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A Moral Question

wrichcirw
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5/19/2013 8:33:29 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
http://www.cnn.com...

Intruder breaks into a home with four women. One escapes and calls the cops.

"When a police officer arrived, Smith was holding a gun to Rebello's head...

"He told the officer he was going to kill Rebello, and then turned the handgun toward the officer..."

"The officer, fearing for his life, drew his gun and fired..."

"Police fired eight shots at the intruder...One of the shots hit Rebello in the head, killing her...Also killed was the intruder, whom authorities identified as Dalton Smith, 30, of Hempstead. He was struck seven times."

---

My question deals with delivering a moral judgment on this event. Was the cop right in shooting out of self defense, even though by doing so he failed in his duty to protect the innocent?

What if the cop killed the victim, but the suspect got away? Would that change the morality of what the cop did?
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
Cody_Franklin
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5/19/2013 11:28:22 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
In chess, there is a German term--Zugzwang--used to name those forced-move scenarios in which every available move is immediately and irrevocably detrimental to that player.

It is on the basis of this paradigm that I wonder, even by the usual standards, whether there is here anything like a right decision, and, if so, whether there is really reason to distinguish in kind between right and wrong. It may be that there were no good choices, but that a choice was nevertheless forced. Surely, someone could suggest a number of other things the policeman could have done--find a safe spot to shoot from, try to talk the intruder down, wait for partners before charging in--but what is more certain, I think, is that this situation would, in any case, have been unlikely to lend itself to a spotless conclusion.

In my own case, I reject the possibility of judgment in ethics. I think of ethics as a way of life, like a home, rather than as a courtroom in which condemnations are handed down. I think, outside normativity, that there are both many things to regret in this scenario and several levels of analysis on which to regret them. It is regrettable that this young lady, Andrea Rebello, died, just as it is regrettable that the cop was forced into a trained response to a threatening situation, much as it is regrettable that this intruder, Dalton Smith, was exposed to whatever life circumstances drove him into years of criminal activity, and eventually, to his death. It is regrettable that an officer's mistake cost a family their daughter, and it is regrettable that this could perhaps have been prevented if a door had not been left absentmindedly open.

I think there can only be a grim acknowledgment that this occurred. No one deserved any of this, there is nothing that could be called "fair", and nothing about this story is sufficiently redeeming or heroic to distract from all the badfeel. I think it is a reminder that, however lofty our moral discourse or rigorous our security protocols, our world cannot but sometimes be the site of purposeless, irremediable suffering, and that, no matter how painful, it's sometimes the result of a move that must be made.
dylancatlow
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5/19/2013 11:42:28 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think the police officer was justified in his actions. If he had not fired in response, the hostage taker could have taken him out and then proceeded to kill all of his hostages. The offender was most likely intent on killing the cop when he pointed his gun, as he would have calculated that the cop would fire back.
RoyLatham
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5/19/2013 12:22:13 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I presume the police officer felt his life was in immediate danger. He was therefore justified in defending himself while doing his best to avoid shooting the hostage. I don't see any argument as to why the policeman should have allowed himself to be killed. Decisions must be made based upon the situation being faced, so retrospective analysis is pointless.

There was a case some years ago of a serial taking a girl hostage and attempting to escape. He was driving a pickup truck out of an orchard with the captive girl on the seat beside him. A policeman killed the perp with a single shot through the forehead from thirty feet away. In that case, the policeman was not in danger, but the killing was justified to save the hostage.

The shooting test for Texas Rangers is that they must draw and fire four shots through the heart on a target in under one second. Perhaps the policeman should have been better trained as a marksman.
Bullish
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5/19/2013 12:49:18 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
The officer was justified. No decision would have been perfect. It could have been worse.

I don't see the point of spraying 8 shots though.
0x5f3759df
Stephen_Hawkins
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5/19/2013 5:22:27 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Utilitarianism. The option was best out of all possibilities following the felicific calculus. Yes. Problem solved.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
wrichcirw
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5/19/2013 5:26:21 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/19/2013 11:28:22 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
In chess, there is a German term--Zugzwang--used to name those forced-move scenarios in which every available move is immediately and irrevocably detrimental to that player.

