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Should duels be legal?

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David has already pointed out that killing is not synonymous with murder. They each have a right to their lives, even the right to end or risk ending their own lives. The consent is valid.

They are not ending or risking only their own lives, but another's.

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They are not ending or risking only their own lives, but another's.

That changes nothing about the principle I laid forth. Each has a right to end or risk his own life at the hand of the other upon mutual consent because each owns his own life to dispose of in the manner each chooses, even if that manner is at the hand of the other.

I take it you do not agree that a person owns his own life to the extent that he can allow another to end it.

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I started a thread on the topic of self-ownership a while back. I learned Peikoff has a podcast addressing the issue.

Is 'self-ownership' coherent?, ... no

Okay, I still disagree at this point, but I may check out what Peikoff has to say.

If he tells me my life is not my own then that's his problem, not mine. :)

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Someone explain to me why two people cannot make an informed, voluntary contract between each other on any terms they want.

/thread

Strikethrough.

1. It is not rational to gain value at someone else's expense, in the long run. It is not moral to prosper off of someone's avoidable and explicit irrationality - i.e.: where you are participating in it.

2. Law defines which behaviors are not permissible in society, because that they conflict with acceptable interaction between individuals, according to an objective standard. They primarily, as has been referenced, act to protect individuals in society.

3. In a duel, one person stands to prosper explicitly off of the irrationality of another person - the standard of success depending on the use of violent force. Neither does the law accept the capricious outcome of violent force as a standard of justice (on the contrary, it explicitly acts in contrast to that standard) nor does it prosper those who gain in defiance of law. I'm stating the obvious.

The issue is not one of governmental scope vs. individual action (the inverted pyramid approach): the issue is one of meeting the philosophical demands that require law in the first place.

In assisted suicide the practitioner is providing a service in exchange for an explicit payment, with death being the intended and proper fulfillment of that service, according to the desires and choices of the payer. The payer benefits exclusively from his own death, it is a consequence of his sole discretion, and he's getting the precise thing he asks for. The standard of exchange is explicit - an explicit payment for an explicit service.

In a duel, the situation is nearly in polar opposition to that of assisted suicide. To simplify the analysis, consider the point of view of one dueler only. His gain comes at the expense of someone's life, force being the vehicle to that gain. If one can live their life obtaining values in such a fashion - why not hope to obtain political power and use force to gain at the expense of others' life serving values?

Some might argue that the differences is that the situation was voluntary - but this relies on the inverted pyramid approach to politics. A person will obtain values according to the standard he has developed to deal with reality. Political considerations follow. Does the fact that the man the dueler wants to kill is 'okay' with the risk somehow alter the nature of the dueler's intended purpose to be something other than what it is?

So, let's scale this back a little. What if the two were gamblers, and instead of guns they had dice? The reason why this is different is that in gambling you put up explicit value at the beginning. The winner of the toss gets whatever value's in the pot. When your life is what's in the pot, then you are talking about someone's very capacity to create value. Life cannot be a legitimate object of trade, because upon being given, it loses all value.

Legally speaking, two duelists could sign counterposed living wills ahead of time, the winner keeping the loser's and burning his own. But if that could be proven in court, the law could legitimately punish such chicanery. In a duel, the goal is to win, not to face death and let 'fate' choose the outcome. That's the key to why the whole concept is legally illegitimate.

/thread (now)

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1. It is not rational to gain value at someone else's expense, in the long run. It is not moral to prosper off of someone's avoidable and explicit irrationality - i.e.: where you are participating in it.

This is not pertinent to the determining the legality of dueling.

2. Law defines which behaviors are not permissible in society, because that they conflict with acceptable interaction between individuals, according to an objective standard. They primarily, as has been referenced, act to protect individuals in society.

That behavior which is not permissible is behavior that violates someone's individual rights. My argument remains that in a duel where both parties are consenting, there are no rights being violated.

3. In a duel, one person stands to prosper explicitly off of the irrationality of another person - the standard of success depending on the use of violent force

I gather it is your opinion that one or both parties are irrational if they decide to engage in a duel. However, one is not using "force" when the physical act is being consented to, much like boxing, rough sex, whatever. Yes, I acknowledge that the stakes are likely higher though. However, getting shot and losing the duel does not necessarily mean death for the losing party.

the issue is one of meeting the philosophical demands that require law in the first place.

Correct, the standard being "are anyone's rights being violated?"

Some might argue that the differences is that the situation was voluntary

It is a valid and essential difference. Each man has a right to do with his life what he will to include risking that life in a voluntary duel. To say otherwise is to deny a man is right to his own life, even if that life involves the risk of death. In other words, each man has right to end his life, even at another's hand should he so choose (or risk).

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I see no difference between two "gentlemen" engaging in a duel and two cowboys shooting each other up in the streets of Dodge City over a poker game. Both actions are illegal because they endanger the public and violate the general peace.

