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Should you use force to protect your own life?

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JacobGalt
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Might it be the case that both parties are initiating force? In a lifeboat or emergency scenario, survival for both or multiple parties is impossible, there is no win-win available for any course of action. As Rand explained, morality is only for living life, surviving and flourishing. When survival is not possible because of the situation, then logically, there is no moral answer. Man, because of the situation, cannot use reason as his survival instrument any longer, and is reduced to the same mode of survival as the animals. Thus must simply be the law of the jungle, you both must initiate force if you want to live.

But in the situation provided by the OP, it is not exactly like that. In a different situation, for example, there is only one wooden plank in the ocean, and only large enough for one person and only weighs enough that it will support one person (such that one guy can't hold onto the plank, and the other hold onto the guy's shoulders or something). Two people must swim towards it to survive. In this case, it is literally the law of the jungle. Morality ends in this situation because there is no other logical answer if they both choose to live.

But here, the island isn't like a small wooden plank, it can support both people. The man on the island is initiating force and the shipwrecked swimmer is not exactly initiating force in the same manner (I am not sure if he is even initiating force at all, but perhaps so.) One man is threatening the other's body, while the other is in an emergency and needs enough space simply for standing (or resting) room. I would think we can deem the islander to be immoral for preventing a potential trading partner from surviving for irrational reasons. Of course, we must also point out that the swimmer has no right to come aboard the island and then threaten the islander, who must then kill the swimmer in self-defense.

Well, exactly. As you say this is not a conventional life-boat emergency situation... although the debate is drifting that way. What makes it differ is that it's not an either-or, my life-your life, scenario.

I don't think that "both parties initiating force" is the way out, though it is worth considering. No, which force comes first?

Man A likes living alone on his island and will uphold his property rights;

Man B is desperately trying to save his life.

The initial force is by A, denying access to his property, then followed by B's opposition to that force.

So, DEFENCE of property, can, in some unusual contexts, be deemed to be initiation of force.

This improbable context leads to the immorality of placing rights of property ABOVE a man's life.

(Come to think of it, there is a very realistic scenario where precisely this has happened - when people are fleeing persecution in their own country, and illegally cross a border into your country; should they be thrown back... or given sanctuary?)

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Well, exactly. As you say this is not a conventional life-boat emergency situation... although the debate is drifting that way. What makes it differ is that it's not an either-or, my life-your life, scenario.

I don't think that "both parties initiating force" is the way out, though it is worth considering. No, which force comes first?

Man A likes living alone on his island and will uphold his property rights;

Man B is desperately trying to save his life.

The initial force is by A, denying access to his property, then followed by B's opposition to that force.

So, DEFENCE of property, can, in some unusual contexts, be deemed to be initiation of force.

This improbable context leads to the immorality of placing rights of property ABOVE a man's life.

(Come to think of it, there is a very realistic scenario where precisely this has happened - when people are fleeing persecution in their own country, and illegally cross a border into your country; should they be thrown back... or given sanctuary?)

Yeah, this is exactly the problem. Where, if all parties choose to live in a lifeboat scenario, morality reaches a different stage. You may legitimately wish not you have your property invaded, and the other's need of somewhere to go cannot in any rational sense be considered justification for demanding your aid. You may feel threatened and try to repel the invader. At the same time, if you're the refugee fleeing the Gestapo or some incoming purge or pogrom, you could care less about the concept property rights in the limited scope of the guy's wish not to have you run across his land or stand on his beach or break a window of a building to get off the ledge or whatever. If you choose to live, you have to take the step of temporarily invading someone else's property to get away from the threat.

The question seems to be, when is it in our proverbial "get off my lawn" islander's rational self-interest to help the shipwrecked and the refugee and when is it not?

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When you value life, it is automatic to value all life. It isn't that you have no reason to value a stranger's life, but what sort of vile behavior would cancel out its automatic value in your eyes.

I thought originally you were on the Island owner's side and I can't tell if you've switched sides now so let me ask a few questions.

If you were the Island owner would you refuse access to the castaway? If so, and if he refused to go, would you then force him into the ocean at gunpoint? Does the Island owner have the right to force the man into the ocean? If so, then aren't you espousing the "vile behavior" you denounce above? If you say the island owner has a right to force the man into the ocean but it is immoral to do so, then are you proposing a dichotomy between morality and Rights?

