This is a question asked by my philosophy professor. 

Why is it wrong to kill people? What is your answer?

And you cannot bring God or the law into your answer.

Also, the Golden Rule is not a legitamite answer.  You can't say "You shouldn't kill people because I wouldn't want to be killed" or any variation upon that.

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Because that's the social norm,what we're brought up to believe and it's been instilled in us like this so that people don't just kill other people, having adverse effects on economy, social welfare ect. This social norm is best seen when we, as a society deem it 'ok' to murder people if we are 'at war'. How do we justify what kind of killing is right and what is wrong? f we take these social norms away then I think that it would be wrong to not kill people, and what it comes down to is are humans innately evil or good. If you believe that humans are, at there core evil, then not killing is wrong because it goes against are base instinct.

A) you might go read "Crime and Punishment" or many older books resulting from more people thinking longer on this than I have.... but here I go:

B) My answer might be like your last rejected answer, and... I reject your authority to limit my answering... hopefully what I say is not what you reject unread:

c)I think your definition of "right" and "Wrong" should probably be stated explicitly, as they vary, and knowing yours will make our answers more valuable to you.

d) My thoughts "I have compassion, I feel pain when I know others are in pain, I feel loss when I know others have things they expected taken from them... including their future lives." 

e) Guesses at why?: We are in one or more communities, as part of the social contract (see John Locke, I believe) we agree to not damage each other needlessly, and when one of us does, they step outside that community, break their agreements, and become... alone, vulnerable, more mortal, this is a thing than humans "Man is by nature a social animal" fear.  Fear of aloneness precludes us from considering/pursuing approaches to life which are destructive to our societies.  BUT... if you identify with a community that glorifies violence to "outsiders". a) you might lose this restriction and b) I won't like you much. Or them for that matter.  (Nazis, Nationalists, Gangs...HeteroPuristBoyScoutLeadership... but that's me projecting)

Oh, well the reason you can't say "I don't want to be killed, so you shouldn't kill people" is because my philosophy professor said it wasn't a legitamite answer.  For support he used this scenario:

Let's say you're walking down the street and you come across a guy murdering someone.  You say Stop, don't kill that person!

Why? the murderer asks. 

Because it's wrong, you answer.

Why is it wrong? he asks again.
How do you continue that conversation without using God or the law. What are you going to say?-- Because it is? Because I don't like it? Because that person doesn't like it? How would you feel if I killed you?-- It seems as though there has to be a reason past this. A better reason to answer why humans believe its wrong to kill than your personal feelings towards murder- some greater purpose to it all.

So I reject you rejecting my rejection ;)

But your thoughts on this are very cool.  It reminds me of Aristotle ( I think it was Aristotle ).  He said that humans were social creatures by nature, and when we kill one another it frustrates that aspect of our being, and our telos.

this, too was a week in posting. Pasting now:

Say you're walking down a street, and you see a governor putting people to death. "Stop what you are doing because it is wrong." rapidly.. you come to the realization that definitions of "Right" and "Wrong" vary. I had asked yours above ["c)I think your definition of "right" and "Wrong" should probably be stated explicitly, as they vary, and knowing yours will make our answers more valuable to you."]
What I hear your professor say: is excluding religious or legal dictates of behavior... what defines right and wrong?
A fine question.  Do you feel the answer is obvious, if you do... what is your answer?  [I think I would share a) IF I have an answer that I believe and b) what that answer is, if it exists... after I hear the best answer you believe you have at this point.  I do this because... I think the best answer for you has to come from you, given inputs from others... and I don't wanna taint the jury pool of your mind more than I already have, untll I've heard what you think now.]  hugs.

You know, I don't have an answer to this question. I am but a mere questioner. I like to ask questions and see what people think, but I haven't answered my own questions.

In my philosophy class the professor said he had had students that came into his class with a belief system, and after learning about all these other beliefs systems, had their own beliefs destroyed. They came into the class knowing what they thought, and left not knowing anything. This did not happen to me. I went into the class with no beliefs and left with no beliefs. In my final paper I dismantled every philosopher we learn about with questions. I was able to acutely pick apart arguments with no beliefs of my own that contradicted it. Just questions. So to answer your question, I don't know how to define right and wrong. I think Euthyphro defined it as doing things the Gods liked was good and doing things the Gods disliked was bad, and Socrates was able to pick apart that argument easily.

I think the problem is with free will and personal belief, between all the different opinions, there may be no right and wrong.  Is it wrong to steal? Some people may say yes. It is always wrong to steal. But some people may say usually, but it depends on the situation. Like Aladdin was starving and stole a loaf of bread so he could eat and survive, but ended up giving it to the starving children. In Fun with Dick and Jane Jim Carrey and that blonde girl stole that Alec Baldwin's money, and they were heroes. Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Harry Potter was stealing Voldemort's horcruxes. I feel like there could be exceptions to every rule, which is why we have the law, and it's also why we have god. The law and god tell us what is right and wrong.

I just thought of something. I think it is always a bad thing to rape someone. There I see no exceptions.

Do you think there is a clear and distinct line between right and wrong?

