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Thread: The ethics of killing for impersonal reasons

  1. #1
    uniquely dreadful S.A.M.'s Avatar
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    The ethics of killing for impersonal reasons

    Okay I tried to tackle this in the Pastor Jones thread, but there are too many variables there to define the argument.

    So I'm going to attempt the same question using theoretical arguments.

    Is it more ethical to kill someone for what they possess than for what they are? IOW, if you kill someone at a distance, someone you don't know at all, merely because they stand in the way of some goal, is that MORE ethical than if you kill them for their ideology, race, religion or political stance?

    Is eliminating a person for impersonal reasons like profit better than eliminating them for personal reasons like bias or prejudice? If you don't know the person you eliminate, does that reduce the value of that persons life?

    What makes one "better" than the other?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M. View Post
    Okay I tried to tackle this in the Pastor Jones thread, but there are too many variables there to define the argument.

    So I'm going to attempt the same question using theoretical arguments.

    Is it more ethical to kill someone for what they possess than for what they are? IOW, if you kill someone at a distance, someone you don't know at all, merely because they stand in the way of some goal, is that MORE ethical than if you kill them for their ideology, race, religion or political stance?

    Is eliminating a person for impersonal reasons like profit better than eliminating them for personal reasons like bias or prejudice? If you don't know the person you eliminate, does that reduce the value of that persons life?

    What makes one "better" than the other?
    Let me make sure I have this correct.

    Person A sits at her computer leading a cushy lifestyle paid for in blood by those that have to maintain it for her. Mainly solders paid a pittance because their dad's didn't bequeath them such a lavish lifestyle.

    Person B is a war dog. She was born a mutt and will die a mutt on the killing fields of blood and oil. Life doesn't come easy for her and she know's it isn't going to be a long one. There's a bullet with her name on it right around the corner. Why does she fight? Well, it's either that or starve. Her only wish is that a single princesses will cut back a few key strokes so that she can spare a few lives... Ahhhh! 80,000 posts.... Ahhhh the Humanity!!!!


    Does that sum things up appropriately?

  3. #3
    uniquely dreadful S.A.M.'s Avatar
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    Does that sum things up appropriately?
    Only if the argument is ad hominem.

    Person A believes that all black people are stupid and pollute the gene pool. He starts a militant group designed to eliminate coloured people. For this he receives a Presidential commendation, a promotion and billions of dollars from the taxpayer so as to take it global

    Person B thinks his children deserve a better future. Since he is incapable of considering ways and means of doing it himself, he kills his neighbours and steals everything they own. He adopts their dog because he is an animal lover. He receives a Presidential medal of valour, billions of dollars from the taxpayer to take it global and volunteers who are willing to kill as many people as required to ensure their childrens future

    Whats the difference between the two?

  4. #4
    Let us not launch the boat ... Tiassa's Avatar
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    Cool This and That

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael

    Does that sum things up appropriately?
    Actually, I think you made it more complicated than necessary.

    • • •

    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M.

    Is eliminating a person for impersonal reasons like profit better than eliminating them for personal reasons like bias or prejudice? If you don't know the person you eliminate, does that reduce the value of that persons life?

    What makes one "better" than the other?
    A fine question. I haven't a definitive answer. However, I think someone killing for profit is more cold-blooded and possibly socio- or psycho-pathic. Those killing for bigotry, it seems, are a bit more hot-blooded and stupid.

    So the first suggestion that stands out, to me, is that those who kill for impersonal reasons do have some moral relief insofar as we can borrow from the Lucian Christ—forgive them, for they know not what they do.

    Still, though, that doesn't say much toward better or worse. The moral relief might be entirely abstract. Or, be there a God who judges in Heaven, will there be any real difference between being cruel or just stupid?

  5. #5
    uniquely dreadful S.A.M.'s Avatar
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    Or, be there a God who judges in Heaven, will there be any real difference between being cruel or just stupid?
    What makes killing for profit "cold blooded" and killing for prejudice [thats an epithet so it makes a value judgement in itself] more "hot blooded"

    IOW, why do people assume that killing for profit is more "reasonable" than killing for personal reasons?

  6. #6
    Be kind to yourself always. cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Is it more ethical to kill someone for what they possess than for what they are?
    Arms dealers really do not care. They are the ones responsible for most wars and fighting because they are the only ones who actually profit from the killing. They have no morals but only want to reap profits from others misery and do a very good job of creating mayhem and chaos everywhere they can to insure greater profits for themselves.

  7. #7
    Valued Senior Member WillNever's Avatar
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    I like the question's premise.

    Something I always wondered:

    Is it less unethical to kill someone because you were ordered by your government to do so, and they are just faceless foreigners anyway, and you will be celebrated back home for your noble service? Or is it more ethical to kill someone because you personally want them dead and want to give way to your bloodthirst?

    I know a lot of people who would outright excuse the first scenario, and I find that very alarming.
    Last edited by WillNever; 04-03-11 at 08:07 AM.

  8. #8
    uniquely dreadful S.A.M.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmictraveler View Post
    Arms dealers really do not care. They are the ones responsible for most wars and fighting because they are the only ones who actually profit from the killing. They have no morals but only want to reap profits from others misery and do a very good job of creating mayhem and chaos everywhere they can to insure greater profits for themselves.
    I'm a proponent of the theory that guns don't kill people - people kill people. You could give me all the weapons in the world but I would still need to exercise the choice to use them.