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The question seems to be, when is it in our proverbial "get off my lawn" islander's rational self-interest to help the shipwrecked and the refugee and when is it not?

Followed by Marc K's,

"are you proposing a dichotomy between morality and Rights?"

Well, not a simple one, but let's see.

a. Just because one has a right, one is not required to always enforce it. (volitional)

b. Rights are derived from morality.

c. Morality holds Man's life as the highest value.

d.Therefore, in certain rare situations, Life, the life of others, takes precedence over one's rights - to a rationally self-interested person.

Which means that the islander, or the country,

have the right to chase off interlopers - but would be irrational to do so.

I don't see this as presenting a dichotomy, but as a hierarchy, with Morality superior to its derivative, Rights.

Am I missing something, or rationalizing, with this argument?

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Followed by Marc K's,

"are you proposing a dichotomy between morality and Rights?"

Well, not a simple one, but let's see.

a. Just because one has a right, one is not required to always enforce it. (volitional)

b. Rights are derived from morality.

c. Morality holds Man's life as the highest value.

d.Therefore, in certain rare situations, Life, the life of others, takes precedence over one's rights - to a rationally self-interested person.

Which means that the islander, or the country,

have the right to chase off interlopers - but would be irrational to do so.

I don't see this as presenting a dichotomy, but as a hierarchy, with Morality superior to its derivative, Rights.

Am I missing something, or rationalizing, with this argument?

Yes, not a dichotomy between morality and rights, but a hierarchy which depends on morality. When in this kind of situation, morality is limited in such a way that a man must take emergency actions to save his life. This cannot mean that the other person has any obligations, as far as I can see, only that the emergency victim has no obligations either. His life requires him to violate property rights, which is a departure from the usual non-emergency, where your life requires that you not initiate force.

Still, in this limited context viz., the example in the OP, the emergency victim's life may require he trade a lesser value (the islander's beachfront property rights) for a greater one (his survival) but the islander still retains his right to life, that is, to his physical body. As long as he does not attempt to threaten the swimmer's life, he still may not be assaulted. So rights do not entirely "go out the window," but the emergency forces his life to be chosen instead of a lesser right of property, in a limited manner, for the duration of the emergency, and even then he must have an obligation to repay any damaged caused.

So we can then deduce that if the islander does say "get off my beach" and try to force the swimmer back into the ocean, our swimmer is forced to place his life higher than the life of the islander, something that would not happen by inescapable nature of the initial emergency, but only because islander used force. Obviously, it is in the self-interest of the islander not to do this.

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If you say the island owner has a right to force the man into the ocean but it is immoral to do so, then are you proposing a dichotomy between morality and Rights?

This is a lifeboat scenario like any other. The typical lifeboat pitches one man's life against another's directly, this one only takes the detour of pitching one man's life against another's property. The more usual expression of this lifeboat scenario is "would you steal medicine to save your life?".

The answer is: to the person in the emergency (drowning man, sick man) it is moral (arguably morally required) to take the actions required to end the emergency. Get on the island. Take the medicine.

To the person who has his property rights violated, it is moral to seek restitution when the crisis is ended. It is within the islander's right to shoot the drowning man. It is within the medicine owner's right to withhold the medicine from the sick man. It may or may not be reasonable to do so. In every case where it seems reasonable to not help the other person, you will find that you have created a traditional lifeboat scenario.

Example 1: The island only has fresh water and food to support one person, therefore it is reasonable to not allow the drowning man access. Lifeboat.

Example 2: The owner of the medicine (or a loved one) has a present or anticipated need for it, therefore it is reasonable not to allow the sick man to take it. Lifeboat.

In the real world, it is reasonable (and therefore moral) to help the person in the emergency and seek restitution after the fact.

In any case there is no question about the fact that trespass and stealing are crimes - even if you do it to save your own life. And that you are the one initiating the use of force when you do so. It is also a fact that the victims of these crimes have every right to defend themselves - even if it means killing you.

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It is within the islander's right to shoot the drowning man.

It's not even in his right to shoot him if he was taking a stroll there, for no reason except to see if the air is fresher on someone else's property.

There is no right to shoot someone except in three cases: in war, in direct defense of someone's life or limb (or to prevent sexual assault), and in carrying out a death sentence issued by an objective legal system.