A coupla ways to respond. 

a) I don't have "God" to tell me about right and wrong, and people reading notes from "God" disagree so that hasn't worked out so well.

b)I actually found ... kind of a mathematical Good and Evil.  I entered a store's heavy door and holding it, looked back to see how far to the next person approaching... and it was a LONG way.. like 30 feet.... and I decide to hold it for them (<-here it is the gender indeterminate singular pronoun). It occurred to me that for every person... there is a distance beyond which, they would let the door go.  That there is a point where the cost to you exceeds the indirect benefit to you (through their eased journey).  Then I thought... some people never look back. In fact, there are some people (sadists) who would spend energy to Block the path of others.  Good is that which helps others, when it hurts you less than a whole lot to do it. I think. And making yourself happy, is a good thing, too. Wrong is the opposite... so more of a continuum, less of a black and white. BUt. to Harm another a lot, though it benefit you a little... that is VERY Far along the spectrum to Wrong. Theoretically there is a sadist who would spend a million to cost you 10. (what a jerk.) And a saint who would spend a million to benefit you a dollar (unwise... but generous...).  But Right, Wrong... they are ... directions, more than places. IMHO.


You say "...they are directions, more than places..." -this reminded me of how my RS teacher described it: as a probability diagram:

We can all start at point x (approaching the door, for example). We then go to A or B - opening it ourselves, or making someone else do it. If we chose A, we have another choice: C, D or E. If we chose B, we would also have C, D, or E. C being hold the door, D being leave it, and E being deliberately close it (if you chose A, though, this one is less likely to apply). From C, D, or E, we have yet another choice of two (or possibly more) things, and this will continue thoughtout your life [it should really start at birth, but hey-ho, for the sake of this example, it starts at the door]. We can define each of thees acts, or letters, as right or wrong (I speak using social guidelines, ie: closing = wrong, holding = right) if you imagine this in your head, or draw it, you could go on a straight downward gradient, straight upward, or zig-zag up and down (as most people would, but at different levels)

So instead of a spectrum, we can have a flow diagram of ups and downs. I'm not really sure just how clear I made that, but there you go.

That is a very interesting example; however, I am lost as to how it applies to not killing people?

To bring our musing back to your most recent question:

You asked "Is there a clear distinction between right and wrong?"

I said Right and Wrong are like directions... like North and South... ..where the equator is.. may be in doubt.. but you can usually tell heading north from heading south...

Remora's statement can be interpretted (I just did, for example) as: "life can be a series of decisions.. some you choose more "northerly" and some more "southerly"... so at any point... it is a N/S choice... but over time we end up at different lattitudes.. because there are So many decisions made."


So our answers both indicate "Yes" there are Right and Wrong, and go on to describe how we see them.


At least, that's how I interpret my reply, and hers.



You are confusing several different things here. The golden rule is not the same as what you're referring to. Kant made this clear by demonstrating that the golden rule is only a hypothetical imperative, because it cannot apply universally. But while "I don't want to be killed, so you shouldn't kill people" fits the golden rule, it also fits a much more universal (and hence much more legit) ethic: The categorical imperative.

Now, if indeed your professor denies Kant's legitimacy (which would be preposterous and highly unlikely), you should have serious questions about that. If anything, a philosopher ought to be critical of the question.

In my opinion: If Kant's categorical imperative, which is derived from a fundamental concept of rationality, has a great and logical explanation for why murder is wrong, it ought to be taken seriously.

To refute his case study: The proper answer on the question 'Why?' would then be: "Because we are all rational beings. Now, the only rational way for interaction to be structured is by protecting yourself against the system. The only possible fundamental rule that does this reads "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law." Since no rational being would want to be murdered, including the killer, killing would go against this fundamental rule.

To conclude: It's not just 'going against some rules', it's going against THE rule: rationality. And I don't see why that would be illegitimate.

Why would a murderer or a serial killer be a rational being? I disagree there. You can't rationalize, reason, or philosophize with psychopaths and sociopaths. Therefore, I still find the argument illegitimate.

And I still feel like there are cases such as what if someone is about to kill your or rape you or do harm to you, is it okay to kill that person then? What about Wars? What about if the killing would be for the "greater good"? Or the death penalty. Stuff like that where it's still hazy.

He is a human, and he is capable of rational action. The fact that he does not act rational is Kant's point entirely: It is wrong to go against your rationality.

I'm not sure about Kant's point on self-defense, but because he was very much influenced by Rousseau he would say that normally violence is something only the state can do. But likely, in cases where the state cannot help, you'd have the right to inflict damage. But of course not disproportionate. For example, if a burglar comes into my house, I am not allowed to shoot him through the head, because that's way out of proportion. But if someone aimed a gun at me, I would be allowed.

Wars are obviously wrong, because no one would want others to be allowed to destroy his country. Defense against the war falls into the same category as self-defense I guess.

Killing for a greater good is never allowed, because no one can possibly want it to be a universal law that they can be killed if it's good for the others. Basically Kant says that the categorical imperative implies that "Rational beings should always be treated as goals on themselves, never as means towards a goal". Although it sucks for the 'greater good', I agree that using someone as a means is inherently wrong.

Death penalty, and punishment itself, is an interesting case. Kant was in favor of the so called 'law of retribution': punishment is proportionate to the crime. So a killer should indeed be punished with a like punishment. This could be death, but also some nasty punishment that people agree is as bad as death. In countries without the death sentence you see the second case, where people argue that being locked up for 50 years is way worse than dying.

So with Kant it's rarely ever 'hazy', you just have to be consistent in applying the one principle.


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