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The Assassin Thought Experiment

Maikuru
Posts: 9,112
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1/2/2013 1:11:22 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
This is a thought experiment I stole from the book The Pigman. Below is a story about a murder and your job is to say who is most responsible for the death.

I'm working from memory here but it goes something like this:

A wife is cheating on her husband with a man across the bridge. She hates herself for doing it and when her husband says he's leaving for the day on business, she begs him to stay. He dismisses her condescendingly and leaves, and she eventually succumbs to her desires and visits her lover across the bridge.

The next morning she wakes in a panic, realizing her husband will be home any minute. When she goes to the bridge, though, there is an assassin waiting to kill her when she passes. She goes instead to the ferryman and asks for safe passage across the water. He demands payment and having no money, she asks her lover.

"You got yourself into this mess," he says and slams the door.

She goes back to the ferryman and tells him of the assassin but he still insists on payment. Frustrated and panicked, the wife tries desperately to run across the bridge and is killed by the assassin. So, from most responsible to least, who holds responsibility for the wife's death: the husband, wife, lover, ferryman, or assassin?

Why?
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Maikuru
Posts: 9,112
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1/2/2013 1:14:48 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
My order goes:

1. Assassin - I mean, he physically killed her lol. That takes precedence.
2. Wife - Not only could she had prevented her death, but she also placed herself in the precarious position.
3. Lover - He had knowledge of the danger, the means to save her, and a social relationship with her, suggesting some measure of loyalty.
4. Ferryman - He had knowledge of the danger and the means to save her.
5. Husband - Assuming he didn't hire the assassin, he holds no responsibility. If he did, though, he'd come in second.
"You assume I wouldn't want to burn this whole place to the ground."
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Korashk
Posts: 4,597
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1/2/2013 2:21:26 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I'd say it goes:

1.) Whomever hired the assassin.
2.) The assassin.
3.) Everybody else is tied for having absolutely no responsibility.
When large numbers of otherwise-law abiding people break specific laws en masse, it's usually a fault that lies with the law. - Unknown
Andromeda_Z
Posts: 4,151
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1/2/2013 3:09:17 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Assassin - He directly killed her. Who else could be more responsible?
Wife - She knew the risks and proceeded anyway
Ferryman - He knew of the assassin and yet denied her safety. It wasn't his responsibility anyway but he could have easily saved her and chose not to.
Lover - Some lover there, he leaves her to die. But there is no indication he knew of the danger, only that she wanted money for the ferry when there was a perfectly good bridge.
Husband - He simply had no idea what would happen, he just left on business as anyone with some responsibility would do. Unless he hired the assassin, but that was left unclear.
OberHerr
Posts: 13,062
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1/2/2013 4:41:59 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
1. Assassin/Contractor - Like it's been said, they're the ones that actually killed her.
2. Wife - While it's not her fault that she was killed technically, she still made the choice to try to get home in time. Noble, but still killed her.
3. Lover/Ferryman - Both knew of the danger, and could easily have saved her, but decided to be d!cks for no good reason. Lover arguably takes higher blame as like it's been said, he knew her.
4. Husband - He didn't know anything about all of what's happening(it's assumed)so no blame at all goes to him. His only indirect effect is the fault of the wife.
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Sidewalker
Posts: 3,713
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1/2/2013 7:22:57 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/2/2013 3:09:17 AM, Andromeda_Z wrote:
Assassin - He directly killed her. Who else could be more responsible?
Wife - She knew the risks and proceeded anyway
Ferryman - He knew of the assassin and yet denied her safety. It wasn't his responsibility anyway but he could have easily saved her and chose not to.
Lover - Some lover there, he leaves her to die. But there is no indication he knew of the danger, only that she wanted money for the ferry when there was a perfectly good bridge.
Husband - He simply had no idea what would happen, he just left on business as anyone with some responsibility would do. Unless he hired the assassin, but that was left unclear.

That's my read too.

