

    There is a relationship between bullying and suicide, do you dispute that? A man can beat his wife and she might or might not kill herself as a result but considering the gravity of her situation, it's not unreasonable to expect that it might or could happen. If someone is being bullied to the degree that they might want to kill themselves then if they do, how can you say there's no responsibility on their end? You are correct, despite the husband's actions, things could have turned out differently but the same thing applies to the stabbing scenario. The truth is though, one stabber is a murderer and the other is not.

    I think I misunderstood you though, the issue seems to be specific to suicide. Don't you see that the family and friends of someone lost to suicide can feel morally responsible and guilty? It is due to the presence of agency, the ability to do something differently which may have changed the outcome, that creates the possibility for moral responsibility. Otherwise, there would simply be no moral responsibility for someone else's suicide ever but that's not how it works.
  • Benkei
    3.8k
    It's a story so you can go either way.
  • Gnomon
    1.1k
    Indeed, but isn't there a difference between penal responsability and moral responsability? He can, of course, be seen as a cause of he death, but that would make him only causal responsable.Matei
    My comment omitted an important qualifier. It should have said "but not enough to be found legally guilty". So yes, legal responsibility requires objective evidence, and a jury of peers. Moral responsibility is a personal subjective judgment, and others may not agree with that opinion. That's why social accountability requires multiple attestations to the "crime". Personal accountability may be limited to a feeling of guilt, in those so inclined. There may be several contributing causes for suicide, such as depression. But the abusive husband would be the best judge of his own contribution. :smile:

    Moral Accountability : The Mosaic Law specified that, before anyone could be put to death by stoning, there had to be a trial, and at least two witnesses had to testify: “On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness” (Deuteronomy 17:6).
    https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-stoning.html
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