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Is Killing The Innocent Ever The Moral Choice?

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http://www.kawther.info/wpr/2009/01/04/wha...want-you-to-see

On Israel and Gaza:

If you would kindly review the video and then tell me under what circumstances it's morally okay to kill innocent children and women in a conflict and why, it would be greatly appreciated.

Also, can anyone tell me the objectivst point of view? Under what circumstances is the killing of innocent parties as a result of a need to protect one's own existence ever justified?

In either of the above questions we MUST assume some of (and not all of) the people killed in Gaza are in fact innocent (answers which include things like "they are all terrorists" will be ignored).

I am not implying a specific opinion here (so please no personal attacks), I am simply asking a few questions concerning current events.

Thanks.

Amos

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There are too many possible circumstances to list, so I won't even try, but I'll try to indicate the method whereby you could figure it out for yourself in a given situation.

Firstly, the very concept "civilian" requires and depends upon a specific context--namely a *military* conflict, meaning that the matter at stake is nothing so simple as a single individual's continued existence but the existence of the structure that secures individual existence--a nation that respects individual rights. (By secures, I don't mean that the government provides you *with life*, but that it creates the space you need to provide for your life yourself.)

Keep in mind also that this presupposes that one of the countries involved respects rights and thus was the attacked party, if we're talking about two dictatorships fighting each other then both are morally corrupt just by their very existence and no question of any of their acts being morally okay can even pertain.

Given this context, this is the situation that evolves:

The rights-respecting (and attacked) government has ONE obligation--to its citizens, to protect *their* rights, because they are the people who create and support the existence of that government. The military forces are *drawn from* this citizenry. It is the *duty* of the government to say "our military forces are not pawns to be sacrificed on a chess board, but people with rights that we must respect even as we send them to fight".

The only way to respect the rights of your military is not to send them to die for ANY purpose other than securing victory--victory meaning putting a stop to the threat, not conquest or anything else--in the quickest, safest, most effective way possible. Attempting to protect the civilians in a country that is currently attacking you is NOT achieving victory in the quickest, safest, most effective way possible. It is sending the people you have a duty to protect to die on behalf of other people whose involvement, desires, motives, and actions are unknown and unknowable.

In analogy, it's like murdering your spouse to save a total stranger.

Now, I won't pretend to prescribe the quickest, safest, most effective military tactics--that's a study all in itself and a complicated one at that. All I'll say is that when those tactics properly call for the deaths of enemy civilians, those deaths are absolutely proper morally, which is the full Objectivist view. The morally responsible party are the ones who started the war in the first place--they are murderers on a horrific scale. The men who defend themselves are heroes.

It's also why innocent people should devote themselves to getting the hell out of dictatorships or other aggressive countries as a safeguard against Israelis bombing their house. The fact that it appears many of them outright refuse to consider this or pursue it in any way makes me wonder just how "innocent" they are.

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Turns out your video was a fake. What a surprise, Arab terrorists faking propaganda videos to take advantage of the gullibility of westerners.

As far as killing innocent women and children, choosing to do so is never right. However, choosing to defend yourself is always moral, no matter who dies. If you can defend yourself without killing innocents, good, but if not, it is moral to do whatever it takes.

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Turns out your video was a fake. What a surprise, Arab terrorists faking propaganda videos to take advantage of the gullibility of westerners.

I remember seeing a video posted on Youtube where the Palestinians are 'collecting the dead', carrying a supposedly dead body on a stretcher, with a large group of distressed Palestinians surrounding the stretcher. At one point, the stretcher is overturned, knocking the body off the stretcher. Man, I think undertaker's probably have the easiest people to work with: the 'dead body' gets up, climbs back into the stretcher, and they carry on. This happens again later on in the same video.

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If you would kindly review the video and then tell me under what circumstances it's morally okay to kill innocent children and women in a conflict and why, it would be greatly appreciated.
In defending yourself against an aggressor, blame for any accidental deaths of civilians is assigned to the aggressor who initiated force. When the aggressor sets out to deliberately kill civilians (or anyone), they also deserve blame for those deaths. Thus Hamas deserves blame for the deaths of Israelis and any deaths in Gaza.
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I agree 100% with DavidOdden. I'd like to take (another) opportunity to point out the difference between the questions: "Are there any innocent people in a war zone?" and "Does a free country have a responsibility to avoid killing civilians in an aggressor country?"

