Friday, October 9, 2015

"Killing As a Moral Good."

Kilrain's Hypothesis: “The truth is, Colonel, that there's no divine spark, bless you. There's many a man alive no more value than a dead dog. Believe me, when you've seen them hang each other...Equality? Christ in Heaven. What I'm fighting for is the right to prove I'm a better man than many. Where have you seen this divine spark in operation, Colonel? Where have you noted this magnificent equality? The Great White Joker in the Sky dooms us all to stupidity or poverty from birth. no two things on earth are equal or have an equal chance, not a leaf nor a tree. There's many a man worse than me, and some better, but I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters is justice. 'Tis why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain, and I God damn all gentlemen. I don't know who me father was and I don't give a damn. There's only one aristocracy, and that's right here - " he tapped his white skull with a thick finger - "and YOU, Colonel laddie, are a member of it and don't even know it. You are damned good at everything I've seen you do, a lovely soldier, an honest man, and you got a good heart on you too, which is rare in clever men. Strange thing. I'm not a clever man meself, but I know it when I run across it. The strange and marvelous thing about you, Colonel darlin', is that you believe in mankind, even preachers, whereas when you've got my great experience of the world you will have learned that good men are rare, much rarer than you think.” ― Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels
"Johnson argues that rather than starting from a presumed duty not to kill and then looking for ways to override that duty, the classic Just War tradition (Augustine, Aquinas, Vitoria, etc.) begins from considerations of justice and what it requires in a particular situation. Justice, not a duty against killing, is the ever present demand and determines the morality of killing. In Johnson’s model, just killing is not a necessary evil, but a morally good act in service of justice. One must be careful not to confuse 'morally good' with 'desirable.' In Johnson’s model, war is still a last resort, but not because there is a standing duty not to kill. It is a last resort because the goal of war is peace, and if a just peace can be achieved without violence, it ought to be. If war must be fought, however, it can be fought without committing intrinsically evil acts."


Sean said...

If you take out the trash, regularly, it doesn't accumulate, and stink up the place. Some people are just trash, and need killing. You kill them, problem solved. You refrain from killing them, like has been done in the twentieth century, and you get serial killers, mass murderers, and a lot of slags who murder women and children because in their heart of hearts, they know they will only get free housing, food, clothes, and medical care the rest of their life, as, "punishment". Paid for by the survivors. Rapists used to be hanged. Now they get a few years, after raping MANY women, and get out, and go right back out and do it again. One of the many reasons this country is in dire straights, is that it doesn't bury it's worst citizens. The infection spreads, as does the harm. People just started accepting lies, instead of seeking truth.

Chiu ChunLing said...

The fundamental problem is that Western thought has typically demanded that reality, on which justice is based, be subject to moral considerations. This is a natural outgrowth of Greek metaphysics being applied to the concept of a benevolent Judeo-Christian concept of God, resulting in the demand that God be able to make the universe whatever He pleases and that the universe so created must have nothing in it which is not reflective of God's moral nature, since the Greek metaphysics posit ex nihilo creation of the physical universe from the Ideal, represented by God.

In primitive Judaism and Christianity, God is simply the greatest being within the universe, not the only being to have independent existence at all. Though much is made of the actual existence of God compared to the non-existence of other gods, there is no hint of relegating the existence of humans, animals, or other natural entities to an inferior category of existence. This obviates most of the pressing paradoxical results which arise from asserting that God, in order to qualify as God, must have originally been the only being that existed and the origin of all other existence.

The assumption that God created the laws of justice out of whole cloth (or more precisely, out of benevolent divine whim) creates a logically impossible conflict with the concept of mercy as a measure of goodness. In logic, taking a contradiction as granted allows for any conclusion to be logically 'proven', and the same is true of multiple premises which inherently result in contradiction, such as the assertions that nothing exists except by divine whim and of the perfect benevolence of God.

Even without resorting to logical tricks, it is obvious enough that, if God really did create everything by a pure act of benevolent will, and this is the ultimate and total example of goodness, then our test in life is to attempt to emulate this example, and the best possible act in every case is to simply wish for things to turn out for the best. Any concession to the supposed necessity of actual action or impossibility of things turning out as we benevolently wish is a direct moral failing. To lift a finger to defend or sustain your own life or the lives of others is a simple failure of pure faith, by which God created everything without works. To speak and exhort, make overt indications by facial expressions, or to cry out or give suck, is to fail the test. The only good is to merely wish.

