Patterico's Pontifications


An Incendiary Question

Filed under: General — See Dubya @ 11:59 pm

In the wake of the Schiavo case, I’ve been thinking about the limits of libertarian ethics. I’ve also been thinking about Bill Kristol’s definition of a liberal: someone who would see an eighteen-year-old girl stripping on a stage and the only political concern he had would be to wonder whether she was making the minimum wage. It’s possible I’ve misunderstood the consequences and obligations of libertarianism, so here’s your chance to set me straight. Please answer succinctly in the comments, and if it’s not too much trouble tell me where you’re coming from–libertarian, liberal, conservative, Whig, whatever. Not just liberals and libertarians–I’d like to hear how everyone approaches this problem:

Sandy is a healthy eighteen-year old woman. She is well-educated, not intoxicated, and in her right mind. One day she decides to protest the policies of the Administration, and goes to Lafayette Park across from the White House, douses herself in gasoline, and strikes a match. You are walking by and see her do so. You know Sandy is sober and has made this decision with some premeditation, and understands and intends the consequences of her actions.

You are close enough that you can snuff the match out, without risk to yourself, before Sandy commits a painful and hideous suicide.

1. Do you do so? Why, or why not?
2. If Sandy is pregnant, does that fact change your answer? Why or why not?

See-Dubya, a bloviating religious conservative, believes life is a gift from God. He is walking with you in Lafayette Park and sees Sandy. He draws back his well-thumped bible to knock the match away from her, frustrating her attempt.

3. Do you stop him? Why or why not?

Same situation, except that Sandy is now Srindar, a widow preparing to fling herself on her husband’s funeral pyre in fulfillment of a long-established custom. (We are no longer in present-day Lafayette Park, but let’s not get bogged down in further contextual details.) She will suffer social ostracism–but no legal or material penalty–were she to refuse to kill herself in this way.

4. Do you stop Srindar from immolating herself? (If you give a different answer from 1 above, why?)
5. If someone tries to intervene, do you stop them?

UPDATE 8:40 PM Sunday night–Thanks for many excellent and thoughtful responses. This is exactly what I had hoped for. I will try to jigger the time-stamp on this entry to keep it near the top, above my other posts (but not Patterico’s), tomorrow. So if you return here and still see this post on top, scroll down a bit to see if there’s new stuff below it.

N.B.: A few of you understandably thought this post was by Patterico. Actually, this is by Special Guest Blogger “See-Dubya”. Patterico has foolishly entrusted me with the keys to the blog for a week or so, though he checks in now and then.

NOW: Several of you have justified intervening in these cases by reasoning that Sandy and Srindar simply couldn’t really be in their right minds when they decided to end their lives in such an awful manner. Let me tell you why I think that line of argument won’t wash.

Granted, suicide is usually caused by mental illness, depression, hallucination, whatever. But suicide can be rational. In Sandy’s case she could have–and since I’m writing this let’s say she did–calculate that she could advance very important political goals by giving her life in a spectacular manner. Like Thich Quang Duc, who immolated himself in his protest for religious equality, she may have figured that this was the only way in which she could have gotten her message across. And like disgraced Japanese Samurai who commit seppuku, Srindar may have weighed the prospect of life as an outcast and without honor and found death preferable. They didn’t try turn burn themselves because they thought giant purple spiders were crawling on their skin. They may have miscalculated, but they were being rational. I think this is a very important distinction in the context of the War on Terror.

Consider for a second a soldier who throws himself on a grenade in a foxhole to save his friends. Or consider the Christian understanding of Jesus, who permitted himself to be killed in order to fulfill his mission of redemption (Different from suicide, but close). Or consider a man on the roof of a burning World Trade Center, who decides to leap to his death instead of waiting for the fire to consume him. These are not perfect parallels to Sandy and Srindar, but they are not acts of insanity. The first two are, I would argue, acts of heroism. And the third may be as well; it is at the very least an awful choice far beyond my judgement. By saying that these acts of self-destruction are the acts of madmen, however, any virtue in them is negated.

