Saturday, August 31, 2013

On Justice and Free Will

And here's another comment from Monday's blog post. This one is from Stephanie B, and um...well, I guess this is why I don't do comment responses more often. I can get pretty wordy.
*Sigh*. We are woefully off topic. Michael, I agree with most of what you say here.... But I disagree with your evaluation that taking away free-will is always wrong. It will never be "right", per say, but if you believe the words "wrong" and "evil" to mean that nothing positive comes out of the action, or that it wasn't the best option, I'm forced to disagree. An example I will use to justify this is the murder of Osama Bin Laden.

We killed this man. He was not a good man; I have no doubts that he was evil. He deserved to die, and people were saved by his death. But is his death "good"? Is it not still "wrong"? We took away his free-will when we killed him. By your reasoning, we should have let him live (personally, I do not think killing him WAS the smartest move, but that's besides the point). By all rights, at the very least his capture was justified. If we left him his free-will, many more would be dead, and he would be free. That's the problem. If we agree that we all have a right to free-will, that implies that we can do things that take away the free-will of others. In other words, it creates a bit of a paradox. I am not justifying the suppression of the rights' of others by any means. I'm just saying that your reasoning that we all have free-will is a bit contradictory.

Sometimes we HAVE to force others to relinquish their rights for the betterment of society. As we all have vastly different views, it is quite unfortunately necessary to prevent suffering. When it comes to brainwashing.... To me, that will always be wrong. If you need to physically restrain someone, lock them away, even KILL them- I accept this as an eventual necessity. But to rip from a person their mind, what makes them who they are.... There will never be justification, as far as I'm concerned. By all definitions, it is mind-rape, and it should not be practiced. For these reasons, as well as my opinion that it is unnecessary and vengeful, I will never tolerate torture.

But what of people who voluntarily alter their minds and their personality? What if someone wishes to take these medication? There, I feel, is the point in which they cross the line separating what is right for others and what is right for them. At that point, I feel as if they have every right to proceed.
1. Osama Bin Laden, like every other human being on the planet, deserved to have a fair trial before being punished for his crimes. The fact that he was executed without a trial is a gross miscarriage of justice.

I think that you are confusing free will with free liberty, which is the right to do anything you want.  This is an illusion; nobody has free liberty.  There are many things I can want that I can never have.  For example, I want to hear Jesus preach, and I want to see the first-ever performance of Hamlet, and I want to win the World Series at the same time as I win an Oscar for Best Music.  No matter how much I want to do these things, though, I cannot do them.

It is also important to note that imprisoning a person limits what he can do. Does it take away his free will? No.  He can still choose to do what he wants, even if his options are extremely limited.

2. I am against the death penalty, for many reasons. If I was on the jury, I would have voted to sentence Bin Laden to life in prison, after his guilt was proven.

3. Justice demands that some actions should be illegal.  The classic example is a person's right to shout "FIRE!" in the middle of a crowded theater.  This should be allowed, due to the right of free speech.  But because it causes a panic, it is illegal, and anyone who does this should be punished for disturbing the peace.

It is possible to imagine a scenario where a certain person or oganization should be supressed, for the good of society.  However, I am very, very cautious when it comes to giving someone the ability to surpress others.  History has shown time and time again that this power is generally abused.  People quickly go from "surpressing evil-doers" to "surpressing anyone who disagrees with them".

4. It is possible that a good result can occur from a bad action.  However, it is wrong to perform a bad action, in order to achieve a good result.  The ends do not justify the means, especially when you're dealing with other people, because it is immoral to treat someone as a means to an end, rather than treating them as a person.

For example, say there's a guy who makes videogame walkthroughs on Youtube. And say people sometimes yell at him, because he's not making videos fast enough.  They are treating him as an ends to a means, namely, entertainment, instead of treating him like an actual human being who has a life outside of Youtube.  And that would be immoral.  Just a hypothetical situation.

5. It is certainly possible for someone to voluntarily change their personality.  Pills and drugs are not necessary for this, although they can be extremely helpful, depending on the changes you're trying to make. For the sake of the discussion, I only mentioned people who are forced to take drugs to change their personalities.


GameOverTown said...

You should have answered the question about Phoenix Wright.

C said...

However ... in your suspiciously familiar youtube example (=P), the people bugging the uploader are using him for a selfish end.

Is it still wrong if the end is unselfish? If it betters not only one person, but a hundred? A thousand? If it will improve the future in either the short term or the long? Can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but yeah.