It is on the basis of this paradigm that I wonder, even by the usual standards, whether there is here anything like a right decision, and, if so, whether there is really reason to distinguish in kind between right and wrong. It may be that there were no good choices, but that a choice was nevertheless forced. Surely, someone could suggest a number of other things the policeman could have done--find a safe spot to shoot from, try to talk the intruder down, wait for partners before charging in--but what is more certain, I think, is that this situation would, in any case, have been unlikely to lend itself to a spotless conclusion.

I was thinking along the same lines after posting this. I wasn't thinking of chess specifically, but was wondering if there were procedures in place that would have prevented the situation from occurring at all, and thus preventing the cascade of moves you likened to the zugzwang.

Specifically, I was wondering if the cop was told that he was walking into a hostage situation, and whether or not he should wait for backup. It just seemed a bit strange that a single cop would walk into a situation like that...you would expect some snipers to be positioned, or perhaps I watch too many cop dramas.

In my own case, I reject the possibility of judgment in ethics. I think of ethics as a way of life, like a home, rather than as a courtroom in which condemnations are handed down. I think, outside normativity, that there are both many things to regret in this scenario and several levels of analysis on which to regret them. It is regrettable that this young lady, Andrea Rebello, died, just as it is regrettable that the cop was forced into a trained response to a threatening situation, much as it is regrettable that this intruder, Dalton Smith, was exposed to whatever life circumstances drove him into years of criminal activity, and eventually, to his death. It is regrettable that an officer's mistake cost a family their daughter, and it is regrettable that this could perhaps have been prevented if a door had not been left absentmindedly open.

I think there can only be a grim acknowledgment that this occurred. No one deserved any of this, there is nothing that could be called "fair", and nothing about this story is sufficiently redeeming or heroic to distract from all the badfeel. I think it is a reminder that, however lofty our moral discourse or rigorous our security protocols, our world cannot but sometimes be the site of purposeless, irremediable suffering, and that, no matter how painful, it's sometimes the result of a move that must be made.

This is a pretty enlightened viewpoint.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
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5/19/2013 5:27:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/19/2013 12:49:18 PM, Bullish wrote:
The officer was justified. No decision would have been perfect. It could have been worse.

I don't see the point of spraying 8 shots though.

The cop was afraid. No amount of training can overcome primal reactions like that.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
wrichcirw
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5/19/2013 5:28:56 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
And thanks to everyone else. I was also thinking the same, that GIVEN THE SPECIFIC SETUP, it's not difficult to come to a conclusion that the cop was justified in his actions.

I think Cody had a great answer about preventing these setups in the first place.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
dylancatlow
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5/19/2013 6:50:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/19/2013 6:47:49 PM, StevenDixon wrote:
Only god knows since he's the only one that can observe his own nature.

Steven Pinker!

I like him.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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5/20/2013 12:42:53 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/19/2013 5:22:27 PM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
Utilitarianism. The option was best out of all possibilities following the felicific calculus. Yes. Problem solved.

Would you indulge me, if you are able, by showing your work? Not only for what actually occurred, but particularly as measured against your calculations for every possible world. I can imagine a world in which fewer than two people end up dead, so I find myself confused at your insistence that the actual outcome was, according to whatever species of utilitarianism you advocate, optimal.

I find myself more curious about how well a police officer, supposing he was a utilitarian, could execute a series of such sophisticated calculations in a fraction of a second.
Cody_Franklin
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5/20/2013 12:50:24 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I'm also curious about whose utility function is being employed for your calculations. If, for instance, we use the functions of the family of Andrea Rebello, it is likely that any possible world in which Andrea survives is superior to one in which she does not. If we use the function of the police officer, it is likely preferable to have killed them both to preserve his own life. This may even be congruous with some inaccessible God's-eye view, abstracted from the troubles of the world, in service to which many brands of utilitarianism suggest we act. There is some question about what sort of meta-scale one might use to mediate between these competing utility calculations. If the God's-eye view is used to determine that the God's-eye view maximizes utility relative to that function, one might be tempted to dismiss the whole thing as self-legitimating.
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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5/20/2013 2:30:37 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
You can't blame the cop for any of that.

But the bottom line is that people who are assigned to serve and protect us should not be given the ability to kill us. We have lots of non-lethal resources that could have taken him out without killing him or anyone else. It's just non-sensical.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord
R0b1Billion
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5/20/2013 9:43:41 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 12:42:53 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 5/19/2013 5:22:27 PM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
Utilitarianism. The option was best out of all possibilities following the felicific calculus. Yes. Problem solved.