I've found many people on this board who seem to conflate the two. My answer to the first question is an unqualified "yes," and a lot of people seem to take that as meaning that civilian deaths should be avoided at all costs. As it turns out, my answer to the second question is an equally unqualified "no."

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To add onto Mr. Odden's points, the reason moral responsibility of killing innocents during wartime is placed squarely on those who initiate force immorally is because they are the ones that created the situation. Without them, no such choice would have ever had to be made to begin with.

Take for instance a terrorist leader using a baby as a human shield. If a soldier shot and killed both the terrorist and the baby, who would be responsible for the baby's death? The terrorist, for he is the one that made the situation exist.

On a related note, this is actually a good thing to keep in mind in a study of ethics. A big warning sign of an evil system of ethics is when the code gives evil people leverage, a blackmail weapon where they can use the practitioner's ethics against him. As has been said, "the devil can quote scripture for his purposes."

Edit: Minor grammar and wording

Edited by Benpercent
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  • 2 weeks later...

I was interested to find this thread because it relates to an ethics problem I'm trying to resolve at the minute - a question that came up during a debate on the Gaza conflict on another forum. I'm arguing with someone who basically believes that Israel has no right to defend itself when it knows that innocent Palestinians will be killed as a result.

I completely agree that when innocent civilians are killed in this situation, the blame lies squarely on whomever forced Israel to take this action to protect the lives of its civilians. To illustrate this point to the altruist who disagrees with me, I constructed this imaginary scenario (which may or may not have been a good idea in retrospect):

There are two houses some distance from each other with nothing else in between. The players in this situation are strictly restricted to the two houses and the occupants inside. In one house: you and your family. In the other house: a family of strangers toward whom you bear no ill will whatsoever.

A terrorist storms the other house, keeps the family inside hostage and begins to fire rockets at your house. They explode to the left, to the right - and you realize that very soon, one of these rockets is going to land on your house and kill you and your family. You have in your possession an accurate missile which is guaranteed to hit its target. The question is: do you fire the rocket and guarantee the death of the terrorist, knowing fine well that the other innocent family will also die?

My answer is yes, you fire the missile and that the blame for the death of the innocent family lies squarely at the feet of the terrorist who forced you to make a decision between your family and the other one. Forced into making that choice, it would be immoral to sacrifice your own family for the sake of the other one. You should not feel any guilt whatsoever.

All well and good. But now my adversary has countered with another scenario which appears to throw a spanner in the works. A hit and run driver has hit your child and left her with critical injuries. She requires an organ transplant to save her life. None are available. However, you find yourself alone in a childrens hospital ward with nobody around and realize that if you tampered with some of the medical equipment keeping a couple of other children alive, you could end their lives and free up the organs to save your child.

Let's assume that in this scenario, the deaths of those innocent children would definitely make the relevant organs available for yours and that the transplant would definitely save her life. Should you do the deed and transfer the blame on the hit and run driver who forced you into this situation in the first place? In some ways, the essentials of the situation mirror that of the missile situation. Someone has forced you into deciding whether or not to kill innocent lives in order to save the life or lives of your own loved ones.

My problem is that on one level, everything is telling me that the two situations are ethically different and that in the latter, there is nothing which justifies the deliberate, intentional killing of innocent children in order to "harvest" organs to save the life of my own child. But every time I try to explain the thing verbally, I end up backing into an ethical dead end which cries out "how is this really different?"

I just don't know what angle to attack this problem from. My first thought is to differentiate the two by pointing out that in the first example, my primary intent is to kill the terrorist to save my family and that the deaths of the innocent family are unfortunate collateral deaths - while in the second example, my primary intent is to kill the innocent children to save my child, and thus the ethics are different. But if I use this approach, I know what my adversary will say: "So what? The essentials of the two situations are the same - you are forced to make a choice between your children and other children."

So my other line of thought is to point out that in the first case, the purpose of the act is to prevent an attack taking place on my family, whereas in the second, the 'attack' has already happened. Therefore, in the childrens ward, the killing of the innocent children is not an act of "self defense" as such. But again I can imagine what he will say - "this idea of 'self defense' seems arbitrary - the fact is, that at the point of decision, there is a 'threat' on your family which you have the choice to 'defend' them against. In the first case, the threat is from the terrorist and in the second case, the 'threat' is from the injuries your child has already sustained."