Likewise, the notion that suicide is simply prima facie evidence of mental illness gives evil a pass. Mohammed Atta & co. acted rationally to advance a monstrous end that encompassed their own suicide. Their loathsome imitators detonate themselves in Iraq and in Israel, killing innocents along with themselves. I do not choose to grant them a blanket insanity plea. They sought to advance a political and religious agenda through their deaths–or the more easily manipulated ones among them chose to sacrifice their own lives and the lives of innocents in exchange for gratification and honor in the afterlife. There is a rational calculation at work behind these decisions to destroy themselves. It is a rational calculation toward an evil end, and employing an evil means. But political scientists have reached differening conclusions on whether or not sucide terrorism is politically effective means –so there is some backing for the notion it might be a rational course of action.

Don’t get distracted here–I am not equating suicide bombing to suicide that harms no one else. (Although I think the acts of suicide described in the hypotheticals are evil and I would stop them.) I hope it’s a no-brainer that everyone reading this would intervene to stop a suicide bomber. I’m just refuting the notion that the decision to end one’s life is automatic evidence of mental illness. That’s a cop-out.

84 Responses to “An Incendiary Question”

  1. This Article Says Nothing To Support The

    verns test blog (1e615f)

  2. On that last point, I am reminded of a story from 19th century India, when a British District Officer came upon some Hindus about to engage in the practice of suttee, or burning a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre. Upon being told that it was the custom, the officer replied that it was a British custom to hang chaps caught doing that sort of thing. Sounds about right with me.

    Roscoe (6e0574)

  3. Yes, I think that’s attributed to Lord Napier–very good! But I didn’t want to bring up that specific example because people tend to get distracted by the colonial power relationship and say things like, well, “the British shouldn’t have been there in the first place.” And there is also the question of whether the suttee is voluntary or not. In this case it is, and forget about the British army, you’re there. What do you do?

    Oh–some confirmation of the Napier story shows up here: Still, given my other favorite Napier story is apocryphal (it’s told in the first link), I’ll just say that if he didn’t really say that, he should have.

    See-Dubya (85b967)

  4. Do I stop Sandy? Yes. To my understanding of the phrase she is not of “sound mind”; that this is a premeditated act only reinforces this belief. Age, health, education, and absence of alcohol are irrelevant.

    Her being pregnant would only heighten the horror of seeing not one, but two lives in danger. One of which has no say in the matter.

    C.W. would get a ‘good job’ pat on the back from me. So, no I would not stop him.

    Yes, I would attempt to stop Srindar from immolation. The walls of a cultural tradition do not climb higher than those of the sancity of life. Cultural traditions are created by man; life is created by God. If I were to rationalize what her her plight would be after I had stopped her, it would be that within her society they would understand that she had attempted her sacrifice but had been thwarted by an outsider. It was through no fault of her own; she did not “refuse to kill herself in that way”. Perhaps they would cut her some slack.

    If someone else were to try to intervene and stop her immolation, I obviously would not attempt to stop that person. If it was someone from within her society, I would feel with a bit of hope that maybe a selfish, misguided tradition was on its way out. I would like to know if husbands in this society are expected to do the same for their wives, should they die first. Or is it a one-way street?

    Where I stand is right of center.

    Randy P. (0fc6c6)

  5. If you have to think about it, you have already lost your humanity. This is something you react to reflexively.

    Alex Condie

    alex condie (55f10e)

  6. I admit my views have never fallen under any real category. Primarily because I try to look at everything, with a logical mind.

    1.It would take a hell of a lot of convincing for me to believe that she knows what she is doing. Maybe more convincing than is really possible. But your question assumes that if it is possible she has done it. I don’t think she she could. There is also the fact that currently such an act would be illegal from several aspects, but you question sounds like you are assuming those are not an issue ether. I’ll stay in the implied boundaries of the question. My concern would be for those around her. Emergency fire and medical personnel would have to be present, to prevent any mishap, and to deal with one if it arises. For thousands of years Japanese samarui(sp) who were defeated in battle, would plunge a 10-12 inch blade into their belly’s and slice them selves open from one side to another. This was considered by their society, more honorable than living, after being defeated. Morality is in the eye of the beholder.

    2.Non issue. This would simply be an extream from of abortion.