Would you indulge me, if you are able, by showing your work? Not only for what actually occurred, but particularly as measured against your calculations for every possible world. I can imagine a world in which fewer than two people end up dead, so I find myself confused at your insistence that the actual outcome was, according to whatever species of utilitarianism you advocate, optimal.

Asking utilitarians (spit) to show their work is ridiculous. They can never know the true and complete results of their actions. Utilitarianism is the very opposite of morality because it puts intellectual decisions ahead of principled action - the ends are always used to justify the means, so anything is possible depending on how you work your "equations." Hitler worked his equations to show that killing Jews would create a superior race.

I find myself more curious about how well a police officer, supposing he was a utilitarian, could execute a series of such sophisticated calculations in a fraction of a second.

It's impossible.

There is no moral question in this situation. More specifically, the morality of the equation came into play BEFORE the officer got there. Once he was in that spot, he was simply dealing with the results of his actions.
Beliefs in a nutshell:
- The Ends never justify the Means.
- Objectivity is secondary to subjectivity.
- The War on Drugs is the worst policy in the U.S.
- Most people worship technology as a religion.
- Computers will never become sentient.
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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5/20/2013 10:01:28 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 9:43:41 AM, R0b1Billion wrote:
At 5/20/2013 12:42:53 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 5/19/2013 5:22:27 PM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:

There is no moral question in this situation. More specifically, the morality of the equation came into play BEFORE the officer got there. Once he was in that spot, he was simply dealing with the results of his actions.

I've seen this reasoning elsewhere. IMHO it's disingenuous. It's essentially concluding that analysis IS morality, and that the actual subjects and situations of analysis are divorced from morality. That just seems absurd to me.

The subjects and situation are what constitute the moral dilemma. The analysis is exactly that - analysis of the moral dilemma.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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5/20/2013 10:17:46 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 9:43:41 AM, R0b1Billion wrote:
At 5/20/2013 12:42:53 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 5/19/2013 5:22:27 PM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
Utilitarianism. The option was best out of all possibilities following the felicific calculus. Yes. Problem solved.

Would you indulge me, if you are able, by showing your work? Not only for what actually occurred, but particularly as measured against your calculations for every possible world. I can imagine a world in which fewer than two people end up dead, so I find myself confused at your insistence that the actual outcome was, according to whatever species of utilitarianism you advocate, optimal.

Asking utilitarians (spit) to show their work is ridiculous. They can never know the true and complete results of their actions. Utilitarianism is the very opposite of morality because it puts intellectual decisions ahead of principled action - the ends are always used to justify the means, so anything is possible depending on how you work your "equations." Hitler worked his equations to show that killing Jews would create a superior race.

I find myself more curious about how well a police officer, supposing he was a utilitarian, could execute a series of such sophisticated calculations in a fraction of a second.

It's impossible.

There is no moral question in this situation. More specifically, the morality of the equation came into play BEFORE the officer got there. Once he was in that spot, he was simply dealing with the results of his actions.

I hope I do not ask to much to suggest that you permit Stephen to answer on his own behalf. Had I desired to hear your evaluation, I would have asked you instead of him.
wrichcirw
Posts: 11,196
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5/20/2013 11:23:20 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 12:50:24 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I'm also curious about whose utility function is being employed for your calculations. If, for instance, we use the functions of the family of Andrea Rebello, it is likely that any possible world in which Andrea survives is superior to one in which she does not. If we use the function of the police officer, it is likely preferable to have killed them both to preserve his own life. This may even be congruous with some inaccessible God's-eye view, abstracted from the troubles of the world, in service to which many brands of utilitarianism suggest we act. There is some question about what sort of meta-scale one might use to mediate between these competing utility calculations. If the God's-eye view is used to determine that the God's-eye view maximizes utility relative to that function, one might be tempted to dismiss the whole thing as self-legitimating.

I know you're addressing SH, but I take contention with the bolded.

The function of a police officer is to defend those under his/her charge, so killing the victim would not fulfill the function of a police officer.

