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Re^2: Information sharing

by dragonchild (Archbishop)
on Jun 05, 2004 at 04:17 UTC ( #361354=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re: Information sharing
in thread Information sharing

I want to address this argument because it actually ends up somewhere I don't think you want to be.

Some backgroud is in order. I am a Wiccan, which means I actually have only one ethical precept, called the Wiccan Rede. It reads: An it harm none, do what thou wilt. We also have only one law (more of an observation, really) called the Rule of Three. It reads: Whatever you do returns threefold upon you.

All Wiccans agree that if I rape someone, I have violated the Rede, as I have caused harm. Same goes for (most) killing, theft, assault, etc. Most Wiccans would also agree that by helping others, I am helping me and mine. So far, so good.

Most Wiccans would also say that if I give someone a knife, knowing they are capable of killing, and they use that knife to kill, I have committed harm. I vehemently disagree with this.

For me to withold that knife, I must assert a greater moral capability than my friend. I am, in effect, making the moral choice for him. This is the same attitude that the Chinese goverment has when they ban certain websites on the grounds that the sites are seditious. Their reasoning goes something like this:

  1. If a citizen were to read something that maligns the government, they will be swayed by it.
  2. If the citizen is swayed by it, we'll have to imprison them.
  3. Since imprisoning a citizen is bad, we have to prevent the citizen from being exposed to what will get them imprisoned.

The problem here is that the government is asserting that the citizen is a stupid sheep that has no capability to do the right thing. In effect, the only entity capable of moral action is the government.

Here's another example, from the West. In nearly every industrialized nation, suicide is illegal. It is against the law to kill yourself. Why? Who have I harmed? Am I not in control of my body? Essentially, the goverment is saying that it knows better than I do. The same goes for the "War On Drugs" and several other intrusive initiatives.

The point being that if I have to be morally responsible for the concesquences of your actions, I have to assert that you are a lesser being, morally, than I am. I hope that's not what you want to say.

------
We are the carpenters and bricklayers of the Information Age.

Then there are Damian modules.... *sigh* ... that's not about being less-lazy -- that's about being on some really good drugs -- you know, there is no spoon. - flyingmoose

I shouldn't have to say this, but any code, unless otherwise stated, is untested

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re^3: Information sharing
by robartes (Priest) on Jun 05, 2004 at 06:23 UTC

    At the risk of dragging this thread way OT:

    For me to withold that knife, I must assert a greater moral capability than my friend. I am, in effect, making the moral choice for him. This is the same attitude that the Chinese goverment has when they ban certain websites on the grounds that the sites are seditious.

    Again, I disagree. You are correct on the one hand if you say that it is not our place to make moral choices for other people. Aside from the fact that if you choose to live in a society that sets certain moral standards (you shall not kill, etc), some of which are even 'universal' standards that you will find wherever more than two people join together, you will have to live according to those standards, people should be able to set their own moral compass.

    On the other hand, witholding our hypothetical murderer a knife does not equate to making a moral choice for him. He has already made his moral choice, you are just providing one means of acting upon that choice. In effect, you yourself are making a moral choice - you are choosing to believe that your actions in this case will not have harmful consequences, or rather, that whatever harmful consequences they will have are not your fault, and thus not your moral repsonsibility. That's where I disagree with you. I would withold the knife.

    Perhaps, if you want to discuss this further, we should take this elsewhere - this is a Perl community after all, not a moral debating society :)

    CU
    Robartes-

      From dragonchild's post:
      Most Wiccans would also say that if I give someone a knife, knowing they are capable of killing, and they use that knife to kill, I have committed harm. I vehemently disagree with this.
      (emphasis mine) From robartes's post:
      On the other hand, witholding our hypothetical murderer a knife does not equate to making a moral choice for him.
      (emphasis also mine) We are all capable of murder, and we are all hypothetical murderers. Yet I am sure that if a guest comes to your home to eat steak, you hand them a knife, knowing that they may be capable of murder.

      We're all capable of plenty of awful things. Trust is the hope that we won't do awful things. In the absence of direct information about intent, IMHO, information should be spread.



      -----------------------
      You are what you think.

Re^3: Information sharing
by baruch (Beadle) on Jun 09, 2004 at 03:53 UTC
    Most Wiccans would also say that if I give someone a knife, knowing they are capable of killing, and they use that knife to kill, I have committed harm. I vehemently disagree with this.

    I probably agree with you, since just about everyone is capable of killing, but most people don't wind up killing others. But to give someone a knife, knowing that they intend to kill, I feel, is contributing to their crime. In that case, you are culpable, and you have done harm.

    I'm not clear, however, whether you meant to discuss the case where someone intends to do harm, and you knowingly give them the tools to do this. It seems to me unlikely that you'd claim to be exempt from accountability in that case... (?)


    בּרוּך
      Let's look at the following situation:
      1. You intend to do harm
      2. I provide access to the necessary tool(s)
      3. Before you perform your action, you're killed in an accident

      Have I still committed harm? My entire involvement is in steps 1 and 2. The fact that you never actually committed harm shouldn't affect my ethical burden ... or does it?

      My point, which wasn't clear, is that to attach ethical burden to intent is to create a thought crime. Intent and action are two different things. "Intended murder" isn't a crime in the US. "Attempted murder", which is the action that just happened to fail, is the crime. (And, frankly, it should have the exact same penalties as murder. You tried to do the exact same thing, but failed. You shouldn't receive legal benefit from your own incompetence.)

      ------
      We are the carpenters and bricklayers of the Information Age.

      Then there are Damian modules.... *sigh* ... that's not about being less-lazy -- that's about being on some really good drugs -- you know, there is no spoon. - flyingmoose

      I shouldn't have to say this, but any code, unless otherwise stated, is untested

        Good point. I think, though, that you're mixing law and morality, which are not only distinct, but often contradictory. As you say, it is no crime to intend to murder, though in fact I see some erosion of this principle (intent to use drugs is often alleged, for example). But in general, it's still not a crime to intend to commit a crime.

        On the other hand, I believe that there are consequences to our intents, as well as our actual successful acts. In the case you cited (the person dies before committing the crime), the intent was still to do harm. That no harm actually occurred may mitigate the consequences, but it does not, IMNSHO, eliminate them completely. I acknowledge that this is simply my own belief. At this point it may be necessary for us to agree to disagree, which is fine with me. Some day I may come around to your view, or vice versa. Until then, I respect that you feel as you do (and I assume you reciprocate).


        בּרוּך

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