So I'm left to explain why the ethics are different in a case where the threat is from another human and in a case where the 'threat' is from life threatening injuries which require attention. Only I'm not really very well practiced in structuring an answer to something like this. Which is why I've turned to practicing Objectivists, whom I'm confident will give me an idea of the word flow to explain to this guy the ethical differences between the two situations. Any ideas?

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The definition of self-defense is far from arbitrary. You have the right to use force to stop someone who initiated the use of force against you (or is about to) from causing you harm, with minimal regard (launching nukes when artillery is available and sufficient would be immoral) for innocent bystanders. Read that carefully. You can use force to stop the aggressor.

Butchering the entire children's ward in a hospital to harvest organs is using force, but not to stop an aggressor. You may not use force against random strangers to rectify damage caused by an aggressor, only to prevent it.

If your adversary persists that the definition of self-defense is arbitrary, ask him how he would define it. I predict he will either come up with the same definition or one that is not a definition of self-defense but of a duty to die; a license to kill for any thug who uses a human shield.

Edited by Randroid
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I doubt the person cynically arguing that Israel should do nothing in response to rockets being launched into their cities will be persuaded by rational argument, but the argument you need to make is this:

Human beings should interact free of force: when someone decides to initiate force (or threaten it), only then are you allowed to respond in kind (or, if you have a government, have it respond).

That is the proper principle which governs human interactions. Apply it to your two examples, and you'll find that in the first one (as Randroid said above) the killing of the hostages in the other house is justified, because your use of force is justified, since it is being directed at those who initiated force. As far as the neighbor is concerned, he had a choice to make, when he decided to allow his house to be taken over by the hostage-takers. Of course, his choice, in your example, is quite limited, because the attackers have overwhelmed him. However, this scenario is very unlikely to happen, precisely because in a free country the government t(which tends to hold the biggest gun), is on the side of the good.

In the Gaza example on the other hand those "innocents" are not only allowing the terrorists to live among them, but in fact have been doing plenty to support them, very few of them ever denounce them fully (not even when they are in the safety of a western country), and have in fact recently elected them to be the government.

In your second example those children are not the source of the force initiated against you, nor are they standing between you and the source of the force, so there is no justification for initiating force against them. Your need, or your child's need, is not justification for the use of force.

That is in fact the distinction I don't believe you conveyed to the person you are arguing with. While I doubt it will convince him, you should never the less make it very clear that the need of your children to be safe and healthy is not what gives you the justification to attack the house where the rockets are coming from. The only source of that justification is the fact that force has been initiated against you and your family, from that particular place, and your only means of responding to that force is to destroy the house and everything in it. Make it clear that you are acting on the principle that initiation of force against you gives you the right to use force in self-defense, no matter what the consequences. However, you are not acting on the principle that one has the right to do whatever it takes to save his children, based simply on their need to be saved. Embracing that principle would mean the complete rejection of the concept of individual rights.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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sharke:

I agree with the two posts above and to reconcile the two situations you mention I would combine them.

There are three houses, yours and two others occupied by two nice families. Terrorists take over one and proceed to launch rockets. Would you aim your rockets at the house without the terrorists? No, you aim at the terrorists. It might be nice if you had a sniper rifle, but if not, or if that puts you in more danger, fire away.

And to reconcile this situation with Israel and Gaza. Terrorists don't take over the house, they are invited in and the people that live in both houses (in fact in the whole neighborhood) seem to hate you, if not explicitly agreeing with the terrorists, then implicitly. At this point I would not even consider the sniper rifle, I would double the poundage of my rockets and continue to fire until all rockets stop.

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I was interested to find this thread because it relates to an ethics problem I'm trying to resolve at the minute - a question that came up during a debate on the Gaza conflict on another forum. I'm arguing with someone who basically believes that Israel has no right to defend itself when it knows that innocent Palestinians will be killed as a result.

That's not a very precise concept. The questions should be "Is it possible to defend ourselves without collateral damage?" and "Have we used proper restraint and done everything prudent to minimize collateral damage?". Furthermore, that argument already asks and answers the question "Are all civilians innocent?", which isn't necessarily true in a situation where militants are embedded in the civilian population.

My answer is yes, you fire the missile and that the blame for the death of the innocent family lies squarely at the feet of the terrorist who forced you to make a decision between your family and the other one. Forced into making that choice, it would be immoral to sacrifice your own family for the sake of the other one. You should not feel any guilt whatsoever.

True, you can still feel the loss but the loss was justified.