What would then make this act (killing the victim) justifiable is that a police officer must exist in order to fulfill his/her function, and the actions the police officer took (self defense) fulfilled this condition.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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5/20/2013 11:29:37 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 11:23:20 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 5/20/2013 12:50:24 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I'm also curious about whose utility function is being employed for your calculations. If, for instance, we use the functions of the family of Andrea Rebello, it is likely that any possible world in which Andrea survives is superior to one in which she does not. If we use the function of the police officer, it is likely preferable to have killed them both to preserve his own life. This may even be congruous with some inaccessible God's-eye view, abstracted from the troubles of the world, in service to which many brands of utilitarianism suggest we act. There is some question about what sort of meta-scale one might use to mediate between these competing utility calculations. If the God's-eye view is used to determine that the God's-eye view maximizes utility relative to that function, one might be tempted to dismiss the whole thing as self-legitimating.

I know you're addressing SH, but I take contention with the bolded.

The function of a police officer is to defend those under his/her charge, so killing the victim would not fulfill the function of a police officer.

That may be the legal function of a police officer; I was speaking of utility functions.

What would then make this act (killing the victim) justifiable is that a police officer must exist in order to fulfill his/her function, and the actions the police officer took (self defense) fulfilled this condition.

Of course. This is why I suggest the potential congruity of the officer's utility function with a God's-eye view according to which the value of Andrea's life is less than the sum of the officer's life added to potential future victims saved. Your contention stems either from a miscommunication or a misunderstanding, not from the content of my post.
Magic8000
Posts: 975
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5/20/2013 11:57:16 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I would kill the asker of the question. But really, he was right in trying to kill the hostage taker, wrong in firing 8 shots. Best thing to do was try to get close. I've seen this technique were the offer a trade, and it's a trap. They try to disarm your weapon when you let the hostage go. The cop could've took more precautions, should be charged with involuntary manslaughter imo.
404 coherent debate topic not found. Please restart the debate with clear resolution.

"So Magic8000 believes Einstein was a proctologist who was persuaded by the Government and Hitler to fabricate the Theory of Relativity"- GWL-CPA
wrichcirw
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5/20/2013 12:50:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 11:29:37 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 5/20/2013 11:23:20 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 5/20/2013 12:50:24 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
I'm also curious about whose utility function is being employed for your calculations. If, for instance, we use the functions of the family of Andrea Rebello, it is likely that any possible world in which Andrea survives is superior to one in which she does not. If we use the function of the police officer, it is likely preferable to have killed them both to preserve his own life. This may even be congruous with some inaccessible God's-eye view, abstracted from the troubles of the world, in service to which many brands of utilitarianism suggest we act. There is some question about what sort of meta-scale one might use to mediate between these competing utility calculations. If the God's-eye view is used to determine that the God's-eye view maximizes utility relative to that function, one might be tempted to dismiss the whole thing as self-legitimating.

I know you're addressing SH, but I take contention with the bolded.

The function of a police officer is to defend those under his/her charge, so killing the victim would not fulfill the function of a police officer.

That may be the legal function of a police officer; I was speaking of utility functions.

lol, what utility does a police officer have other than his/her legal function? Without that legal function, the police officer is just like any other person, and ceases to be a police officer.

What would then make this act (killing the victim) justifiable is that a police officer must exist in order to fulfill his/her function, and the actions the police officer took (self defense) fulfilled this condition.

Of course. This is why I suggest the potential congruity of the officer's utility function with a God's-eye view according to which the value of Andrea's life is less than the sum of the officer's life added to potential future victims saved. Your contention stems either from a miscommunication or a misunderstanding, not from the content of my post.

Personally I don't see how or why it would give the officer or any other person (other than someone who profited from the victim's death) more utility in any sense to kill the victim, but w/e, your question wasn't aimed at me.
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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5/20/2013 12:58:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 12:50:39 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 5/20/2013 11:29:37 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 5/20/2013 11:23:20 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
The function of a police officer is to defend those under his/her charge, so killing the victim would not fulfill the function of a police officer.

That may be the legal function of a police officer; I was speaking of utility functions.

lol, what utility does a police officer have other than his/her legal function? Without that legal function, the police officer is just like any other person, and ceases to be a police officer.

That question opens itself to many levels of analysis, one of which is what is implied by asking what utility a police officer has. There is a presupposition that the sole or dominant calculation is the aggregated, abstracted God's-eye view. I call into question, however, how precisely we can adjudicate between different utility functions. In the officer's utility function, it is likely, insofar as he is just another person, that self-preservation is among the highest priorities. There may be another function, such as that of Andrea's parents, according to which their daughter's survival would have justified the death of the officer. There are a multiplicity of views we could use to weigh the utility, and I am very curious how to make the decision, without using the God's-eye view to legitimate itself, to subordinate all other utility functions to the abstracted aggregate. But, my curiosity about this matter is what induced me to direct this question to Stephen, so I will say no more about it until he has a chance to speak.