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It's not even in his right to shoot him if he was taking a stroll there, for no reason except to see if the air is fresher on someone else's property.

There is no right to shoot someone except in three cases: in war, in direct defense of someone's life or limb (or to prevent sexual assault), and in carrying out a death sentence issued by an objective legal system.

... and if in the middle of the night you awake to find that someone is standing in your darkened bedroom if for no other reason except to see if your bedroom is nicer than his?

Your position as stated above would seem to say that you must wait for this person to try to kill you, from some of your past posts I wouldn't think that's your position and I just want to clarify.

That aside your version of the three cases is made moot by the fact that there is no legal remedy available on a deserted island. While you may propose one doesn't have the right to use deadly force in defending property (with which I disagree) that would be with the understanding that it is the government's place to use such force. There's no government here. So, if someone insists on coming into your hut and stealing your coconuts, it does become moral to use force.

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This is a lifeboat scenario like any other. The typical lifeboat pitches one man's life against another's directly, this one only takes the detour of pitching one man's life against another's property. The more usual expression of this lifeboat scenario is "would you steal medicine to save your life?".

Well, to be exact to the 'brief' by the OP, there is no mention of the island having water and food for only one - which is why it's not a classic lifeboat scenario - which is why this is so interesting.

It all gets a bit circular, starting from the premise that the victim has the right to kill the intruder.

We just return to : does the intruder have the right to defend himself in return, maybe overpowering the islander, and maybe having to kill him in self defence?

Further - is he not morally * obliged * to save his own life, when faced with irrational resistance... to the extent of killing a man? Or is morality trumped by the rights of the owner, to whom he should meekly surrender his own life?

Edited by JASKN
Removed excessive quoting
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Or is morality trumped by the rights of the owner, to whom he should meekly surrender his own life?

While I don't like discussing emergency/lifeboat scenarios at length (they are pretty boring, aren't they?), this comment taken in the context of this lifeboat scenario is almost self-evident. Of course you should not and would not meekly surrender your life. This is what I'd be thinking, if I had some offbeat idea of morality that would make me second-guess defending myself, if someone told me to face certain death (the ocean) or to face less certain death (man-to-man combat): "To hell with morality, get this guy!"
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So, we're assuming that the island guy is the owner. Does he have a legal deed? If not, then ,just like the Native Americans or the Na'vi with their Home Tree in those threads we discussed, he could be declared irrational and killed out-of-hand, because you want his stuff. He may even worship a Monkey God or a sacred tree or something. Gotta' stop that nonsense before it spreads. :twisted:

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... and if in the middle of the night you awake to find that someone is standing in your darkened bedroom if for no other reason except to see if your bedroom is nicer than his?

Your position as stated above would seem to say that you must wait for this person to try to kill you, from some of your past posts I wouldn't think that's your position and I just want to clarify.

The Castle Doctrine is a soundly constructed principle, based on the notion that once someone is backed into their own home by a criminal, the worst is assumed and and the homicide is excusable on self defense grounds.

That aside your version of the three cases is made moot by the fact that there is no legal remedy available on a deserted island. While you may propose one doesn't have the right to use deadly force in defending property (with which I disagree) that would be with the understanding that it is the government's place to use such force. There's no government here. So, if someone insists on coming into your hut and stealing your coconuts, it does become moral to use force.

The OP didn't say anything about the absence of government. If there is no government, the principles guiding the use of deadly force aren't the only ones getting thrown out. In anarchy political principles in general are pretty pointless (including property rights), the guy on shore and the swimmer both need to make a decision based on their own self interest.

If the swimmer is just a peaceful guy, it would be pretty ridiculous for the guy on the island to kill him (if for no other reason, then because you're not gonna get to live very long if you go along killing everybody-eventually, people will organize and end the threat by killing you)

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So, we're assuming that the island guy is the owner. Does he have a legal deed? If not, then ,just like the Native Americans or the Na'vi with their Home Tree in those threads we discussed, he could be declared irrational and killed out-of-hand, because you want his stuff.

Native Americans were declared irrational and killed because they were going around scalping Europeans. That is actually similar to why this island dweller would be declared irrational and killed, if he decided to start shooting some poor guy trying to swim to shore on "his" island.

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So you're cool with the Monkey God, eh? As long as he doesn't force bananas on you? :lol:

Seriously, if Island Guy just arbitrarily decided to shoot Castaway Guy just for the hell of it, he has serious mental issues. I would help the poor fellow, and I suspect most others on here would too.