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I have been pondering over this for a few days, now. I am getting increasingly hesitant to believe that duels should be legal, especially since Peikoff talked in a podcast about a similar case and declared it should be illegal. Now, it seems that the only way to infringe on other's rights is by force or fraud (fraud is basically force, but I wanted to make sure no one brings up that case; let us assume both parties to the duel know the terms beforehand and are independent adults). If the government's only purpose is to protect individual rights, and the government is only justified in punishing those who have infringed upon the rights of others, then it seems that dueling should be legal. This is because duels are mutually voluntary contractual agreements. Many people in the chat room who have disagreed with this idea stated that it is not the proper purpose of the government to protect those people who "abandon" their rights. However, it seems that in this case, just like euthanasia, someone is not "abandoning" their rights, but in fact exercising them. The principle behind the legality of euthanasia and dueling seem to be the same: In both cases, one is giving another permission to kill them; the main difference is that death is only a 50% possibility in dueling (depending on your shooting accuracy :P) and euthanasia always entails death. Now, those people that disagree with me (including Peikoff, apparently) assert that someone who has killed someone in a duel is objectively a threat to society. But this does not seem to be the case, since that person was engaged in voluntary interaction, and even if this means that they possibly might have an inclination to kill people (outside of contractual agreements), we all well know that we should never equate the potential with the actual. So, what is the answer to this problem, and why (if at all) does dueling constitute a violation of rights?

To be clear, I am only referring to lethal duels (i.e. duels that end in the death of one person), but any responses can additionally discuss duels in which people are only injured, not killed. However, if anyone does so, it would be helpful if they made the distinction clear. I am also assuming that the duel takes place on private property, there is a written contract, two witnesses are present, and both pistols are cleaned and checked for any possible functional issues.

Life ends in death...living is not immoral because of that. If two people value life in general and find excitement in the challenge of facing death, fine. If a duelist engages in dueling because he hates (the other guy's) life, and wants too end it, he is immoral.

Stampedingherd.blogspot.com

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Okay, I still disagree at this point, but I may check out what Peikoff has to say.

If he tells me my life is not my own then that's his problem, not mine. :P

There is a difference between saying your life is your own and saying your ownership of your life justifies your right to life. Let's not equivocate on "own".

Edited by A is A
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The problem with the murder argument is that it depends on an improper definition of murder. Let us take the Ohio murder statute, which is representative. ORC 2903.1 (A) states: "No person shall purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy" (this defines "aggravated murder" = 1st degree murder. Omit the "calculation and design" clause to get simple murder). There are various absurdities that follow from that definition: a police officer who kills a criminal who is drawing a weapon has committed murder; the guy who administers the lethal injection for an execution has committed murder; any doctor who performs an abortion has committed murder; any homeowner who is the victim of a home invasion and shoots to kill has committed murder; a doctor who pulls the plug on a dying patient; a doctor who assists a person in ending their own life has committed murder. There are legal "exceptions" which get around most of these problems, for instance ORC 2901.01 (14) ( B ) (2) ( a ) states that proper abortion is excepted from the murder statute. There is an "exception" to the murder statute in the case of self-defense; presumably something like that is what allows cops to shoot thugs who threaten, and some provision must exist somewhere that allows an executioner to do his job. Kevorkian is an infamous example of how the murder statutes can be misconstrued.

The concept of "murder" properly includes only the elements of intent, causality, actual result, lack of right, and overbearing the will of the victim. The same is true of "assault" and "theft", crimes differing only in terms of their actual result.

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There is a difference between saying your life is your own and saying your ownership of your life justifies your right to life. Let's not equivocate on "own".

I have a right to choose how my life ends. I do not recognize anyone else's moral claim to the contrary, it's my life, not theirs. I'm not equivocating.

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Both actions are illegal because they endanger the public and violate the general peace.

One could duel in place that is free from both of the above to issues, an "approved" dueling stadium or range perhaps. This would be an easy issue to resolve.

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Assuming that duels in some form or other (in an appropriate location, with appropriate witnesses, etc.) ought to be legal, it seems to me that gang fights with lethal weapons also ought to be legal. Those of you who believe that duels ought to be legal, do you also believe that gang fights ought to be legal?

John Link

Edited by John Link
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I think the issue legally is permissible according to the rights of man, the only contention i would see is from a moral aspect. Id agree with rationalbiker on this, when one resorts to force as a means of settling a conflict then he admits that reason is on the side of his enemy since force and mind are opposites, "morality ends where a gun begins". Why would a rational man give up his highest value - his life- in favor of death or opportunity to claim he has caused the death of a man to prove his point? it seems to me a complete abdication of his character, which is his right but not the means of dealing with one another. No man may initiate the use of force upon others since men are ends in themselves correct? if one is defending ones life - not merely his "honor" - is a different topic, self-defense and insecurity are not interchangable.