Let's assume that in this scenario, the deaths of those innocent children would definitely make the relevant organs available for yours and that the transplant would definitely save her life. Should you do the deed and transfer the blame on the hit and run driver who forced you into this situation in the first place? In some ways, the essentials of the situation mirror that of the missile situation. Someone has forced you into deciding whether or not to kill innocent lives in order to save the life or lives of your own loved ones.

That is not an issue of collateral damage, that is flat-out murder. The drunk driver has already gone, and even then, if you were in a car accident, the threat of the drunk driver has passed.

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The Israelis are defending their people. They have a rational, defensible argument for their intervention, which is ultimately responsive to a threat against themselves and their homeland. Self-defense is justifiable and justified- it is a corollary of the axiom of non-aggression.

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None of these replies takes in to consideration the fact that Hamas may have a justifiable reason for launching rockets as a means to defend themselves against the actions of Israel.

My best response to this follows, and it is completely consistent with my current understanding of the situation.

The Hamas charter calls for Muslims to militarily attack Israel. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas) This is not just political maneuvering for popular support, it is one of the main reasons Hamas exists. Hamas is an organization dedicated to the use of force to violate individual rights. No actions taken in that direction are justifiable.

At this point, we should move on to a separate thread. We have thoroughly established that Israel killing Palestinian innocents as collateral damage is morally justified here.

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None of these replies takes in to consideration the fact that Hamas may have a justifiable reason for launching rockets as a means to defend themselves against the actions of Israel.

Spookthegod

More Intelligent than the average surfer

Is that why they signed a treaty specifically stipulating the end to rocket fire, and then broke it?

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...

...

...

There are two houses some distance from each other with nothing else in between. The players in this situation are strictly restricted to the two houses and the occupants inside. In one house: you and your family. In the other house: a family of strangers toward whom you bear no ill will whatsoever.

A terrorist storms the other house, keeps the family inside hostage and begins to fire rockets at your house. They explode to the left, to the right - and you realize that very soon, one of these rockets is going to land on your house and kill you and your family. You have in your possession an accurate missile which is guaranteed to hit its target. The question is: do you fire the rocket and guarantee the death of the terrorist, knowing fine well that the other innocent family will also die?

My answer is yes, you fire the missile and that the blame for the death of the innocent family lies squarely at the feet of the terrorist who forced you to make a decision between your family and the other one. Forced into making that choice, it would be immoral to sacrifice your own family for the sake of the other one. You should not feel any guilt whatsoever.

All well and good. But now my adversary has countered with another scenario which appears to throw a spanner in the works. A hit and run driver has hit your child and left her with critical injuries. She requires an organ transplant to save her life. None are available. However, you find yourself alone in a childrens hospital ward with nobody around and realize that if you tampered with some of the medical equipment keeping a couple of other children alive, you could end their lives and free up the organs to save your child.

Let's assume that in this scenario, the deaths of those innocent children would definitely make the relevant organs available for yours and that the transplant would definitely save her life. Should you do the deed and transfer the blame on the hit and run driver who forced you into this situation in the first place? In some ways, the essentials of the situation mirror that of the missile situation. Someone has forced you into deciding whether or not to kill innocent lives in order to save the life or lives of your own loved ones.

My problem is that on one level, everything is telling me that the two situations are ethically different and that in the latter, there is nothing which justifies the deliberate, intentional killing of innocent children in order to "harvest" organs to save the life of my own child. But every time I try to explain the thing verbally, I end up backing into an ethical dead end which cries out "how is this really different?"

...

...

...

These scenarios sound very similar to the "Trolly Problem" credited to British philosopher Philippa Foot and used as a thought experiment in ethics. It is explained in detail on Wikipedia and was used by Richard Dawkins (Athiest, Author) in the book "The God Delusion".

The Trolly Problem

Consider these scenarios and try to explain your judgement as to which are morally permissible.

1. A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track. Fortunately, you can flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch?

2. As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you - your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

3. As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. As in the first case, you can divert it onto a separate track. On this track is a single person. However, beyond that person, this track loops back onto the main line towards the five, and if it weren't for the presence of that person, who will stop the trolley, flipping the switch would not save the five. Should you flip the switch?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

In studies, researchers have found that the majority of people asked came to the same conclusions as to which scenarios present an ethically permissible action. However many people have difficulty articulating the essential difference between them.