Unless he was Native American or Na'vi, of course. They're irrational. :dough:

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Well, to be exact to the 'brief' by the OP, there is no mention of the island having water and food for only one - which is why it's not a classic lifeboat scenario - which is why this is so interesting.
Actually it is a classical life-boat scenario to the only person who matters in the OP's scenario. The OP asked about the swimmer's decision-making, not that of the island owner. If we assume some ordinary scenario of a more-or-less guiltless castaway, the owner has no right to keep the swimmer off the island. Where would such a right come from and what would make it moral?
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Actually it is a classical life-boat scenario to the only person who matters in the OP's scenario. The OP asked about the swimmer's decision-making, not that of the island owner. If we assume some ordinary scenario of a more-or-less guiltless castaway, the owner has no right to keep the swimmer off the island. Where would such a right come from and what would make it moral?

Yes. When a thread goes long enough, you can forget its original purpose. Still, it's been fun.

Of course, the islander turned it into a lifeboat scenario by effectively removing any choice for our poor swimmer -"it's you or me, buddy!"

I hope our hero fed him to the sharks.

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It's not even in his right to shoot him if he was taking a stroll there, for no reason except to see if the air is fresher on someone else's property.

Quite the contrary, it is the right of a property owner to remove a violator from his property by force. If your stroller is warned that he is on private property, ordered to leave and refuses to do so, it is within the owner's right to shoot him (reason has been exhausted as a means to deal with the rights offender).

In a governed society this right is delegated to the government, except in circumstances where immediate threat to life of limb is present. But the fact that you can call the police to remove a stroller who refuses to get off your lawn is evidence that you have the right to remove him by force. The government has no rights other than those delegated by the governed.

On a desert island this point is moot.

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Quite the contrary, it is the right of a property owner to remove a violator from his property by force. If your stroller is warned that he is on private property, ordered to leave and refuses to do so, it is within the owner's right to shoot him (reason has been exhausted as a means to deal with the rights offender).

In a governed society this right is delegated to the government, except in circumstances where immediate threat to life of limb is present. But the fact that you can call the police to remove a stroller who refuses to get off your lawn is evidence that you have the right to remove him by force. The government has no rights other than those delegated by the governed.

On a desert island this point is moot.

Whether or not it's permissible to remove him from your property and whether or not it's permissible to shoot him seem to me like two different questions. After all, in a society where we do delegate the use of force to the government, the particular amount of force that is allowed is strictly regulated and controlled. We don't allow the police to just pull out their guns and start shooting the instant there's a rights violation. Are those rules ill-founded, or are there philosophical principles governing what types of force are permissible when? I think the latter, and I think that would also apply on a desert island. You may have to shoot him eventually, but not for just standing there.

The fact that reason has been exhausted does not mean that any level of force is immediately permissible.

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Quite the contrary, it is the right of a property owner to remove a violator from his property by force. If your stroller is warned that he is on private property, ordered to leave and refuses to do so, it is within the owner's right to shoot him (reason has been exhausted as a means to deal with the rights offender).

In a governed society this right is delegated to the government, except in circumstances where immediate threat to life of limb is present. But the fact that you can call the police to remove a stroller who refuses to get off your lawn is evidence that you have the right to remove him by force. The government has no rights other than those delegated by the governed.

On a desert island this point is moot.

What difference does it make who's doing the shooting? I listed the three legitimate reasons to shoot someone. Trespassing is not one of them, no matter who you are: the property owner, the Police, the President, or the Lord Jesus Christ the Heir to Everyone's Delegated Rights Himself.

There is no right, actual or delegated, to shoot someone for swimming onto your island. Period. Nor do you have the right to throw him back into the ocean, because that would also be homicide. As long as he is not an objective threat to your life (which by merely swimming to shore and refusing to leave he is not), you only have the right to remove him safely (i.e. by giving him a boat ride off your island).

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Quite the contrary, it is the right of a property owner to remove a violator from his property by force. If your stroller is warned that he is on private property, ordered to leave and refuses to do so, it is within the owner's right to shoot him (reason has been exhausted as a means to deal with the rights offender).

Sorry, but this is homicide, by any definition. The islander is actually initiating force in this case against the victim of an apparent accident. The islander seems to me to over-reacting and irrational.