What would then make this act (killing the victim) justifiable is that a police officer must exist in order to fulfill his/her function, and the actions the police officer took (self defense) fulfilled this condition.

Of course. This is why I suggest the potential congruity of the officer's utility function with a God's-eye view according to which the value of Andrea's life is less than the sum of the officer's life added to potential future victims saved. Your contention stems either from a miscommunication or a misunderstanding, not from the content of my post.

Personally I don't see how or why it would give the officer or any other person (other than someone who profited from the victim's death) more utility in any sense to kill the victim, but w/e, your question wasn't aimed at me.
wrichcirw
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5/20/2013 5:42:12 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 12:58:58 PM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 5/20/2013 12:50:39 PM, wrichcirw wrote:
At 5/20/2013 11:29:37 AM, Cody_Franklin wrote:
At 5/20/2013 11:23:20 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
The function of a police officer is to defend those under his/her charge, so killing the victim would not fulfill the function of a police officer.

That may be the legal function of a police officer; I was speaking of utility functions.

lol, what utility does a police officer have other than his/her legal function? Without that legal function, the police officer is just like any other person, and ceases to be a police officer.

That question opens itself to many levels of analysis, one of which is what is implied by asking what utility a police officer has. There is a presupposition that the sole or dominant calculation is the aggregated, abstracted God's-eye view. I call into question, however, how precisely we can adjudicate between different utility functions. In the officer's utility function, it is likely, insofar as he is just another person, that self-preservation is among the highest priorities. There may be another function, such as that of Andrea's parents, according to which their daughter's survival would have justified the death of the officer. There are a multiplicity of views we could use to weigh the utility, and I am very curious how to make the decision, without using the God's-eye view to legitimate itself, to subordinate all other utility functions to the abstracted aggregate. But, my curiosity about this matter is what induced me to direct this question to Stephen, so I will say no more about it until he has a chance to speak.

Fair enough. I like where you're taking this, so I will grab some popcorn and "shut up and color", lol. :)
At 8/9/2013 9:41:24 AM, wrichcirw wrote:
If you are civil with me, I will be civil to you. If you decide to bring unreasonable animosity to bear in a reasonable discussion, then what would you expect other than to get flustered?
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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5/20/2013 6:06:22 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
"It is on the basis of this paradigm that I wonder, even by the usual standards, whether there is here anything like a right decision, and, if so, whether there is really reason to distinguish in kind between right and wrong. It may be that there were no good choices, but that a choice was nevertheless forced. Surely, someone could suggest a number of other things the policeman could have done--find a safe spot to shoot from, try to talk the intruder down, wait for partners before charging in--but what is more certain, I think, is that this situation would, in any case, have been unlikely to lend itself to a spotless conclusion."

The morality of a decision is properly analyzed within the context, that is, the possible alternatives to that action, as well the possible alternatives that created the context in the first place. So I don't think it's correct to make the claim that there is no morality to be found in this situation merely because both paths were likely to lead to a negative outcome.
dylancatlow
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5/20/2013 6:13:58 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
"There may be another function, such as that of Andrea's parents, according to which their daughter's survival would have justified the death of the officer."

Hopefully, they'd deduce that it was not either-or. It's not as if once the offender shot the cop he'd just let everyone go.
dylancatlow
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5/20/2013 6:22:15 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
"What if the cop killed the victim, but the suspect got away? Would that change the morality of what the cop did?"

No, because the officer would have acted under the premises as he would have if the outcome had been different. Immoral action is only the result of conscious choice.
dylancatlow
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5/20/2013 6:22:38 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 6:22:15 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
"What if the cop killed the victim, but the suspect got away? Would that change the morality of what the cop did?"

No, because the officer would have acted under the premises as he would have if the outcome had been different. Immoral action is only the result of conscious choice.

*same premises
dylancatlow
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5/20/2013 6:26:52 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 5/20/2013 6:22:15 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
"What if the cop killed the victim, but the suspect got away? Would that change the morality of what the cop did?"

No, because the officer would have acted under the premises as he would have if the outcome had been different. Immoral action is only the result of conscious choice.

The same would be true for vice versa - the officer would have been immoral if his intentions were malevolent but no harm was done.