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The concept of "murder" properly includes only the elements of intent, causality, actual result, lack of right, and overbearing the will of the victim. The same is true of "assault" and "theft", crimes differing only in terms of their actual result.

Intent - The duelist intends to kill his opponent. The intent is premeditated and the specific individual to be killed is identified.

Causality - The duelist employs means capable of killing his opponent and uses it effectively.

Actual result - The death of the opponent due to wounds inflicted by the means employed by the duelist demonstrates the intent was fulfilled.

Lack of right - There is no right to kill. All instances of justified killing are variations on self-defense, they are reactions. Participating in a duel is not a reaction but a positive action taken under initiative of the participants.

Overbearing the will of the victim - The will of the victim to live is demonstrated by the victim fighting back to defeat the intent of the duelist. The actual result of the death of the victim demonstrates the will was overborne. Voluntary participation in a duel by a victim does not demonstrate a lack of the will to live.

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Assuming that duels in some form or other (in an appropriate location, with appropriate witnesses, etc.) ought to be legal, it seems to me that gang fights with lethal weapons also ought to be legal. Those of you who believe that duels ought to be legal, do you also believe that gang fights ought to be legal?

John Link

I'm not sure why the numbers should necessarily change the principle, assuming all the participants have explicitly voluntarily contracted. However, gang dynamics being what they are, the reasons they fight, and the number of gang members frequently pressed into doing things "for the gang" that they might not otherwise wish to do, ensuring explicit consent becomes exceedingly more problematic. Additionally, finding legimate grounds for this conduct not to disturb the peace or endanger the public grows more difficult as numbers increase.

If you object, why do you think changing the number of participants changes the principle I'm going by?

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Overbearing the will of the victim - The will of the victim to live is demonstrated by the victim fighting back to defeat the intent of the duelist. The actual result of the death of the victim demonstrates the will was overborne. Voluntary participation in a duel by a victim does not demonstrate a lack of the will to live.
This is simply insufficient proof that the participants have not freely chosen to engage in the activity. That is the crucial factor that distinguishes death by duel from death by murder. It is not necessary to demonstrate a lack of will to live: it is necessary to demonstrate a lack of free will to participate in the activity.
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Oh wait, here is a problem:

Lack of right - There is no right to kill. All instances of justified killing are variations on self-defense, they are reactions.
This is also clearly false in the case of assisted suicide, which is not self-defense. Therefore, it is not the case that self-defense it a necessary condition for allowable killing. Although thanks for suggesting a further line of argument, to the effect that killing in a duel is self-defensive.
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I have to agree with Odden and RationalBiker here, after reviewing his podcast that I linked after reading these comments I feel I am required to believe Peikoff was in error in his conclusion on the matter (not this specific matter but the general principle)

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A contract, necessarily, must be enforceable by the government. That means if you contract with X to perform some act and you do not, then X may take you to court to get you to perform. The court cannot order you to do something illegal -- that would render the legal system incoherent. The court also cannot revoke your rights as a human being, most saliently your right to choose. It follows from this that the court cannot order you to give up your right to choose, thus cannot order you into slavery, nor can it order you to give up your life. (And, of course, the court cannot order you to perform an impossible act).

The only thing I got out of this is that you are saying that a contact between two people cannot include terms that requires you to violate the rights of some other third party, or requires you to do something impossible (because the court cannot force you to comply with a contract that requires you to violate someone else's rights or requires you to do something impossible). Well yeah of course. But that isn't a response to my question as it relates to this subject because there is no other third party involved.

Someone explain to me why two people cannot make an informed, voluntary contract between each other on any terms they want.
Edited by TeaPartier
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This is simply insufficient proof that the participants have not freely chosen to engage in the activity. That is the crucial factor that distinguishes death by duel from death by murder. It is not necessary to demonstrate a lack of will to live: it is necessary to demonstrate a lack of free will to participate in the activity.
A participant in a duel wills to live. A participant in a duel wills to participate in that activity. On what basis is there to discriminate that one will is more important than the other? I say hierarchically the will to live is prior, freedom is instrumental toward achieving life.

Oh wait, here is a problem:This is also clearly false in the case of assisted suicide, which is not self-defense. Therefore, it is not the case that self-defense it a necessary condition for allowable killing. Although thanks for suggesting a further line of argument, to the effect that killing in a duel is self-defensive.
Assisted suicide gets out of the murder classification by a clear statement repudiating the will to live, but the assistant had better not act to overcome any last minute resistance indicating a change of will.

In mercy killings, there is no murder because the body removed from life support is declared a non-person before the act is performed. Execution is a reaction to a criminal act, making it an extension of the logic of self-defense.

All justified killings are applications of self-defense.

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