Because if not, you might think of the sparing of the one person as the means, and the slighted population as the end - which makes it a good means to a bad end - and how is that better than a bad means to a good end?

I know you're probably going to say no, and I accept that. This is very subjective ... and to me personally, the wrongness or rightness can't be absolute.

Anonymous said...

Awesome and thank you, Michael!!:):):) You make a great arguement and a lot of points!!:):):) Thumbs up. God Bless you!!!:)

Stephanie Braddock said...

You're right, Osama Bin Laden really wasn't a good example, but I couldn't think of anyone else off the top of my head. I'm going to try and explain my reasoning a little better this time... Sometimes the things that make sense in my head are totally confusing when I put them in words.

Free will is defined as "the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion." Synonyms listed are liberty and freedom of choice. I'm not going to try and really explain what I was thinking when I wrote a lot of that last comment because in hinsight it's not supported and doesn't make a lot of sense, but I was trying to imply that killing someone does, depending on the way you view it, take away free will because nothing they chose to do in that situation could in any way affect the outcome; they really did not have the freedom of choice in that situation. If nothing you do can change an outcome, do you really have freedom of choice? You can choose whatever you want, but if in the end it leads to a single predetermined outcome... I don't know.

To me, the line separating free will and free liberty is blurred. One of the differences I notice between the two is free will implies the right to do whatever you want within the realms of possibility and reality, while free liberty seemingly escapes such confines. Because aren't actions shaped by choices? You act how you choose to. Perhaps the church has a different definition of free will? Not being very religious, I wouldn't know. Of course, I may be completely confused and not making sense. I'm hardly an expert.

The thing is, I've always thought that by giving you freedom to make your own choices, free will also gave you freedom to shape your life, and the way it progressed. I always saw killing as something that took away your choices. Maybe that's just me.

I agree that ends don't justify means... But that doesn't mean sacrifice isn't necessary. In your example, the people trying to achieve the end are doing it selfishly (as C said). But if the outcome is wonderful, if it saves the lives of others, is it not justified? Is it not necessary and in the end, isn't it the best option? It will never be morally "right", it will never be something to celebrate, but wasn't it still the right thing to do? The circumstances will always be different, as there will never be a unanimous "wonderful" or "good" thing, because people have differing opinions. If the death or imprisonment of one person saves thousands... It's choosing the lesser of two evils.

I just assumed you were against all personality-altering drugs, even those taken willingly. If not, my argument becomes rather trivial.

Let me just say before I conclude this comment that I am not trying to offend people. I know I often come across as blunt and belligerent, but I'm not trying to belittle anyone's opinion.

Anonymous said...

Didn't God use a horrible means (the Flood) in order achieve a 'good' end (the purging of wickedness in humanity)?

Didn't he kill the firstborn of many families to achieve the freedom of his people?

Didn't he maul 42 children to death via big angry bear in order that his prophet Elisha was spared some dignity?

William D said...

-sigh- He wanted to make the point that HE was GOD and no one could change that. The little children had been brought up by wicked parents.
HE didnt kill the first born, it was because of The Pharoes stupidity, and FREE WILL that all the plagues came about, and then the death of his son
All the people in the world were COMPLETELY evil at the time, except for Noah and his family. He even gave them chances to go with Noah!!! All of the times that people died back then, was because of sins they committed wth their FREE WILL it wasn't for dignity, it was for the respect of God, Im not going to try and explain any more, because usually people don't care and just argue and argue and ARGUE DX

Anonymous said...

"He wanted to make the point that HE was GOD and no one could change that."

Okay but ... same thing. Killing children? Killing thousands upon thousands of men, women, children, and animals? That goes against his own commandments. By the morals he himself set for us, it is wrong. Michael said it was wrong. End does not justify the means. Perhaps his own rules don't apply to him, but then why should we follow a god who is pretty much "Do as I say, not as I do"?

The children were making fun of his bald head. That is not wickedness; it is immaturity, with grossly disproportionate retribution. I would call that abuse of power on Elisha's part.

And he DID kill the first born. He himself. God. Read the Bible.

"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals"

"At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt"

Free will, perhaps, but the consequence of that free will was carried out by God's own hand.

And yes, the reason we are arguing is because the Bible is full of inconsistencies and contradictions and hypocrisy.

William D said...

I know He did kill the First Borns, and I see how I made that sound in my comment. I'm just not going to try to talk, because if you dont want to believe, you won't. Also I don't want to start a huge comment chain o-o