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Would it be moral to kill Hitler as a baby

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Can anyone tell me the objectivist position on the ends justifying the means?

I know this is another silly life boat scenario, but hear me out:

Let's say you were alive in 1890. Hitler was one year old. Somehow, you knew that this baby was going to kill millions. Would it be moral to kill the baby? I know we can get technical, and ask questions about context/choice/feasibility, but please focus on the idea at hand...do the ends ever justify the means?

If yes, does that mean that objectivism has an element of utilitarianism?

If no, isn't that anti-human life?

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Can anyone tell me the objectivist position on the ends justifying the means?

I know this is another silly life boat scenario, but hear me out:

Let's say you were alive in 1890. Hitler was one year old. Somehow, you knew that this baby was going to kill millions. Would it be moral to kill the baby? I know we can get technical, and ask questions about context/choice/feasibility, but please focus on the idea at hand...do the ends ever justify the means?

This would require precognition - and if that were possible, and you could affect the future, then time would be mutable.

If time is mutable, then you could not know with absolute certainty that Hitler would kill millions.

If you could not know with absolute certainty that Hitler would kill millions, then you could not justify the action based on the certainty of the future otherwise.

So no, the killing of baby hitler would not be moral.

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D'kian's First Law of Hypothetical Questions: always, and I do mean always, load the question in such a way that a massively and manifestly unjust act can be seen as morally appropriate.

In this case, why not simply take baby Hitler and give him a proper upbringing, and watch over him until he grows up? No need to kill an, as yet, innocent child. But then the question looses all its kick, doesn't it?

But elt's say you kill the infant Hitler. What then? He wasn't the only man in Germany agitating for rearmament and revenge, or even the only one spouting virulent and vitriolic anti-semitism, he was the one who gained power doing so. absent him, any number of other aspiring German politicians could have acomplished the same levels of devstation Hitler did.

So the really god answer requires precognition of what Hitler would do, and what the world would ahve been like without him. that's just a little too much.

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This would require precognition - and if that were possible, and you could affect the future, then time would be mutable.

If time is mutable, then you could not know with absolute certainty that Hitler would kill millions.

If you could not know with absolute certainty that Hitler would kill millions, then you could not justify the action based on the certainty of the future otherwise.

So no, the killing of baby hitler would not be moral.

You're doing exactly what I asked people not to do.

What do you think of the principle behind this scenario?

We are assuming here that you know for sure he will kill millions.

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But elt's say you kill the infant Hitler. What then? He wasn't the only man in Germany agitating for rearmament and revenge, or even the only one spouting virulent and vitriolic anti-semitism, he was the one who gained power doing so. absent him, any number of other aspiring German politicians could have acomplished the same levels of devstation Hitler did.

I doubt whether any other German politicians would be as evil or destructive as Hitler. So you wouldn't kill the infant Hitler? Are you willing to take that risk?

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You're doing exactly what I asked people not to do.

What do you think of the principle behind this scenario?

We are assuming here that you know for sure he will kill millions.

You won't be able to get a good answer to your question because the question itself is flawed. It violates several aspects of what is needed for ethics. Ethics is meant to generally guide people in what to do in reality. Your scenario though is not just hypothetical but utterly impossible first in that we can't time travel or see the future with certainty in real life to begin with, but furthermore, even if you assume hypothetically here that we could, it looks to start breaking down into logical impossibility, contradictions. You assume we can't do anything to change what Hitler would do if alive, but that we could have the ability to change the course of things in some way since you say we could successfully kill him. You can't have it both ways where you can't alter what will happen if Hitler lives, yet you can alter if he lives or dies when he is a baby. Also, if there can be total certainty what Hitler will do if left alive and that there is no way for you to impact this, isn't that assuming Hitler has no free will while at the same time assuming you as another human being DO have free will in that you CAN choose one or the other to kill him or not?

If you want to ask an ethical question about what to do when you know for sure something bad is going to happen but it hasn't happened yet, try another formulation.

Edited by bluecherry
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Somehow, you knew that this baby was going to kill millions.
Well, then since you know that, somehow you would teach him to be a great scientist, who cures cancer and develops interplanetary teleportation. It could happen, somehow. So yes, it would be immoral to kill baby Hitler.
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I doubt whether any other German politicians would be as evil or destructive as Hitler.

If Hitler alone had the will and drive to do what he did, he wouldn't have had the kind and quantity of collaborators he needed. In other words, research the upper hierarchies of the Nazi party and take your pick. Almost anyone out of that group of thugs could have done the same.

So you wouldn't kill the infant Hitler? Are you willing to take that risk?

What risk? It's already happened. BTW What's wrong with simply rendering Hitler harmless through other means?

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The question is one life, or millions.

So the question is where do we sit on a sliding scale of morality? Well, how about you answer that. But let's not quibble with time travel...

You have a gun with 13 rounds. Your choice is to kill one person or kill 13. Which of those choices will make you a moral human being?

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The question is one life, or millions.
But if the question is that simple, you might as well assume a magical force that will kill millions if a certain infant isn't killed before his 21st birthday. It doesn't need to be baby Hitler. It doesn't have to be realistic, since your initial presupposition of omniscience isn't realistic.
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That makes the question too easy.

And too real?

The question is one life, or millions.