The organ transplant scenario you proposed is also mirrored in the Wikipedia article referenced above.

It makes for interesting reading.

-RR

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1. A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track. Fortunately, you can flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch?

Maybe. It depends on who the five are and who the one is.

If you don't have any information available on the people, then you should leave the switch alone.

2. As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you - your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

Only if the fat man is already involved in setting up the whole scenario am I allowed to morally use him to stop the trolley.

If not, and I can live with the loss of the five people on the track, then I shouldn't.

However, if none of the two premises apply, then I don't have a good answer: If one of the people on the tracks is very dear to me, then the choice is impossible to make (whithin the confounds of Objectivist morality), since it is between two evils: John Galt would commit suicide, right there and then.

3. As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. As in the first case, you can divert it onto a separate track. On this track is a single person. However, beyond that person, this track loops back onto the main line towards the five, and if it weren't for the presence of that person, who will stop the trolley, flipping the switch would not save the five. Should you flip the switch?

Same as one.

Since my morality doesn't allow for evasion, I did already take into consideration the fact that this man will die, if I deflect the train, in the first example.

Without that evasion, only an altruist will answer no to this and yes to the first, because in the first example the death of the one man wouldn't bring him a profit, as it does in this one.

The reason (for the flipping the switch in the first example) starts with a quote from Judith Jarvis Thompson, from the very wiki page you linked to:

On the other hand, Thomson argues that an essential difference between the original trolley problem and this version with the fat man, is that in the first case, you merely deflect the harm, whereas in the second case, you have to do something to the fat man to save the five. Thomson says that in the first case, nobody has any more right than anyone else not to be run over, but in the second case, the fat man has a right not to be pushed in front of the trolley.

Except that instead of those words, I would say that in the first example I am choosing to defend one of the people (or all of them) in the group of five, based on my self-interest. The fact that someone has deemed it appropriate to tie a man to the other tracks is on them.

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<snip>

The Trolly Problem

Consider these scenarios and try to explain your judgement as to which are morally permissible.

1. A trolley is running out of control down a track. In its path are 5 people who have been tied to the track. Fortunately, you can flip a switch, which will lead the trolley down a different track to safety. Unfortunately, there is a single person tied to that track. Should you flip the switch?

2. As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. You are on a bridge under which it will pass, and you can stop it by dropping a heavy weight in front of it. As it happens, there is a very fat man next to you - your only way to stop the trolley is to push him over the bridge and onto the track, killing him to save five. Should you proceed?

3. As before, a trolley is hurtling down a track towards five people. As in the first case, you can divert it onto a separate track. On this track is a single person. However, beyond that person, this track loops back onto the main line towards the five, and if it weren't for the presence of that person, who will stop the trolley, flipping the switch would not save the five. Should you flip the switch?

Focusing on the actions of "you" in each case is quite beside the point.

Each of these situations would qualify as an emergency under Objectivism, and "you" in each case are not to be judged by the same standards as someone making a decision with time and level-headed rationality at your disposal. "You" are being put on the spot and forced to choose between several life-or-death options, none of them good.

Exercising moral judgement on the person who is doing the wrong thing, no matter what, through no fault of their own, is madness. Focus on whoever is tying people to Trolley tracks!

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  • 1 month later...

I agree with the previous posts, I thought I would post Ayn Rand's views on the concept -

http://www.jeffcomp.com/faq/murder.html

Ayn Rand On Campus

"Morality, And Why Man Requires It"

Moderator:

Ken Dalphy

On the Panel:

Norman Fox of C.W. Post College

Gerald Goodman, Columbia School of Engineering

Richard E. Newman, Staff of WKCR

Alan Gottheld

Norman Fox:

Miss Rand, a particular example has been brought to my attention, involving suicide, or apparent suicide, and it goes as follows. If Man B is placed in a situation where he is under a threat of death by Man A, and the threat is contingent on Man B killing Man C, what is the resolution of this situation philosophically? What are the moral explanations of the possible actions of Man B?

Ayn Rand:

In a case of that kind, you cannot morally judge the action of Man B. Since he is under the threat of death, whatever he decides to do is right, because this is not the kind of moral situation in which men could exist. This is an emergency situation. Man B, in this case, is placed in a position where he cannot continue to exist. Therefore, what he does is up to him. If he refuses to obey, and dies, that is his moral privilege. If he prefers to obey, you could not blame him for the murder. The murderer is Man A. No exact, objective morality can be prescribed for an issue where a man's life is endangered.