    3.No. He has the same right to make his own decisions that she does.

    4.No I don’t stop her, epically if now she has a social obligation.

    5.I hope they realize the crowd would ostracize, or possibly kill them for intervening.

    And please don’t try to tell me I’m wrong. This a question of personal judgment. There is no wrong answer.

    Steve (58b572)

  7. My politics: libertarian. Not sure what your scenario has to do with libertarian, conservative or other political viewpoints…even though I realize that one can argue that all politics is ultimately based on ethics. Yes, the values of some conservatives conflict with the values of some libertarians, especially on the legalization of recreational chemicals and prostitution, but those distinctions seem irrelevant to the hypothetical cases presented here. Libertarians oppose the initiation of violence and support those who choose to defend themselves. So we do value human life, contrary to the rumors!

    Even as I would try to save both females, I would be aware of a sense of hopelessness underlying the circumstances: both individuals would very probably try again, and succeed. At some point, you have to walk away.

    Not all of us libertarians agree on everything, you know…some would argue that we have no more business saving a suicide than we have committing a murder. Not my view. Well, hard cases make bad law.

    I do think that many of my fellow libertarians are a bit silly; they can pretend to be very hard-bitten and unemotional about life and death, but a lot of these guys are computer jocks who have never had to face a moral dilemma bigger than whether to put Rover to sleep. They live in a fantasy world of sci-fi and dopers’ dreams — where the answers are all easy and the regrets don’t ever materialize. Don’t expect their answers to be terribly impressive.

    In the final analysis, I distinguish between politics and ethics in everyday life. I also don’t stop to wax philosophical when some crazy broad is about to go up in flames….!

    L. Barnes (1b54e8)

  8. In a recent post, I should have included D.C. as one of the capitals of dithering in the United States.

    Your questions invite dithering. I will decline the invitation. The saving of human life is, and should be, reflexive, as one of the other commentators has observed, and I trust that it would be for me. And for anyone else, regardless of political stripe.

    I could be wrong.

    Everyman (a10622)

  9. I call myself a conservative with libertarian leanings; I am a registered Republican, but if I were to choose a “third party,” it would be the Constitution Party.

    I value the sanctity of life; therefore I would probably intervene in both instances and I would not stop anyone trying to intervene.

    While I understand someone having a living will or advance directive, I have a hard time applying that to those not already in the dying process. Then it is just killing/suicide for convenience or because that person’s life is “no longer worth living.” Slippery slope, there.

    GunnerBS (3ea98b)

  10. A. Condie: Exactly.

    I am a liberal in some things, conservative in others, sometimes libertarian (although not the ones who think an alien invasion is imminent, and yes, I have heard a libertarian candidate claim that in a public forum). And I can’t imagine not stopping some one from suicide if at all able, and have in fact done so by counsel at the person’s request.

    Ruth (28e6ed)

  11. I am conservative I suppose.

    I would attempt to stop both women from killing themselves pregnant or not. I would assist anyone trying to stop them.

    Monica-Philadelphia (bfa3a3)

  12. In the movie The Incredibles, the superhero is sued because he rescues a suicide jumper. The jumper “didn’t asked to saved” and suffered injuries as a result.

    I would risk being sued because I would react reflexively to save the woman in all scenarios. Her culture/belief system does not dictate my actions; mine does.

    goddessoftheclassroom (48f488)

  13. “Bill Kristol’s definition of a liberal: someone who would see an eighteen-year-old girl stripping on a stage and the only political concern he had would be to wonder whether she was making the minimum wage.”

    Lots of strippers make over the miniumum wage. Most liberals would be concerned with other of her rights, such as workplace safety, and what she would do when she was no longer able to strip.

    Also what sort of consent went into here “choice” to strip. Was it because she only could find work at the minimum wage?

    The last question could illuminate your hypo as well.

    actus (f9abe0)

  14. Ok, as a free and empowered citizen, Sandy has the absolute personal right to kill herself. We all do. On the other shoe, the state has absolutely no right make Sandy’s decision for her. The choice is Sandy’s to make and Sandy’s alone.

    If a moonbat lawyer shows up with a match, I’d be inclined to stop the lawyer at all costs.

