The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Is Mass Murder Ever Justifiable?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/30/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 281 times Debate No: 94254
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
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Is mass murder ever justifiable? Even in a situation where it may save 100x as many people?

I will be arguing that it is.

Notes & Clarifications:
By Mass Murder, I am just going to assume the murder of a number greater than 10, but it could be anywhere from that to 10 trillion people just in case it matters.

No trolling.
No Flaming (stay civil)
Have fun.

1) Acceptance
2) Opening Statements
3) Rebuttals and closing statements


Ok i accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I think it is probably beneficial for me to point out I have the burden of proof that it may be justifiable to commit mass murder, even only once under a rare circumstance. As such, it does not need to have happened, and relatable anecdotal evidence may actually be relevant if they can be philosophically debated to a sound conclusion. Just so long as such circumstances would be present, that in fact - mass murder would be justified.

A tale of misfortune
Let us go down a philosophical scenario here, just so I then relate it to its supporting arguments.

There is a terrorist group out there, as ruthless as they are pervasive; resources to use on every continent is not a thing they lack. I am going to call them the hand. It just so happens a rival group, lets call them the guardians though, not as heartless and with a code of conduct in their quest for power has been standing in their way. A war between very powerful elements of the criminal underworld. Eventually, the guardians have most of their entire leadership and core members captures, let us say about 1500 people for such a large network, and all in one place by the authorities. They have trials, but it is decided for whatever just reason to let them go. But because of their own people, they are relatively safe - where the hand can not reach them themselves.

This leads them in their ruthlessness down a set of options they didn't have before, because it would have done them no good. They decide to try and force the authorities to kill and remove their rivals in one fell swoop. But they have to provide a great incentive. And with their history of ruthlessness and terrorism, they weren't going to small. They plant a nuclear bomb in the 20 most populated cities in the US.

They blow up one, in lets say the third most populated city. Leave a threat and intentions, and say that if you don't murder those 1,500 unconvicted people - we will destroy another city. If you leave or evacuate them, we will destoy two more that are the next highest places for casualty rates. Failure to comply with the murder will result in a city on the lowest populated of the twenty to the most every day.

4 cities go while people debate the issue, or look for a way out, public outrage is intense, no negotiations seem to be bearing any fruit, tracking down the bombs or the terrorist seem to be getting no where; it has settled down finally that this is no joke. The authorities cave in, and kill the 1500 people. Millions were lost, unconvicted people, despite their reputations were murdered - but many more millions - 10 times that much were saved out of harms way.

The Breakdown
Now from this scenario, we can see several factors that will ultimately lead to simple pragmatism, and a moral justification for the said action:
Unsound/unrational or unknown alternatives.
2) The moral responsibility of others lives. And also, the moral weight of those lost - as the blame still gets back to all the decision makers. Whether or not they were the direct people responsible for the brunt of it...
3) Inaction is no longer a practical solution to the problem, and there is no time.

I believe these three points are the key to arriving at the justification to commit any scenario, real or imagined, of mass murder. And they must be met.

I am going to examine them in more detail to help support my argument.

There needs to be no better, relevant choice is readily apparent. If you had a chance to possibly save the people, and not commit murder and did it anyway - that makes you a murderer without that cannot say he tried to say he chose the path he knew to save the most amount of people. That means he didn't treat all lives in a way that they all were weighed equally, and that makes him morally unjust. Because to treat them unequally would mean you would have to have a metric or standard to judge a person as having a person be worth more or less than others. In which case, all of that becomes subjective and uncertain. A person has more money? That may be one persons standard, but appearances can be decieving. Judging life and death decisions on that would be uncertain for you. An alternative might be the law of the jungle for some, 'the strong survive', but by the nature of our society, and the evolution of our brains we are not so. We have demonstrated emotion of empathy, found even in our primate cousins[1], and with that, a desire to help the needy, those less fortunate and not letting the weak die. It appears society at large doesn't treat morality by the laws of nature, and while that can be debated - the question of the OT was whether it could be justified or not. And that justificaiton doesn't have to come by nature.

By the standard metrics, it is quite simple. If there are better alternatives to accomplish the most important goal here in the topic: save as many lives as we can. Which brings me to the next point.

Moral & Legal Obligation
It poses a good question: if all lives are equal, or at least if the potential of those lives are equal without knowing the individual people involved, and we have a compulsion to have empathy and save lives in general - why not save more of them? A person who knows that a group shouldn't be driving a closed road due to it being unsafe, and chooses not to say or do anything to prevent them from doing so is not only unjust, but by the legal definition, quite culpable.

It seems to be quite a trope among legal codes around the world, like the one in Canada, s. 21 of the Criminal Code:
21. (1) Every one is a party to an offence who
(a) actually commits it;
(b) does or omits to do anything for the purpose of aiding any person to commit it; or
(c) abets any person in committing it.

can be charged as an accessory in Canada.

In general, according to Wiki, in regards to an accesory:

" the accused must generally be proved to have had actual knowledge that a crime was going to be, or had been, committed. Furthermore, there must be proof that the accessory knew that his or her action, or inaction, was helping the criminals commit the crime, or evade detection, or escape."

Now let me get this straight, if the crime is murder, or even mass murder - and you by inaction allowed the people to die - you are responsible.

Now by inaction, you are letting many, many people die - you are guilty. Even if you didn't pull the trigger yourself. So then, why not let this carry over to the if everything is equal argument, and sacrifice one to save the majority? It is a duty to save their lives anyway, and inaction gives you blood on your hands just as well; which leads me to my next point.

Inaction is Irrational

There comes a point in most life or death situations, where a person needs to act. Either running, staying, fighting. Getting people out of danger by escorting them through a fiery room, it all works. To be certain, in many instances it may be advisable to do nothing. But often times, hesitation and refusing to act is no longer an option. If a bomb timer is ticking down to zero with 30 seconds left in front of you, you don't have the luxory of playing a hand of spades while you sit and think of a best way out. At that point, either quickly disarm it, or get as far away as possible.

This applies to the lives of others. You have the moral obligation to save others if possible. You may not have time to save others if you see they are in imminent danger. So it limits your choices to perhaps not sitting there and thinking for the best option to save everyone, or even yourself.


So, if they have no time to not save them, and are obligated to try and save as many lives as possible, and have no other alternatives that are known, it is safe to say that any person who then commits mass murder to prevent something like an even bigger mass murder is entirely justified. There were no more options.

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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by TruthSpeakingRev 2 months ago
Ever heard of Noah's Ark. Many people think it was justified because God thought men were evil and wanted a perfect Earth. Not like Hitler killed Jews because he thought they were evil and wanted a perfect Germany.
Posted by canis 2 months ago
Mass murder is not about mass murder. it is about you and your justification to be.
Posted by Delta2401 2 months ago
Well Benson, I bothered to do some research after my first round. I think I will try an entirely different tact next round. Mainly because if I were con, I know exactly how I can really throw in the monkey wrench to points made so far.

But I agree, simplicity is better.
Posted by Bensen 2 months ago
Pro, you are trying to make a utilitarian's argument. Kill off 10 people to save 20. You should keep your scenario simple an to the point.
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