Norman Fox:

Just one point that bothers me. Isn't Man B then shifting the initiation of force, made against him, to Man C?

Ayn Rand:

No. Because he isn't initiating the force himself; Man A is. What a man does in a position where, through no fault of his own, his own life is endangered, is not his responsibility, it is the responsibility of the man who introduced the evil, the initiation of force, the threat. You cannot ask of a man that he sacrifice his life for the sake of the third man, when it's not his fault that he's been put in that position.

Gerald Goodman:

But Miss Rand, what right does Man B have to take Man C's life, instead of his?

Ayn Rand:

No rights are applicable in such a case. Don't you see that that is one of the reasons why the use, the initiation of force among men, is morally improper and indefensible? Once the element of force is introduced, the element of morality is out. There is no question of right in such a case.

Norman Fox:

Miss Rand, I think I see a distinction here that would be very important because there may be some doubt in the mind of a listener. A distinction between a situation in which a person in which the force is initiated, or a person who is in an unfortunate circumstance. To go back to the original example, if a man were merely in an unfortunate circumstance, he has no right, as far as I can see, to take something from another man just because he's in an unfortunate circumstance.

Ayn Rand:

No (agreeing with Norman Fox).

Norman Fox:

He is not under coercion. No one has initiated force against him. He's merely in an unfortunate circumstance. I should think this is an important distinction when we're dealing with morality.

Ayn Rand:

Are you referring back to your argument of the three men, and one of them has a gun?

Norman Fox:

Yes.

Ayn Rand:

Well here you have to take your example literally. If a man is under threat of losing his life, then you cannot speak of his right, or the right of Man C, since the rights have already been violated. All you can say is that the rights of Man B and Man C are still valid, but the violator is Man A, with Man B as merely the tool. Therefore you cannot say that rights do not exist. They do exist, but the violator is the initiator of force, not the transmission belt.

This is very black and white, and clearly in agreement with what has been posted above.

However, she continues:

However this does not apply to any other kind of misfortune, and it does not apply to a dictatorship, because here you would be speaking metaphorically. For instance, you couldn't claim that the men who served in the Gestapo, or the Russian secret police, they couldn't claim (as some of the Nazis did) that they were merely carrying out orders, and that therefore the horrors they committed are not their fault, but are the fault of the chief Nazis. They were not literally under threat of death. They chose that job. Nobody holds a gun on a secret policeman and orders him to function all the time. You could not have enough secret policemen. Therefore I took your example literally. Actually, such a thing does not happen, because if somebody wants to murder someone, he picks a willing executioner. He cannot go with a gun in the back of Man B, and order him to shoot Man C, because that does not relieve him of the responsibility, nor the guilt, for the crime. Only in that literal sense could one say that Man B is absolved, but not in the metaphorical sense; not if he is a willing official of a dictatorship, and then claims "I had no other way to make a living"" That does not absolve him. His life was not in danger.

I wonder can we explore this idea, by applying this to the recent conflict? I think the quote is applicable, because even though it is referring to deliberate murder of C, rather than the accidental death of C, whilst confronting A, the IDF was fully aware of the certainty of civilian casualties.

This raises the following questions for me:

Clearly, the IDF soldiers from the rest of Israel were not under direct threat from Hamas... are they morally responsible - did they need to act? Even though they are conscripted/drafted, are the soldiers "willing officials"?

Could Israel be considered to be under threat? 9000 Qassams and Katyusha rockets on Southern Israel hardly constitute an existential threat to Israel.

Is morality different for individuals and nations?

I guess the morality of the situation rests on the third question and I would suggest that morality is different for individuals and nations, because they are conceptually different. A nation is a collective and just as an individual has a right to protect their own life, the government has an obligation to defend her citizens - that is one of the few things it is there for. Israel was not like an individual under an existential threat, but (and I hope it is not considered too collectivist to suggest it), from the perspective of the government, a citizen is an extension of the nation and therefore entitled to be defended in the same way an individual protects their own life. Is this a collectivist response?

Despite not being under threat themselves, the soldiers were defending their fellow citizens on behalf of the government, so are morally absolved of responsibility? Is this a collectivist defense?

I guess it is like this:

A (Hamas) attacks B (citizens of Sderot) generating a response on A by B, accidentally (though inevitably) killing C (arab civilians). We all agree that A is morally culpable.