    Quote Originally Posted by WillNever View Post
    I like the question's premise.

    Something I always wondered:

    Is it less unethical to kill someone because you were ordered by your government to do so, and they are just faceless foreigners anyway, and you will be celebrated back home for your noble service? Or is it more ethical to kill someone because you personally want them dead and want to give way to your bloodthirst?

    I know a lot of people who would outright excuse the first scenario, and I find that very alarming.
    Yeah I find it bizarre too. Why is it acceptable to kill faceless foreigners who never did you any harm [unless of course, you are the faceless foreigner being killed] and bad to kill someone against whom you might have a grievance?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M. View Post
    What makes killing for profit "cold blooded" and killing for prejudice [thats an epithet so it makes a value judgement in itself] more "hot blooded"

    IOW, why do people assume that killing for profit is more "reasonable" than killing for personal reasons?
    Do they? Wouldn't that depend at which stage of moral reasoning they are?


    For those who operate out of the notion of equality (whites are equal to blacks, men are equal to women, etc.), racial, sexual etc. stereotypes seem more wrong than to those who don't.

    Those who operate out of a notion of equality find it unfair that some have a lot more material welfare than others, so it seems almost fair that those who have less would take from those who have more.


    Also, when material goods are the object of the crime, this seems more tanglible than things like honor or happiness; and it seems more reasonable to focus on that which is tangible.
    (Of course, in another culture or in a different historic period, honor was considered as tangible as a horse, for example. Just like one could take a horse, one could take honor.)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M. View Post
    bad to kill someone against whom you might have a grievance?
    Because that would be vigilante justice, and permitting this kind of justice would undermine the state's order of law.

  11. #11
    Be kind to yourself always. cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    I'm a proponent of the theory that guns don't kill people - people kill people. You could give me all the weapons in the world but I would still need to exercise the choice to use them.
    Quite true but the arms dealers are the ones who instigate people and motivate them into doing the killing. The arms dealers will do anything to make sure fighting happens by actually paying people to start a rebellion, uprising or other type of problem that could escalate into a bigger problem with even more weapons sold to both sides. Just as America and Russia's arms dealers are encouraging fighting from one side against the other only to insure that both countries arms dealers will profit from any war.

  12. #12
    had a mod but let him go spidergoat's Avatar
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    It depends. You cannot generalize in this way. Killing someone for their ideology (Al Quida) is just as ethical as killing someone who has stolen property (Saddam stealing Kuwait).

  13. #13
    uniquely dreadful S.A.M.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Signal View Post


    Also, when material goods are the object of the crime, this seems more tanglible than things like honor or happiness; and it seems more reasonable to focus on that which is tangible.
    (Of course, in another culture or in a different historic period, honor was considered as tangible as a horse, for example. Just like one could take a horse, one could take honor.)
    Hmm so its not so much what people have vs what they are. Its about tangible vs intangible benefits? Do people kill more for material gain from strangers than for personal prejudice against others? Does paying people to kill make it more likely that they will do it?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by WillNever View Post
    I like the question's premise.

    Something I always wondered:

    Is it less unethical to kill someone because you were ordered by your government to do so, and they are just faceless foreigners anyway, and you will be celebrated back home for your noble service? Or is it more ethical to kill someone because you personally want them dead and want to give way to your bloodthirst?

    I know a lot of people who would outright excuse the first scenario, and I find that very alarming.
    Killing in and of itself is not unethical. Unjustified killing is unethical. For example, if you kill my son and i beat you to death, that is fine. But if i kill you because i dont like you for your race or something that is wrong. Also, if I kill you because you stand in the way of some greater good, whether or not killing you is wrong depends on what I try to accomplish

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M. View Post
    Its about tangible vs intangible benefits?
    I think so. Of course, what someone considers tangible is relative. But the idea is that the killer-to-be has a sense that the killing will accomplish something tangible, that the motivation for killing is something they deem can be given and taken.
    The easiest to imagine in this category are material things - possessions; but also life, honor, happiness, information can be considered as things that can be given and taken.


    Do people kill more for material gain from strangers than for personal prejudice against others? Does paying people to kill make it more likely that they will do it?
    What do you mean by "more"? Numerically more or proportionally more?
    For example, perhaps more murderers from the socio-economic upper class kill out of passion than for other reasons; and those from the lower class kill more for material gain than for other reasons; but numerically the latter by far outnumber the former.
    Last edited by wynn; 04-04-11 at 05:09 AM.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M. View Post
    Is it more ethical to kill someone for what they possess than for what they are? IOW, if you kill someone at a distance, someone you don't know at all, merely because they stand in the way of some goal, is that MORE ethical than if you kill them for their ideology, race, religion or political stance?
    Obviously, to me at least, no.

    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M. View Post
    Is eliminating a person for impersonal reasons like profit better than eliminating them for personal reasons like bias or prejudice? If you don't know the person you eliminate, does that reduce the value of that persons life?
    Also no.

    Quote Originally Posted by S.A.M. View Post
    What makes one "better" than the other?
    One is not better than the other. In my opinion killing should only be acceptable if done to protect yourself or someone else from acute and grave danger and then only if there is no other reasonable way to deal with the situation.

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