Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Should duels be legal?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

On what basis is there to discriminate that one will is more important than the other?

The participant's choice to engage in the activity or not. If his will to live outweighs his will to risk his life he should not choose to duel. It's his choice knowing the risks involved. It should not be your choice to determine that for him.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 190
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

I've stated in the chatroom, and I'll state here, that I believe duels should be legal. So long as every last bullet stays on -their- property, I'm perfectly fine with it. The duel does not infringe o

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

No, that is not correct. It is not correct to say that because men are ends in themselves, no man may initiate the use of force against another.

The participant's choice to engage in the activity or not. If his will to live outweighs his will to risk his life he should not choose to duel. It's his choice knowing the risks involved. It should not be your choice to determine that for him.

Once a duel is over it is too late to determine anything for him or on his behalf. We are determining something about him so as to decide what to do with the victor of the duel.

edit: Presumably the loser of a lethal duel would be agreeable to the prospect of his opponent being executed for murder, and not a resigned "oh well, fair is fair, I had my chance and he should go free."

Edited by Grames
Link to post
Share on other sites
Once a duel is over it is too late to determine anything for him or on his behalf. We are determining something about him so as to decide what to do with the victor of the duel.

What you do is congratulate him for his victory and/or fulfill the terms of the contract between the participants should you be in that position of responsibility.

Of course that assumes the duel is lost by death, which does not have to be the condition of the duel necessarily.

Link to post
Share on other sites
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.
The government is not in the business of requiring people to adopt a rational morality, and we don't need to care which is more important. If a person uses force to override the free will of another, to force a person to participate in a duel, then it is proper for the government to intervene; otherwise, it is improper for the government to intervene.
Although in fact it is not an act of self-defense, as defined under the law. You can propose a modification of the legal definition of self-defense that encompasses executions; I've proposed a modification of the legal definition of murder (also assault) which makes dueling and boxing legal.
Link to post
Share on other sites
How could the concept of contract have anything to do with the topic?

By what right could two people be stopped from having a duel by an informed, voluntary contract between each other? I think that is the essential question of this thread. And the answer is "none".

Link to post
Share on other sites
By what right could two people be stopped from having a duel by an informed, voluntary contract between each other? I think that is the essential question of this thread. And the answer is "none".

Why does it seem that there are a substantial number of responses in your thread that you have not bothered to read yet?

Link to post
Share on other sites
The government is not in the business of requiring people to adopt a rational morality, and we don't need to care which is more important.

The issue is being rational in writing and enforcing objective law, and certainly that does require making a distinction between the two. Permitting dueling to be an excuse for a justified killing is an unprincipled contradiction of inalienable rights.

Link to post
Share on other sites
inalienable rights.

So is it fair to say that you think even suicide should be illegal because you think an individual cannot relinquish his own rights with his own free will? His right to life is inalienable and thus he is required to live?

If so, I still disagree.

I'm also thinking we are reaching an en passe.

I haven't read anything yet that convinces why I should abandon the idea that a man owns his life and can live it or end it at his choice, even at the hand of another if he chooses. Until someone shows me why I (or any man) don't own my life, my position will not change.

Link to post
Share on other sites
So is it fair to say that you think even suicide should be illegal because you think an individual cannot relinquish his own rights with his own free will? His right to life is inalienable and thus he is required to live?

If so, I still disagree.

No! Absolutely not. Rights apply between people ("in a social context" in the formal explanation) and cannot apply in the case of suicide.

There should not be laws against suicide, and there should not be specific laws against dueling. Let those who engage in suicide and dueling face the consequences of their actions. Those consequences should be death and death, respectively.

Link to post
Share on other sites
By what right could two people be stopped from having a duel by an informed, voluntary contract between each other? I think that is the essential question of this thread.
It would not be a contract. That is all. If it is a contract, then it must be enforceable. There can be no enforcement of an agreement to duel -- anyone can back out at any time.
Link to post
Share on other sites
The issue is being rational in writing and enforcing objective law, and certainly that does require making a distinction between the two.
I don't see why it does. Before you become concerned with writing and enforcing objective law, the state must first prove that there is a need to create law on the subject matter. The definition of murder that I sketched suffices, and does not necessitate deciding whether a man's life or a man's freedom are more important (I contend that it is meaningless to place one above the other). If a person knowingly and willingly puts himself at risk of losing his life, then the one thing that the state could have a legitimate interest in is lacking. Thus there is no need to contradict a man's inalienable right to free voluntary action.