    As to Suttee, I do not believe that the practice was entirely voluntary, nor has its elimination entirly helpful to the lot of widows in India. In was, and remains, a sexist nation.

    As to the British Army, India is the largest democracy in the World and would not be without the influence of the British Army and the imposition of British law.

    David L (b55a11)

  15. I think there’s a discontinuity. I don’t believe that any rational process could result in a person’s wanting to burn himself alive. If “I’m going to set myself on fire” is the conclusion, then by definition the thought process that led up to it is seriously flawed.

    So yeah. A passerby has a moral responsibility to try to stop a person from burning himself alive. No question. Circumstances are utterly irrelevant.

    If you take immolation out of the picture and instead posit a gun or something, the answer is still yes, and the rationale is incredibly simple: There might be, possibly, a few reasons why someone should be allowed to suicide. I won’t get into what those reasons are, because that’s a whole other argument, but I will simply acknowledge that they exist.

    However, there are also lots of bad reasons to kill oneself. So the odds are that a person who suicides is making a mistake.

    However, if you stop somebody from killing himself, he can always try again later. No harm done. The potential harm of acting is exactly zero, while the potential harm of refusing to act is huge.

    Of course, a judge explained that exact same argument with respect to a temporary injunction in the Terri Schiavo case, and refused to grant it anyway. So who the hell knows.

    Jeff Harrell (a5b150)

  16. Jeff H: you said “However, if you stop somebody from killing himself, he can always try again later. No harm done. The potential harm of acting is exactly zero, while the potential harm of refusing to act is huge.”

    Which reminds me, sorry that was forgotten when I posted earlier because it was a personal memory … if you are on the scene at the time, if you ‘fail to render aid’ you are responsible for a death that may result in an accident, and I assume a suicide may meet that criterion.

    Ruth (28e6ed)

  17. This could have been an interesting thread! Why did you open with and then choose to abandon Kristoll’s intriguing proposal in favor of your nonsensical simplistic tripe? (A) If you seriously wanted to probe this topic, you might have suggested that Sandi was a German who joined the White Rose, effectively committing suicide by Gestapo torture – how many respondents would take action to lock her up ‘for her own good’? Or, (B) you could follow Kristoll’s case: exactly what actions would each of you take to get her out of the strip club back behind the counter at Burger King?

    You were so close to inspiring a serious discussion . . . What a shame (but no surprise).

    Jeff A (fda7f2)

  18. So what is the meaning and the value of life?

    A world without life has no meaining and a life without meaning has no value.

    Therefore the value of life is in the ongoing living of that life with integrity and purpose.

    In short, if your life has meaning hence value, then you are obliged to intervene on the side of life each and every instance.

    Paul Deignan (811dcb)

  19. First of all, most of the libertarians I know wouldn’t give a shit whether or not she was making minimum wage, because they don’t think such a thing should even exist.

    As for the questions:

    My politics = Chomskyite

    1. I stop her, because what she is about to do is a tragedy on many levels that I have it in my power to prevent. I can prevent her suffering, the suffering of her family, etc., so I would stop her.

    2. Makes no difference, really; possibly makes me slightly less inclined to stop her

    3, 4, 5: yes, for same reasons as above. And why would I stop someone from doing exactly what I am trying to do?

    Dada Head (136f5a)

  20. Note: I tried to post this but the posting appeared to fail. If two copies are posted, please delete the one that doesn’t contain this note. Thanks!

    See Dubya, I will start with the specifics, then discuss theory, then show how the latter forces the former. This may be rationalization of my gut instinct, but so what? In a sense, all philosophy is the rationalization and rational distillation of sense, and the distinguishing of sense from sentiment.

    So I would stop both Sandy and Srindar, whether or not either was pregnant, and I would help anybody else trying to do the same.

    This is a toughie for us libertarians (which I presume is why you asked the question). The first stage is to define just exactly what libertarianism means.

    It cannot simply mean that anyone gets to do whatever he wants, because then libertarianism is indisguishable from libertinism. Though you’d never get this distinction from most people who call themselves libertarians (especially not from the party-archs). To be a viable social and political theory, libertarianism must resolve the inherent contradictions of individuals living within a community at least as well as what we have now… better, one hopes, or else why change?

