The Moral Side of Murder

Is any killing moral or justified?

This debate has come to the fore as extremists blow up people simply to make a point because they are not being heard and other military organisations assassinate those considered a threat to life or industry while the US administration is routinely assassinating people and communities around the world in addition to having caused the death of thousands of its own people in the Twin Towers atrocity like the drone strikes that kill entire families, 


In part one of the lecture by Michael Sandel at Harvard University entitled ‘Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? The question is debated.

If you had to choose between (1) killing one person to save the lives of five others and (2) doing nothing even though you knew that five people would die right before your eyes if you did nothing—what would you do? What would be the right thing to do? That’s the hypothetical scenario Professor Michael Sandel uses to launch his course on moral reasoning. After the majority of students votes for killing the one person in order to save the lives of five others, Sandel presents three similar moral conundrums—each one artfully designed to make the decision more difficult. As students stand up to defend their conflicting choices, it becomes clear that the assumptions behind our moral reasoning are often contradictory, and the question of what is right and what is wrong is not always black and white.

In part two, Sandel introduces the principles of utilitarian philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, with a famous nineteenth century legal case involving a shipwrecked crew of four. After nineteen days lost at sea, the captain decides to kill the weakest amongst them, the young cabin boy, so that the rest can feed on his blood and body to survive. The case sets up a classroom debate about the moral validity of utilitarianism—and its doctrine that the right thing to do is whatever produces “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Editors comment
In Part two I agree, the four guys on the boat could also be the last 100 survivors or our species, survival is more important than extinction, therefore normal morality may be waived and this would be more acceptable if the person voluntarily gave their life so others may live much as many heroes have died in battle.

However, the killing we have seen by the United States administration over the past 200 years is totally immoral, not to mention the highly illegal.

Organ theft and murder for organs is an inexcusable and not exactly an uncommon crime. In today’s society, I think murder for organs is a reprehensible crime, however if it were for instance, to save the last breeding female of the species, this would be more acceptable and more so if the person voluntarily gave their life so others may live.

The base line for me is the definition that ‘the continuity of our species will ultimately bring the greatest happiness and that the happiness of a few should not be dependant on the suffering of others’ we are all in this together, so lets all work toward a common goal.

Further reading

Harvard University.
Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration. By John Locke
Two Treatises of Government (Everyman S.) Peter Laslett’s edition of Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government” is widely recognised as one of the classic pieces of recent scholarship in the history of ideas, and has been read and used by students of political theory throughout the world.