If a man's right to life is truly inalienable, and if it trumps his right to acts freely as you have it, then that means that no man has a right to assist a person in committing suicide, especially to the extent of pulling the trigger. That's what it means to be "inalienable".

Link to post
Share on other sites
It would not be a contract. That is all. If it is a contract, then it must be enforceable. There can be no enforcement of an agreement to duel -- anyone can back out at any time.

The only available rationale for the law to NOT to prosecute the victor of a lethal duel for murder is to recognize the arrangement as a valid contract entered into with informed consent. So you are in the position of both affirming and denying the validity of dueling as a contract.

edit: grammar

Edited by Grames
Link to post
Share on other sites
The only available rationale for the law to NOT to prosecute the victor of a lethal duel for murder is to recognize the arrangement as a valid contract entered into with informed consent.
Not at all. It is sufficient that there be an agreement to enter into a duel. Contracts are a subset of agreements. Since an agreement to duel cannot be enforced, it cannot be the subject of a contract. But it is still an agreement. The reason why the law would not prosecute the victor of a duel (lethal or otherwise) is that it does not satisfies the conditions described by the law, which requires overbearing the free will of the victim. It's the same reason why there should have been no prosecution of Kevorkian.
Link to post
Share on other sites
Not at all. It is sufficient that there be an agreement to enter into a duel. Contracts are a subset of agreements. Since an agreement to duel cannot be enforced, it cannot be the subject of a contract. But it is still an agreement. The reason why the law would not prosecute the victor of a duel (lethal or otherwise) is that it does not satisfies the conditions described by the law, which requires overbearing the free will of the victim. It's the same reason why there should have been no prosecution of Kevorkian.

As I wrote before, assisted suicide gets out of the murder classification by a clear statement repudiating the will to live. Any resistance, even at the last minute, complicates the situation and should be taken as a negation of that statement. Dueling by its nature involves killing someone while they actively resist, that is plainly evidence of "overbearing the free will of the victim." If a court accepts documentary evidence of an agreement to duel as balancing against the struggles of the victim the court is sanctioning the agreement, and effectively participating in its execution.

Which of the defenses against the formation of a contract apply to an agreement? Surely duress and undue influence at least would attack the validity of the agreement. Who would have legal standing to contest the issue, and would it be civil or criminal law? If the agreement is found invalid, can murder charges be filed after or can it be one case? Allowing dueling would be a legal disaster raising questions impossible to answer objectively.

Link to post
Share on other sites
As I wrote before, assisted suicide gets out of the murder classification by a clear statement repudiating the will to live.
You also wrote that a man's right to life is inalienable; can I assume that inalienability no longer plays a role in your argument?
Dueling by its nature involves killing someone while they actively resist, that is plainly evidence of "overbearing the free will of the victim."
No, the fact that they have continued to participate and have not walked away or declared an end to the event shows that they do not resist, they willingly participate. The same as in the case of assisted suicide.
If a court accepts documentary evidence of an agreement to duel as balancing against the struggles of the victim the court is sanctioning the agreement, and effectively participating in its execution.
Clearly not. The court simply recognises that it is a fact that both parties agreed to this conduct and that they knew the possible outcome (i.e. this is informed consent). If a court accepts a document demonstrating that a suicide intended to die, that does not mean that the court sanctions suicide or that it effectively participates in the execution of a person who commits suicide.
Which of the defenses against the formation of a contract apply to an agreement?
I don't understand the question. Do you mean, what elements of such an agreement render it an impossible contract? The fact that a contract in case of breach can be enforced even against the will of one or both of the parties. The courts cannot order the abrogation of a fundamental right as a way to make the parties whole. (In addition, if one party walks away from the duel, there has been no loss, i.e. there is no consideration).

The only relevance of the concept "agreement" is an evidentiary one, just as in the case of suicide, that it must be established that the act was volitional.

Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

I think A is A has the right of it here. Yes, your life is yours meaning that it pertains to you (in fact, it is you). This is not the same as saying that you own your life. When you say you own something, you mean that it is a value you have created (or traded for, or received voluntarily from others). So Peikoff's objection, if I remember the podcast correctly, related to epistemology, not ethics or politics. Yes, you have a right to your life, and you have a right to your property, but you only own the latter, not the former. Note that the word "my" does not always refer to ownership (my friend, my fault, my birthday, etc.). Another example of something you have a right to, but do not own, is the air you breathe. You have a right to it in the sense that no one may actively prevent you from breathing it. It is not property because of its abundance to the extent that no effort must be expended to obtain it (this is not meant to be an analogy to the life case, but only an example which shows that not all rights pertain to property). A final thing to note is that if you literally own your life, then murder and assault would be forms of theft, but these crimes are actually distinct.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I think A is A has the right of it here. Yes, your life is yours meaning that it pertains to you (in fact, it is you). This is not the same as saying that you own your life. When you say you own something, you mean that it is a value you have created (or traded for, or received voluntarily from others). So Peikoff's objection, if I remember the podcast correctly, related to epistemology, not ethics or politics. Yes, you have a right to your life, and you have a right to your property, but you only own the latter, not the former. Note that the word "my" does not always refer to ownership (my friend, my fault, my birthday, etc.). Another example of something you have a right to, but do not own, is the air you breathe. You have a right to it in the sense that no one may actively prevent you from breathing it. It is not property because of its abundance to the extent that no effort must be expended to obtain it (this is not meant to be an analogy to the life case, but only an example which shows that not all rights pertain to property). A final thing to note is that if you literally own your life, then murder and assault would be forms of theft, but these crimes are actually distinct.

I absolutely disagree. My life isn't some sort of magical gift it is something I work at every day. Everything I own every inalienable right is a furtherance of my life. If I am not the final arbiter of my own existence on this planet then pray tell who is? Is it your assumption then that the State or society or whatever can tell me what I can do with my own life? How I can or can not in most basic terms live?

Life is the primary right, liberty and property are not possible if a man can not do as he pleases with his life first and foremost. And that includes doing anything, from stupidly driving too fast to agreeing to a duel.

Link to post
Share on other sites
As I wrote before, assisted suicide gets out of the murder classification by a clear statement repudiating the will to live. Any resistance, even at the last minute, complicates the situation and should be taken as a negation of that statement. Dueling by its nature involves killing someone while they actively resist, that is plainly evidence of "overbearing the free will of the victim." If a court accepts documentary evidence of an agreement to duel as balancing against the struggles of the victim the court is sanctioning the agreement, and effectively participating in its execution.

They are agreeing to die if they don't kill the other first. The two in the duel have mutually signed an agreement to duel, with the rules, location, time. This lays out a specific course of events (drawing your guns, firing) which is part of the duel, and is agreed to. Much like a physician injecting, for example, massive amounts of morphine, or perhaps more gruesomely an air bubble, the result may involve twitches or cries of pain, or the patient may cry, etc. That is agreed to when they sign their declaration of intent to kill themselves with the help of another. In both cases, they set out certain things which are mutually agreed to. Similar to BDSM, where one uses a safeword so as to ensure that both understand explicitly when consent has been revoked, and other actions are not to be taken as revocation of consent; in the cases of assisted suicide and dueling, certain actions have been agreed to in advance, which are explicitly not to be construed as revocation of consent. If a dueler or a person attempting assisted suicide cries out "No, no, I don't want to do this! Stop!" then that is revocation of consent. A dueler drawing his gun is not revocation of consent, as he agreed to take that action explicitly beforehand. It is implied in the action (just as cries of pain, or moaning "no" may be in certain types of BDSM activities)

Which of the defenses against the formation of a contract apply to an agreement? Surely duress and undue influence at least would attack the validity of the agreement. Who would have legal standing to contest the issue, and would it be civil or criminal law? If the agreement is found invalid, can murder charges be filed after or can it be one case? Allowing dueling would be a legal disaster raising questions impossible to answer objectively.