However... if A (Hamas) attacks B (citizens of Sderot) generating a response on A by D (IDF), accidentally (though inevitably) killing C (civilians). Is D morally culpable? The individuals of D were not directly threatened with death.

Alternatively, we could argue that A (Hamas) attacks B (citizens of Israel) generating a response on A by D (the army of Israel), accidentally (though inevitably) killing C (civilians). Therefore, A is morally culpable.

I go along with this line of reasoning, however, isn't this a collectivist argument?

Perhaps it comes down to the value that we ascribe to people based on proximity to us, valuing friends and loved ones and here, compatriots ahead of strangers/foreigners?

I guess what I am getting at, though quite inarticulately, is whether it is a collectivist defence to justify the accidental killing of civilians by soldiers on account of the threat to fellow citizens?

:huh: help... :confused:

*** please note, I am not suggesting Israel is a dictatorship, or in any way similar to the Nazis, that was simply in the quote from Rand, which I am attempting to apply to present events. I am a fervent Zionist, I believe the attack on Gaza was morally justified (though pointless as it was clear that Kadima/Labour were never going to finish the job). ***

Focus on whoever is tying people to Trolley tracks!

lol, indeed

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However... if A (Hamas) attacks B (citizens of Sderot) generating a response on A by D (IDF), accidentally (though inevitably) killing C (civilians). Is D morally culpable? The individuals of D were not directly threatened with death.

For all intents and purposes there are only "A" (Hamas/the gunmen in the West Bank and Gaza) and "D" (Israel/IDF)

"B" is a subset of "D" and "C" is a subset of "A" both (if Hamas is to be believed) willfully subjugated themselves to the rule of their respective governments and those governments have the monopoly on the use of force within their borders. They (the governments) decide if they will use that force to retaliate (Israel) or attack (Hamas).

I'm willing to bet that neither the Israeli Citizen ("B") nor the Palestinian civilian ("C") are surprised by how their governments act, it was their conscious choice and choices matter.

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For all intents and purposes there are only "A" (Hamas/the gunmen in the West Bank and Gaza) and "D" (Israel/IDF)

"B" is a subset of "D" and "C" is a subset of "A" both (if Hamas is to be believed) willfully subjugated themselves to the rule of their respective governments and those governments have the monopoly on the use of force within their borders. They (the governments) decide if they will use that force to retaliate (Israel) or attack (Hamas).

Isn't that a collectivist idea though?

Is this kind of nationalism an acceptable form of collectivism - from an Objectivist point of view?

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Isn't that a collectivist idea though?

Is this kind of nationalism an acceptable form of collectivism - from an Objectivist point of view?

:confused: You're not dealing with anarcho-capitalists here.

Objectivists recognize the need for society to have a properly limited government and we agree that such a government has three jobs.

Police, to prevent the initiation of force within the geographic barriers of the state (by individuals/corporations what have you)

Military to defend the territorial integrity of the state and protect the individuals within the state from the initiation of force by other states or international actors

and finally the law courts to enforce objective law.

I wouldn't call that collectivism, because that word is defined as;

col·lec·tiv·ism (kə-lěk'tə-vĭz'əm) Pronunciation Key

n. The principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government.

but it is a societal structure that Objectivists agree on.

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:huh: You're not dealing with anarcho-capitalists here.

Thank you for your replies :confused:

I know that Objectivists support the idea of a "minarchy" with a police force to protect from crime, an army to defend the people from outside attack and courts to arbitrate contract disputes. However, I thought that collectivism, the idea that a person is invested with specific rights simply for being part of a group (be that class, sexuality or nation) was rejected? In this case, can we assess the morality of actions of the IDF soldiers - they attacked Gaza and killing civilians not because they were under-threat, but because other people, part of their group, were threatened? If not, are we therefore accepting that standards of morality for individuals can not be applied to nation-states, by virtue solely of the fact that they are representing a collective?

Would it be justified for another country to have joined in the attack against Hamas on behalf of Israel, or should we consider them morally culpable for civilian deaths, because they were not threatened?

If it is not justified for another country to intervene, is it right, Objectively, for soldiers from distant cities to intervene - since those individuals were not threatened either?

If it is right for compatriot soldiers to intervene, are we not excepting the nation-state as the one collective with privileged, additional rights?

I believe it is entirely right to give the nation-state the right (and responsibility) to intervene on the behalf of others, that we do not give to civilians - however, is it Objective?

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