Again, it wouldn't be one life, but rather a few dozen lives, not to mention taking care of the communist leadership in Germany, too. They might have joined more effectively with the USSR to fight the West. So it's up to over a hundred lives, maybe even a few hundred lives.

At that, why not kill baby Prinzip so he couldn't kill the Archduke so WWI wouldn't take place? No WWI no WWII, right? Or go even further back and surely you can kill some baby Austrian or Hungarian noble to prevent the Austro-Hungarian Empire at all, ergo no WWI. Of course you might want to find some baby Turkish noble to keep Turkey from becoming"the sick man of Europe," too. Considtions within the Otoman Empire also contributed to the start of WWI. Better add one baby Kaiser Bill, too.

Or maybe kill baby Schlifen (sp?). No Schlifen plan, no drive on Paris through Belgium, maybe no savage desire for revenge and humiliation by the Triple Entente and Woodrow Wislon later on. Maybe even Britain stays home and doesn't take part in WWI.

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You're doing exactly what I asked people not to do.

Well, I'm sorry, but I'm not in the habit of NOT applying logic to my answers.

What do you think of the principle behind this scenario?

We are assuming here that you know for sure he will kill millions.

And again - if we know for sure he will kill millions, but we can change the future by killing him, then we can not know for sure that he will kill millions because the future (or for us, the past) is mutable...

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If Hitler alone had the will and drive to do what he did, he wouldn't have had the kind and quantity of collaborators he needed. In other words, research the upper hierarchies of the Nazi party and take your pick. Almost anyone out of that group of thugs could have done the same.

Indeed. What the OP's question dodges (among other things) is the nature of dictatorship; it's not the product of a single charismatic leader or even a cabal of thugs but rather a general populace that has morally and philosophically degenerated. The actual role of the dictator is to serve as a rallying point and enabler for the majority's evil impulses and that is what makes him interchangeable as long as there is someone around who is charismatic and vicious enough to play the part.

Hence, the effective prevention of a fascist Germany would necessitate the murder of millions of Germans instead of one.

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The answer is simply no. Killing is an act of force. Killing a baby Hitler would be unprovoked force. You should not punish a person for what they might do.

I think it would be a fair use of force. It is provoked. It's sort of like a death penalty, assuming you know that the baby was going to grow up to be Hitler.

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The problem is you can not know what a baby is going to do when it grows up. the scenario is an impossibility, and an exercise in speculation based on imagination. A baby Hitler would have been innocent, and you would be guilty of the murder of a defenseless human being.

Edited by Maximus
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Firstly, Objectivism is not applicable in "all possible worlds", but only in the world as it happens to be, and for humans as they happen to be. So, any answer to "too wild" a hypothetical (other than "but that's completely unreal!") cannot claim to be an "Objectivist" answer. (Nothing against hypotheticals: they can be useful tools, while thinking things through.).

The question is one life, or millions.
As framed, the example does not address that question very well, because the "one" is not a typical innocent person in a typical world. Instead, it is some special type of entity about whom the future can be predicted with certainty. As David said above, if you wanted to make it about "one versus a million", use an example where the "one" is just some random kid.

Back to your example, if in some fictional world you are really able to do this type of prediction about Hitler with certainty, you could absolutely act to make sure he does not hit his caterpillar stage. One might jail the poor guy, since it sounds like he's some type of deterministic beast, who cannot really help himself. Still, if you want to extend the hypothetical and make it wilder, with killing him being the only possibility, then fair enough: kill him. Nothing in Objectivism says you must treat these hypothetical beasts in any particular way.

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Please focus on the idea at hand...do the ends ever justify the means?

Your hypothetical question is based on counter-factual assumptions about the nature of knowledge and of human character that make it impossible to answer seriously. For starters, if you know with certainty that the "baby Hitler" will grow up to kill millions, that means the baby lacks free will -- he has no choice as to whether he will be a killer or not. If that's the case then whatever "baby Hitler" is, he isn't a human being, and the question of how we should deal with him has no implications for how we should treat human beings. A non-volitional "baby Hitler" would seem more akin to a rabid dog, and our moral intuitions about putting down rabid dogs are very different from our moral intuitions about killing babies.

I think we need to draw a distinction between two senses of the question. The nature of an end determines the nature of the means required to achieve it. That's a straightforward application of the laws of identity and causality: the actions required to reach a goal depend on what the goal is. It is almost impossible to answer questions about means ("Why are you doing that?") without appealing to ends ("Because I'm trying to accomplish X."). In that sense, ends are a key component in the justification of means. Indeed it is difficult to see how any action could even be identified as a "means" without reference to some end. A means *to what*?

The above sense of justification is the one that makes the notion of ends justifying means seem attractive. But that is not the sense in which the phrase is typically used. Usually, when people ask the question, they want to know whether an otherwise immoral means can be justified by a putatively desirable-enough end. In that sense, the Objectivist answer to the question is unequivocally "no". Rather, the selection of an immoral means invalidates the end to which it is putatively directed.

Edited by khaight
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It's sort of like a death penalty, assuming you know that the baby was going to grow up to be Hitler.

But that's exactly the assumption that you can not make. You can not simply 'assume' knowledge without specifying a context and a methodology. *How* do you know that?

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