Here is another one from memory:

An adult son lives with his wealthy parents in a high rise apartment building, he is having desperate financial difficulties. His father gets drunk and becomes abusive with his mother, often threatening to shoot her with a shotgun which is kept unloaded in the closet. The son reasons that if his Father shot his Mother, he would go to jail for murder and the son would be left to control the family fortune giving him a way out of his desperate financial situation, so he loads the shotgun hoping for an outcome that leaves him in control of the money.

After some time nothing has happened, the son's financial difficulties make him suicidal and he goes to the roof of the building to end it all. While he is on the roof, the father comes home drunk and the drunken routine with the shotgun begins. The son jumps, and as he falls, the father shoots the shotgun at his Mother, misses and the blast goes out the window instantly killing the son as he passes by the window.

The son was going to die a few seconds later anyway, and the son loaded the shotgun, what responsibility does the Father have for his son's death, he did in fact kill him, so did the Father murder the son? Where does responsibility lie in this situation, and what should the consequences be for the Father?
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
drafterman
Posts: 18,870
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1/2/2013 7:37:37 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
1. Assassin - Directly responsible for her death.
2. Ferryman & Lover - Both had the means and opportunity to save her, at no stated risk to themselves. The only question is whether or not the lover had a higher moral duty as a result of their preexisting relationship, or the Ferrmand had a lower moral duty due to his occupation. I don't believe either significantly alters the situation, so I place them at the same level.
3. Wife - Yes, she got herself into this situation but I feel that cognizance is a component in moral culpability, and dying wasn't exactly an expected or anticipated consequence. Nevertheless, she died as a result of her actions.
4. Husband - No responsibility
Mirza
Posts: 16,992
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1/2/2013 10:22:34 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I wouldn't mind placing the lover before the ferryman though -- maybe I'd place her swimming tutor in-between if she ever had one.
bossyburrito
Posts: 14,075
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1/2/2013 9:07:17 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/2/2013 2:21:26 AM, Korashk wrote:
I'd say it goes:

1.) Whomever hired the assassin.
2.) The assassin.
3.) Everybody else is tied for having absolutely no responsibility.
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Andromeda_Z
Posts: 4,151
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1/3/2013 1:56:08 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/2/2013 7:22:57 AM, Sidewalker wrote:
At 1/2/2013 3:09:17 AM, Andromeda_Z wrote:
Assassin - He directly killed her. Who else could be more responsible?
Wife - She knew the risks and proceeded anyway
Ferryman - He knew of the assassin and yet denied her safety. It wasn't his responsibility anyway but he could have easily saved her and chose not to.
Lover - Some lover there, he leaves her to die. But there is no indication he knew of the danger, only that she wanted money for the ferry when there was a perfectly good bridge.
Husband - He simply had no idea what would happen, he just left on business as anyone with some responsibility would do. Unless he hired the assassin, but that was left unclear.

That's my read too.

Here is another one from memory:

An adult son lives with his wealthy parents in a high rise apartment building, he is having desperate financial difficulties. His father gets drunk and becomes abusive with his mother, often threatening to shoot her with a shotgun which is kept unloaded in the closet. The son reasons that if his Father shot his Mother, he would go to jail for murder and the son would be left to control the family fortune giving him a way out of his desperate financial situation, so he loads the shotgun hoping for an outcome that leaves him in control of the money.

After some time nothing has happened, the son's financial difficulties make him suicidal and he goes to the roof of the building to end it all. While he is on the roof, the father comes home drunk and the drunken routine with the shotgun begins. The son jumps, and as he falls, the father shoots the shotgun at his Mother, misses and the blast goes out the window instantly killing the son as he passes by the window.

The son was going to die a few seconds later anyway, and the son loaded the shotgun, what responsibility does the Father have for his son's death, he did in fact kill him, so did the Father murder the son? Where does responsibility lie in this situation, and what should the consequences be for the Father?

That's a suicide. An unnecessarily complicated one, but still a suicide - he caused his death. The consequences for the father should be whatever ones arise from abusing one's wife.
tBoonePickens
Posts: 3,266
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1/4/2013 2:22:51 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 1/2/2013 2:21:26 AM, Korashk wrote:
I'd say it goes:

1.) Whomever hired the assassin.
2.) The assassin.
3.) Everybody else is tied for having absolutely no responsibility.

^^^This
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