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Whether or not it's permissible to remove him from your property and whether or not it's permissible to shoot him seem to me like two different questions.

Let us entertain this line of thinking. Are we going to discuss whether it is OK to Taser him or if that is too painful for mere trespass? Is chloroform OK to subdue him or are the health risks to him unacceptable? Does the victim have an obligation to expose himself to physical harm by trying to manhandle the rights violator?

Ultimately the question is: is the victims obligation to accomodate someone who is in the process of violating his rights? The answer is no, and the reason is that in violating rights one steps outside the realm of reason and leaves to others no means but force.

If someone is on your property and cannot be reasoned with, you have a right to remove him by force. Your right is not limited in type or intensity of force. Reason would indicate the use of the minimum force necessary to remove the violator without risk to yourself or risk of further damage to your property, but this is not a limitation on the amount of force you have a right to use.

We apply this limitation to government, to whom we delegate the use of force in these situations under normal circumstances. That does not mean our original right is so limited. It means we are constraining the government to reason - though our original right is not so constrained.

I listed the three legitimate reasons to shoot someone.

Oh, if you listed them then that settles it. Thanks Jake.

Sorry, but this is homicide, by any definition. The islander is actually initiating force in this case against the victim of an apparent accident. The islander seems to me to over-reacting and irrational.

Clearly you don't consider the right to property to be a right. Of course the islander is over reacting and being irrational, that does not mean that his act is outside his rights.

Criminals forfeit their rights in committing their crimes. That is not just fancy wording - it actually means criminals forfeit their rights in committing their crimes.

Are you arguing that swimming onto a privately owned island is not trespass if you are shipwrecked? That would be the same "logic" behind the idea that taking stuff you don't own against the owner's consent is not stealing if you really need it (food, medicine, whatever). If you wish to advance that argument, let's see it spelled out.

Edited by mrocktor
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Let us entertain this line of thinking. Are we going to discuss whether it is OK to Taser him or if that is too painful for mere trespass? Is chloroform OK to subdue him or are the health risks to him unacceptable? Does the victim have an obligation to expose himself to physical harm by trying to manhandle the rights violator?

Ultimately the question is: is the victims obligation to accomodate someone who is in the process of violating his rights? The answer is no, and the reason is that in violating rights one steps outside the realm of reason and leaves to others no means but force.

If someone is on your property and cannot be reasoned with, you have a right to remove him by force. Your right is not limited in type or intensity of force. Reason would indicate the use of the minimum force necessary to remove the violator without risk to yourself or risk of further damage to your property, but this is not a limitation on the amount of force you have a right to use.

We apply this limitation to government, to whom we delegate the use of force in these situations under normal circumstances. That does not mean our original right is so limited. It means we are constraining the government to reason - though our original right is not so constrained.

The original right to self-defense is so constrained. Justice is the same concept with the same referents whether employing it in reasoning about the limits of the government's force or your own. It is a gross injustice to kill a man for trespass when his only choice is to trespass or drown.

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Clearly you don't consider the right to property to be a right. Of course the islander is over reacting and being irrational, that does not mean that his act is outside his rights.

Clearly you don't have a clue what I think. Property rights do not give one the authority to initiate force against an innocent person.

Criminals forfeit their rights in committing their crimes. That is not just fancy wording - it actually means criminals forfeit their rights in committing their crimes.

An innocent victim of a shipwreck is not a criminal, but a human being in distress. Rather than shoot them, a rational person would be inclined to render aid.

Are you arguing that swimming onto a privately owned island is not trespass if you are shipwrecked? That would be the same "logic" behind the idea that taking stuff you don't own against the owner's consent is not stealing if you really need it (food, medicine, whatever). If you wish to advance that argument, let's see it spelled out.

I contend that your analogy is seriously flawed.

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Criminals forfeit their rights in committing their crimes. That is not just fancy wording - it actually means criminals forfeit their rights in committing their crimes.

The instant a rights violation occurs, the violator has irrevocably forfeited every right he or she has? If so, why do we punish shoplifters less severely than murderers? Is this an arbitrary social convention?

In actuality, the extent of the forfeiture is directly linked to the extent of the rights violation. The shoplifter forfeits his rights to the extent that it is now morally permissible to exact a certain amount of punishment, but it is not just to (for instance) end his life.

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