Non-contractual agreements are can't be enforced (as they do not involve the exchange of property in any way), but they do show consent. An example is an agreement to have sex; such agreement can be revoked at any time, and you can't make someone have sex if they do not wish to simply because they agreed to before. But it does show consent to the act, and if it is already over and then someone claims they were raped, the agreement (whatever form that takes) is taken as evidence that it is consensual, and the accused rapist is acquitted in full because consent had been given for an otherwise rights-violating activity. To claim that agreements that are not contracts are meaningless is to throw the whole idea of consent for sexual activity out the window, as well as making any informal match of tackle football, wrestling, or boxing cause for charges of assault as well. Clearly that is an absurd proposition.

Duress and undue influence are not entered into an agreement to duel, at least not necessarily. If you sign an agreement with witnesses and get it notarized, for example, for a duel in two days, I don't see the duress or undue influence. There might be, but that is the case with every contract or agreement every created. Either party involved, their family, or the state in certain circumstances (just as in the case of murder), can contest the issue, and in any case which involves possible theft, assault, or murder the issue would be a criminal one of course (for if the agreement was invalid or if consent was revoked then the action was theft, assault, or murder; it would effectively be a murder trial completely decided by the question of whether the agreement was valid or consent revoked). So, I didn't find a legal disaster, and I think my answers are rational responses to your questions, at least as objective as decisions on, for example, the age of majority (which I take it you believe are objective, even if the particular age is arbitrary).

Link to post
Share on other sites
I absolutely disagree. My life isn't some sort of magical gift it is something I work at every day. Everything I own every inalienable right is a furtherance of my life. If I am not the final arbiter of my own existence on this planet then pray tell who is? Is it your assumption then that the State or society or whatever can tell me what I can do with my own life? How I can or can not in most basic terms live?

When did I say any of these things?

Life is the primary right, liberty and property are not possible if a man can not do as he pleases with his life first and foremost. And that includes doing anything, from stupidly driving too fast to agreeing to a duel.

Yes, I agree (although I haven't made up my mind about duels yet).

I don't think you understood my post at all. The distinction is epistemological. You have an inalienable right to your life, but you do not own your life, because the concept of property does not apply to your life (or to any human life). Did you mix your effort with nature and/or trade in order to acquire your life? Can you trade your life or present it as a gift to someone else? No? Then it doesn't fall under the concept "property". That is what I remember Dr. Peikoff saying in his podcast.

When you say that you work every day at your life, this is true, but what you really mean is that you work every day to achieve your values (not all of these values are even property, by the way; for example: a spouse, a child, a new bit of knowledge you have learned).

By the way, before going on a rant implying that I am a mystic/statist, you might in the future give me the benefit of the doubt at least to some extent, since this is an Objectivist forum and I haven't been banned yet (not to mention the fact that I was defending Dr. Peikoff, who happens to know a thing or two about Objectivism). :)

Edited by Tenzing_Shaw
Link to post
Share on other sites
You also wrote that a man's right to life is inalienable; can I assume that inalienability no longer plays a role in your argument?
No you may not. Inalienability implicitly presupposes the choice to live. Choosing to die does not entail inalienability. Choosing to die is compatible with letting someone else do the killing. What remains to be established is that choosing to participate in a duel is choosing to die.

No, the fact that they have continued to participate and have not walked away or declared an end to the event shows that they do not resist, they willingly participate. The same as in the case of assisted suicide.
The duel participant's act is ambiguous. If he wanted to live he should not participate. If he wanted to die he should kill himself with his dueling weapon.

Clearly not. The court simply recognises that it is a fact that both parties agreed to this conduct and that they knew the possible outcome (i.e. this is informed consent). If a court accepts a document demonstrating that a suicide intended to die, that does not mean that the court sanctions suicide or that it effectively participates in the execution of a person who commits suicide.
It is not the mere acceptance of the document that establishes sanction, it is the acceptance of the argument that the facts documented do justify the killing and the subsequent release of the defendant. Examining the case of an assisted suicide and dismissing or acquitting the defendant is sanction.

