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"killing His Own People"


GeorgeW
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During the Iraq War, President Bush often said of Saddam Hussein that he killed his own people, suggesting some higher level of evil. Recently, this same thing has been said of Qaddafi. This begs the question (at least to me) - Why is this particularly heinous? Is Iraqis killing Iraqis more immoral than Iraqis killing Iranians?

 

Recognizing that this is not a pleasant topic to bring up, I suggest that we intuitively think that it is a higher crime for a person to kill his own than to kill others. Unjustified killing (murder) alone is one violation of our moral code and a leader violating his responsibility to care for his people (family, tribe, citizens, etc.) is another. So, I propose that murdering ones own people violates two moral principles: 1. Dont murder, 2. Care for your own.

 

Does anyone think that any unjustified killing is morally equivalent to unjustified killing of ones own?

 

(I think there is also a scale factor, but will leave that for now.)

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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What is the point of putting one thing on a scale as being worse, better, or the same as something else?

 

Good question, but, I suggest that we instinctively make these moral judgements.

 

This finds its way into our laws and application of laws. Most people, I am quite confident, consider serial killing worse than a single drunken act. A mother killing her children gets a lot more attention than a 'routine' murder of unrelated adults.

 

The immorality of lying and stealing differs according to context and effect.

 

George

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Are you saying that each of us evaluates this differently?

 

George

 

I think your example and questions in the opening post have already testified to this. Each mind is conditioned so that even though many may have mutual agreement, there will always be those who arrive at a different conclusion based on their conditioning.

 

Joseph

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What is the point of putting one thing on a scale as being worse, better, or the same as something else?

 

IMHO, when we must choose the lesser of two evils. Or, alternatively, when we need to choose between two (imperfect) goods that appear to be mutually exclusive. Sometimes, ethics must be pragmatic, and this involves evaluating people, things, and events with more options than "worthy" and "unworthy." I agree with George that this sort of evaluation (and justification, and criticism) are central activities. I also agree with Joseph that, as a matter of how the world works, there are a multitude of differences in how people evaluate the world and what ideals they use to do so.

 

At the same time, discussions of worth should not exhaust a discussion of morality. The entire point of Christian love and charity is that moral action is a personal and involves one person acting toward & for another, with an emphasis on "other" - it's not supposed to matter who you are, who the other is, or the context*.

 

Now, whether a discussion of a hierarchy of worth is compatible with Christian morality... that gets messy real quick. Some days I think Max Weber is right when he says the Sermon of the Mount promotes an "ethic of ultimate ends" which is wholly uninterested in matters of worth and outcomes, as all distinctions dissolve within Christ. Of course, Weber's claim is that Christian morality is, by definition and intent, an impossible ideal, which may or may not be a problem.

 

 

*this is a very messy gross generalization, but I think Christian morality has certain universals within it which are always important.

 

(And I'm still trying to decide what, if anything, useful I have to say about the original post)

Edited by Nick the Nevermet
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The issue dates back to Thomas Hobbes who, with references to the Bible, concluded that a sovereign state must (at least) protect its subjects from any form of death other than natural causes.

 

Do you recall the Biblical references? I couldn't recall one that made this point. If it is a universal moral principle (instinctive), one would expect to find it, at least implicitly.

 

George

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*this is a very messy gross generalization, but I think Christian morality has certain universals within it which are always important.

 

 

Nick,

 

I am suggesting that this is a human universal, part of our instinctual makeup as social animals.

 

George

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Nick,

 

I am suggesting that this is a human universal, part of our instinctual makeup as social animals.

 

George

 

I realize. I was just saying some could claim that “situational ethics” aren't particularly “Christian” (sorry for the scare quotes, but those labels are … contestable, shall we say?)

 

At any rate, I definitely agree with you that a desire to identify with a group is a universal human trait. At the same time, however, most of our instinctual behaviors are sometimes morally justifiable, and not at other times. So, the question for me is when this is a moral impulse, specifically in relation to nation-states. And I'm unsure, because I can think of plenty of instance where I think it should and shouldn't, but I can't find a coherent pattern I can justify quite yet.

 

 

… as always, I'm over-analyzing ;)

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Do you recall the Biblical references? I couldn't recall one that made this point. If it is a universal moral principle (instinctive), one would expect to find it, at least implicitly.

 

George

 

I'm not sure of the exact passages as I am relying on The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Hobbes is a early example of Social Contract Theory. His views regarding the Bible are non-traditional and belong in the category of moral theory. In short, Hobbes believed the Bible is a good place to start in the development of a sound moral theory.

 

minsocal

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At the same time, however, most of our instinctual behaviors are sometimes morally justifiable, and not at other times. So, the question for me is when this is a moral impulse, specifically in relation to nation-states. And I'm unsure, because I can think of plenty of instance where I think it should and shouldn't, but I can't find a coherent pattern I can justify quite yet.

 

 

Although we do, IMO, have an inborn moral impulse (our social nature), we also have needs for personal gratification such as lust, greed, envy, etc. I think these competing impulses operate in tension both on an individual level and a society level.

 

We, individually or collectively, sometimes act in our personal self interest, but we realize that we are also violating some intuitive moral code. So, in doing so, we come up with elaborate justifications and rationals. Sometimes we even fool ourselves.

 

George

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During the Iraq War, President Bush often said of Saddam Hussein that he killed his own people, suggesting some higher level of evil. Recently, this same thing has been said of Qaddafi. This begs the question (at least to me) - Why is this particularly heinous? Is Iraqis killing Iraqis more immoral than Iraqis killing Iranians?

 

Recognizing that this is not a pleasant topic to bring up, I suggest that we intuitively think that it is a higher crime for a person to kill his own than to kill others. Unjustified killing (murder) alone is one violation of our moral code and a leader violating his responsibility to care for his people (family, tribe, citizens, etc.) is another. So, I propose that murdering one's own people violates two moral principles: 1. Don't murder, 2. Care for your own.

 

Does anyone think that any unjustified killing is morally equivalent to unjustified killing of one's own?

 

(I think there is also a scale factor, but will leave that for now.)

 

George

 

I think that morality is the wrong term to use in this discussion. Tribe Survival - tribalism - is the operative agency that makes it more repugnant for a leader to kill his own than to kill in general. I believe this goes back to when the human species first emerged from the trees and began competing for a higher quality protein (meat) in the open savannahs.

 

Humans formed into groups, or tribes, and would compete against other such tribes for sometimes scarce resources. These tribes developed complex social orders with the invention of religion, government and warfare.

 

So that for a leader to turn against the tribe is seen as not only murderous, but also traitorous - and a threat to the survival of the tribe.

 

The fact that President Bush exploited this mentality to sell a war to the American public shows how engrained those early evolutionary steps are embedded into our psyche.

 

The hopeful side of me believes that the Qaddafi's of the world are a past evolutionary step gradually being phased out by more intelligent apes.

 

NORM

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I guess for me I have a hard time thinking that there is any other choice than to live life out of love. Making choices from love. I find ethical discussions to be such a waste of energy.

 

I agree and disagree. Yes, we should endeavor to live our lives based on love.

 

Not everyone is interested in this sort of discussion and that is fine. But, I don't think that ethical discussion and analysis is a waste of energy. I personally think that it is very worthwhile to understand our behavior and impulses. Although we like to think that our actions are completely rational (or irrational), we also, IMO, operate under social and genetic constraints. And, understanding these might facilitate achieving a more positive outcome.

 

George

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