For centuries, the immediate necessities of life prevented this line of development from taking much root in Western Civilization despite the philosophical Idealism which made it the only non-paradoxical possible result of the synthesis of disparate fundamental assumptions about ultimate morality. But the vast prosperity enabled by the adoption of free-market principles as part of the overall exercise of freedom on which America was founded has permitted significant intellectual development in this direction, mostly not terribly sincere, but appealing to naive believers in the basic cultural premises which demand such a result.

But by returning to a primitive understanding of the relationship between God and reality we can simply accept that justice, which reality demands and ultimately enforces, is an obstacle to mercy, which is the characteristic of God which we call 'good'. The problem for God, and hence for ourselves, is to find ways to practice mercy as much as possible despite the fact that the laws of justice intransigently limit some acts of mercy.

Chiu ChunLing said...

In other words, the problem is not whether or not we're allowed to kill, because the universe is set up so that people will die as a result of our actions (including inaction) no matter what we choose. We can allow some people to die because of one set of actions, we can take different actions and allow others to die as a result, or we can refrain from doing anything and thus kill ourselves (along with anyone else our overt action would have been necessary to save). While there is a presumption of greater moral responsibility for the foreseeable results of overt actions, this arises from the presumption of greater foresight being morally demanded prior to significant exertion. But in no way can we ever be excused from moral responsibility for someone dying as a foreseeable result of our chosen actions or inaction...unless we are killed ourselves as infants. We have no choice but to kill, and if we live long then our ignorance about our causal agency in the deaths of others will be only a matter of degree and self-deception.

Turned around, the moral question is always who are we trying to save, and with what chance of success? We can try to save 'everyone', but a proper understanding of God's place in the universe tells us that God wants to save everyone but cannot accomplish it, because to 'save' some would entail permitting them to destroy others, and still others cannot be saved because they would in every case destroy themselves. Thus while there is a heaven, there is also a hell, and the danger of not being saved is real (if it were not so, the exact point of even attempting any morality at all would be lost). We have no more power (and, reasonably speaking, considerably less) than God does to shew mercy to the merciless without consequence. Thus we have a moral responsibility to exercise reasonable foresight when we permit the future actions of a person who's prior actions give us cause to believe those future actions will inflict grave harms on those who we have already undertaken a moral duty to protect and nurture, beginning with our own children, who are brought into this world by our overt (if not always perfectly consciously intentional) physical acts.

Of course moral reasoning must not stop there, but this post must end somewhere.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with Sean....but only in practice. In theory....ya, it's the way to go. The problem with giving ANY government the ability to kill its citizens is that it becomes very likely that eventually a tyrannical government will kill citizens who've done nothing morally "wrong" other than oppose the regime.

Look at how many called for Snowden's head for merely verifying the things that had been alleged for years about our shadow government. Look at how we've killed US citizens without due process in drone strikes in foreign lands. The death penalty allows for a lot of government if anyone here actually believes that the Just Us system isn't stacked, that our government doesn't use it as a weapon against its detractors, or that it can't define a citizen as an "extremist" or "terrorist" and use it as an excuse to kill them.

Sean's right that the real purpose of the death penalty is not to deter. It simply never has worked for's to get rid of the pieces of human refuse that only serve to drag down humanity. I'm not totally opposed to the death penalty (provided a very high standard of proof is achieved and the citizenry is well educated enough and understands the proper role of the jury to interpret legality of statutes in the first place [ for example]...but that's something sorely lacking in today's America)....but I do caution allowing any government the ability to kill its citizens since it could easily be used to silence dissent as it has in many other countries in the last century.

Anonymous said...

Who the hell is this Chiu character????

Chiu ChunLing said...

I have often wondered that myself. I have no answers that are particularly satisfactory beyond my names (of which the Chinese family and personal names given me at birth are only two of many) and my published thoughts on everything other than my own identity.

Sean said...

Anon 5:18, the strict standard for executing criminals has negated both its purpose and effect. Which is what lawyers do, and grow the bureaucracy. To be sure, if a person is guilty, it has to be proven. So why do prosecutors and cops force so many obviously false imprisonments and death penalties? Because leftists have called for an end to the death penalty, and the resulting overabundance of criminals, especially the worst kind, still victimizes the populace, who, outraged over these animals running around, demand some kind of action. Under this pressure, cops and prosecutors railroad some one, any one into jail/death row, to satisfy the public. And it just self perpetuates from there. Cops execute many times more people in public, than are executed state in prisons. If a govt. does not have the power to kill, albeit in a lawful and just situation, it is no govt. at all. Just a caretaker and exploiter of the victims who get to pay its bills, and do its work. A criminal turned over to a lynch mob has no chance at all for justice. Hence the organization for criminal proceedings. Doesn't always work as advertised, but the alternative is the mob.