I don't understand the question. ... The only relevance of the concept "agreement" is an evidentiary one, just as in the case of suicide, that it must be established that the act was volitional.
The question is what circumstances would nullify the agreement as evidence that the act was volitional? A man might agree to a duel in a fit of rage, then come to regret his action but refuse to withdraw and show weakness or cowardice to his enemy (and besides, he might win he thinks hopefully). Then when he gets killed the family can contest the duel agreement as invalid due to emotional duress.

Some duelers would be good at it and would taunt people into dueling as a hobby or means to fame.

Link to post
Share on other sites
The duel participant's act is ambiguous. If he wanted to live he should not participate. If he wanted to die he should kill himself with his dueling weapon.

Quite true. Additionally, the dual participant is showing himself to be a person with the desire and the willingness to kill an innocent person, if only he thinks he can get away with it legally. Is it rational for us to allow such a person to live free in our society?

Boxing and other sports are not analogous, because harming the other person is not the intent, it is a known side-effect. Even in most cases of assisted suicide the intent is not really to harm the other person - the intent is to relieve suffering. Yes, you could contrive a case of assisted suicide where there is no suffering involved, one person whimsically decides to kill himself "for the lulz" and another buys the bullets and loads the gun for him, but again I'd ask whether or not it is rational for us to allow such a person to live free in our society.

This may seem like a rhetorical question, but really it isn't. I haven't yet decided how I feel about the matter.

Link to post
Share on other sites
What remains to be established is that choosing to participate in a duel is choosing to die.
That does not need to be established. All that needs to be established is that the individuals have chosen this act, and that they are aware that dying is a possible outcome.
The duel participant's act is ambiguous. If he wanted to live he should not participate. If he wanted to die he should kill himself with his dueling weapon.
It is irrelevant whether the participants wish to live or wishes to die, and it is even more irrelevant that their choice is ambiguous, because the law need not be concerned with that specific detail. In fact, you are presenting a false dichotomy. For a dueler, the matter is the mutual conclusion that continued existence has become intolerable if the opponent continues to exist. Thus the choice is "die if the alternative is the opponent lives".
Link to post
Share on other sites
The question is what circumstances would nullify the agreement as evidence that the act was volitional? A man might agree to a duel in a fit of rage, then come to regret his action but refuse to withdraw and show weakness or cowardice to his enemy (and besides, he might win he thinks hopefully). Then when he gets killed the family can contest the duel agreement as invalid due to emotional duress.

Some duelers would be good at it and would taunt people into dueling as a hobby or means to fame.

How is someone's desire to not show weakness or cowardice "duress"? I'm not even confident such a thing exists or has any legal bearing at all, but let's suppose it does. He is choosing to risk death rather than "show weakness". That is his choice. No one is forcing him to, he is under no physical compulsion or threat of force to engage in the duel. At any time he may withdraw by explicitly stating it; for example, by saying "I hereby withdraw from this duel." That is explicit and obvious, and if one were to say that, their intention could not be misunderstood. Your example is one where the person carries out his agreement voluntarily, without anyone using force or threatening force against him (except the very thing he is choosing to engage in himself). There is no problem there.

And since when are laws based on taunting? If you can be taunted into risking your life in a duel, you're an idiot. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Remember that from when you were little? Applies perfectly here. "Fighting words" is a ridiculous notion (here, that notion is taken as statements which are not threats of force, but rather statements similar to taunting). Just because Biff says "What's the matter McFly? Are ya chicken?" does not mean that Marty is justified in trying to punch him (or perhaps more apt is Griff saying "Your nothing but a yellow-belly", Marty replying "Nobody calls me yellow"). If someone can call you a name and make you do something stupid, that's your fault, not their's. And since, absent the threat of force, you are free to do anything you like, if you choose to engage in a duel without anyone threatening you with force, then you have made a free, independent decision to do so and no one else has the right to force you not to (for that would be the initiation of force).

Link to post
Share on other sites
I absolutely disagree. [...]

By the way, Zip, have you listened to Dr. Peikoff's podcast which is being discussed? If not, I recommend it; he makes the argument better than I could.

Here is a link: http://www.peikoff.com/podcasts/2008-05-19.015.mp3 (the relevant question is addressed in the last few minutes of the podcast).

Edited by Tenzing_Shaw
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.


×
×
  • Create New...