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Actually, murder is a specific legal term defined as: the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought.  Murder is a legal term that defines the crime of killing another person.  Very close to CF's definition, but with the added distinction of that element that makes the act of murder necessarily a crime.

Yes, I found the word "unlawful" present in most dictionary definitions. I left it out on purpose because I was seeking to formulate a definition that can be used in a law defining the crime of murder, and in such a context the criterion of unlawfulness would introduce a circularity.

Note, though, that my genus is "crime," so my definition does make the act of murder necessarily a crime.

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I don't care to debate a legal definition without first establishing the morality -- because law should be founded in morality.

That which is moral should be legal. That which is immoral but does not violate the rights of anyone should still be legal.

Death matches are immoral. That much had been established even before this thread started.

Do death matches violate the rights of anyone? If yes, who is it whose rights they violate?

Edited by Capitalism Forever

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Note, though, that my genus is "crime," so my definition does make the act of murder necessarily a crime.

I will agree that the genus I've used, "action" in a legal context can only mean a criminal action.

The difficultly I'm having now is in applying the "millionth of a second" test to a self-defense situation. The assailant forfeits his right to life at some point, but at precisely which point? At what point in an assault is self-defense morally justified? I'm not currently clear as to how to define that, as I haven't spent enough time thinking about it. I'm certain there is a specific point at which self-defense is warranted, and it is a critical component in defining "murder".

To understand the problem I'm working on, consider a man sitting in a room, and the following actions occur in sequence:

1. Another man he doesn't know walks in wearing a gun.

2. The other man puts his hand on his weapon.

3. The other man unsnaps the retaining strap on his holster.

4. The other man draws his weapon out of the holster.

5. The other man points his weapon at the first man.

Certainly, at action #5, the first man is justified in killing the intruder. But is he justified in doing so at #4? #3? #2? #1?

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The usual, and proper I think, standard for lethal force is fear of imminent death or serious injury. Texas does permit lethal force to protect property, and I think this is appropriate.

This is probably point 4 in your example.

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Here's the rub: "fear of imminent death" is rather subjective and leaves a lot open to interpretation by the individual. What I'm getting at is: what objectively defines "fear of immiment death"? Someone might be afraid for his life the instant he sees someone with a gun -- that doesn't give him a moral self-defense cause for killing the man.

This is critical to the definition of murder in the context of the original question of this thread -- one could make the case that the victor in a death-match only killed his opponent in self-defense. There has to be an element of non-agreement to force in order for self-defense to remain valid. "Fear of imminent death" isn't sufficient, because it applies to a combatant in a death-match.

At some point, the assailant intent on killing someone loses the right to his own life, and it has nothing to do with intent. One person cannot objectively know the actual intentions of another person. I think that the forfeiture of rights occurs when the assailant takes a certain kind of action in physical reality -- the kind which specifies a target of the impending force, regardless of whether or not the assailant actually intends to fire or not. I think it is the act of physical target acquistion by an assailant which morally justifies self-defense.

I think provocation can be thrown out of consideration because nothing should provoke a rational man to murder -- if someone can be cajoled into initiating force, regardless of provocation, they ought to be held responsible for that action.

For this reason I think that #4 is insufficient cause for self-defense -- taking a gun out of a holster and pointing it at the ground indicates a heightened state of preparedness and not necessarily a desire to kill. If we were in a room full of people and he draw and pointed his gun at the ground, I'd have to watch him very closely and be prepared, but I wouldn't be ready to drop him.

So my previous definition stands, except that the genus is to be modified to specify criminal action.

The means by which a man forfeits his right to life and thus exempts a killer from being a murder (and makes him in fact a moral self-defender) are in fact objectively definable facts dealing strictly with ethics and not merely a "matter of law". The law should be written to reflect this.

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Without trying to undermine the value of this conceptual conversation, let me add some thoughts as someone who has been in real life shoot/don't shoot situations. I make no assumption as to whoever else in here has faced that kind of situation. So far, in the four most obvious instances that come to my mind, "don't shoot" was my choice and I was correct in each instance. None of those situations allowed for thoughtful contemplation at the time of the incident.

Steps #2-#5 can occur in a second or less. I can go from the tactical ready (hands up in front of my chest) to "on target" with a holstered weapon in less than a second.

While it's nice to try to evaluate the moral ramifications of shooting him at step #2, I would suggest that in real life there is going to be more context involved. Is the guy staring intently at you? How quickly is his hand moving? Does he appear aggitated or nervous? Is he sweating? Is he saying anything? I could go on with all kinds of fine nuances, but I won't. This is one of the problems I have with hypotheticals, not enough context.

The simple fact is that in almost any real situation like this, the man who waits for #4 is going to be the morally correct dead man. And really, he doesn't stand much of a chance at #2 unless he's already ready. If it's me, I am probably moving out of the chair and drawing my weapon at #1, failing any other known context.

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This is critical to the definition of murder in the context of the original question of this thread -- one could make the case that the victor in a death-match only killed his opponent in self-defense.

LOL See where you get when you insist on the wrong definition? Two idiots agree to be killed by each other, one of them manages it, and now you are wondering if the other one was acting in self-defense.

Self-defense is when someone initiates force against you to violate your rights and you retaliate with force. Who was initiating force against the death-match victor? His challenger did exactly what the victor ASKED him to do. Force is when you act against a man's life, property, or liberty in an attempt to negate the judgment of his mind--but in the death match, the fighter is not negating but FULFILLING the other fighter's choice. It is not force; it is the execution of a contract. There is no self-defense because there is nothing for the victor to defend himself from. There is no retaliatory force because there was no initiatory force in the first place. What the victor is doing is what the loser is doing as well: executing an entirely voluntary agreement.

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