    It has to work in the real world, or else nobody will accept it. If not enough people accept it, it’s moot… it’s mental masturbation.

    I think I’ll lift a thought from earlier scholars and say that under libertarianism, each person is free to follow his own enlightened self-interest, and the state is empowered only to protect the individual from force or fraud — not to choose the “enlightened self-interest” for the individual. That’s a messy definition but more accurate to what libertarians actually practice.

    I’m a gradualist anarchist: eventually, we won’t need government at all; but that’s a long time in the future. For right now, I function as a minarchist, though I see it as a temporary accomodation. So if I’m willing to accomodate to the State in some things, obviously I’m even more willing to accomodate to my own ideas of right and wrong in some things, even if that affects others who disagree with me.

    What authority does one individual have over another? In pure theory, none; in practice, lots.

    First, there are competing liberties: we live not in the wild as noble savages but in a society that requires compromise… for a simplistic example, we can’t just drive on either side of the highway, because that would make automobile transportation impossible. We compromise, accepting a trivial loss of liberty in order to gain the greater liberty of mobility. Thus theory accomodates to reality: libertarianism can be defined by corollary as maximizing liberty in any given real-world scenario, where liberty is (as above) the pursuit of enlightened self-interest (ESI).

    Second and more controversially, we take people as they come. Not everyone is rational enough to recognize his own ESI. A schizophrenic who actually believes that alien worms have infested his body and must be cut out is not able to recognize that it’s not in his self-interest to cut his stomach open.

    In order to avoid callousness bordering on the grotesque, we cannot pretend such people are actually making choices. That would make liberty into a fetish, not a philosophy! Each of us has the humane duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves — even from themselves.

    Now to your specific cases: Sandy has the right to her ESI… but does she have the right to her chemical imbalance? If it cannot possibly be in her ESI to immolate herself with fire, then she doesn’t have the right to do it. But who judges? If I’m the one you’re asking, then I’m the one who will judge.

    And I must also be the one to accept the consequences, à la the reference to the Incredibles above: I may have to defend myself before my peers. All right; I do accept that necessity. Even if I lose the case, I still believe I did right by trying to save Sandy. Even if later, Sandy finds some other, less spectacular way to commit suicide.

    I believe the government does not have the right to stop her; but every rational individual around her (including cops) has the positive humane duty to stop her. To me, governments have less authority but more duty than individuals; they inherit some (not all) of the liberty of action (authority) from the individuals who compose them, as well as all of the duties plus some others, mostly management and information exchange.

    So yes, I would stop her. I would tackle her and knock her out if necessary… because I would be 100% convinced that she is in an altered state of mind, whether due to depression, drugs, or religous fanaticism, and she is not acting rationally. If she’s pregnant, that just makes my instinctive understanding of the situation easier to justify philosophically. If See Dubya is trying to do the same thing, I’ll help him; maybe the two of us can sit on her head long enough to get a cop or a doctor there.

    (Note: cops often engage in oppressive acts, as when they enforce the BCRA or arrest people for smoking pot; but that doesn’t mean that every act of a cop becomes therefore an act of oppression.)

    Likewise, I would try to stop Srindar and would help anyone else trying to do the same; in her case, she has been coerced into leaping aboard the pyre, in my best judgment — and who else’s judgment can I rely upon in a moment of crisis?

    So there’s my answer, though not in a nutshell. This was a serious enough question that I thought to take an hour respond not just practically but philosophically.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  21. I think there’s a misunderstanding in the assumptions behind the questions. Just because a libertarian might be ideologically opposed to the government getting involved in a particular situation doesn’t mean that the same libertarian would be opposed to society or an individual or even himself getting involved.

    Hidden law and social norms long have handled issues that are too complex for written law to handle. It’s the hubris and greed of lawyers (sorry if that offends our host) that insists that matters of life, death, and family be handled in the courts, where in my opinion, they don’t belong.

    As long as there have been doctors, doctors and families have allowed people to die, and it’s sometimes a very difficult decision. Here and now, in this super-litigious place and time, we somehow think that lawyers are best-placed to decide these issues. They most assuredly are not. Luckily, most of the time these decisions are not subject to judicial review.

    To answer the questions: of course you stop someone from trying to kill herself. The law and one’s political beliefs don’t enter into it. BTW, I mostly identify as small-l libertarian.

    Brian O'Connell (858f0c)

  22. I describe myself as a social conservative who generally favors free market mechanisms to order the economy.

    There is no right to commit suicide under any circumstances. We, individually and collectively, have an obligation to prevent suicide using any reasonable means.

    This follows from 2 interrelated facts. First, we are created in the image and likeness of God. Suicide is a sacriligeous act.

    Second, we are by nature social beings and not autonomous, contracting individuals. We are born into a web of mutual obligation that sustains us throughout the cycle of our lives. Others have claims on us and we have claims on others. This woman’s suicide, then, is a profoundly unjust act – unjust to me and unjust to others. Consequently, I have a obligation to stop it.

    Charles R. Williams (aee16a)

  23. Charles R. Williams, so you believe the people who committed suicide by jumping from the World Trade Center were sacrilegious?

    In general I think society should discourage suicide in proportion to the degree that it is harmful to society. I consider my politics independent and pragmatic.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  24. I’m a moderate conservative, PNAC neocon, global capitalist, civil libertarian.

    I cannot imagine that my actions would be reflective of much of that political philosophy, and I would probably do some rationalizing in retrospect, just like everybody else.

    But it’s my own personality that would make me snuff out the match – the same kind of personality that makes me breakup bar fights and stop kids from stealing bicycles or picking pockets on the subway. So that’s one and two. But I’m also thinking that if I’m close enough to snuff the match, I’m close enough to get my armhairs singed.

    In any other situation, if I’m more than two feet away from it, I will let what happens happen and write about it. Anybody foolish enough to carry out a foolish act ought to be given the opportunity.

    I am aware first and foremost that my responsibility as a citizen under the law is not necessarily that of intervention. And I don’t think one self-immolating loony’s actions disturbs the social contract. But if there were a line of them, I’d get the firehose out right after I call 911. The needs of the many outweigh the needs, or moral self-righteousness of the few or of the one. This kind of one-off chaos doesn’t phase me.

    Cobb (80bf2f)

  25. Some interesting questions, which raise complex issues. So I posted “A Non-Incendiary Answer,” here.

    [SEE-DUBYA adds–Arthur, thanks for the long and thoughtful reply. I should point out that the question was posed by me, Special Guest Blogger See-Dubya, and not Patterico.]

    Arthur Silber (ece1a6)

  26. 1. No one in their right mind kills themself. I’d stop her, and make sure she got mental help.

    2. Wouldn’t make a difference to me.

    3. No. I’d help him.

    4. Probably not. I would have to know more about the custom; if it had no positive consequences, I would try to change it. But I would not get in the way of the existing social order.

    5. Depends on the context. If it was a socially acceptable intervention (say some other guy can save her and they can remarry and so on), then no. If they were interfering, then yes.

    I am coming from a non-religious version of the right.

    jvarisco (2c5028)

  27. I’d probably give them a match. If I didn’t have any matches, only a BIC lighter, they’re on their own.

    But seriously, I think they’d start shrieking with pain and probably get saved before pulling it off, and then the public would be on the hook for their medical care and all that. So I would stop them from killing themselves to save the people money.

    And also because attempted suicide is a capital offense in some jurisdictions. Seriously.

    Richard Bennett (c5751d)

  28. The suicidal are insane. The suicidal are self-absorbed, irrational, and filled with hate.

    I’ve been suicidal. My life previous to this one ended in suicide (drowning). I’ve been there, I’ve done that. The suicidal are distressingly consistent.

    Self-sacrifice is a very different thing. It is the giving of one’s life for others. Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness, a ‘fuck you’ to the world. Never mistake suicide for self-sacrifice.

    Alan Kellogg (3901d0)

  29. And also because attempted suicide is a capital offense in some jurisdictions. Seriously.

    Name one? Then again, successful suicide is a capital offense everywhere.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  30. Answering a Few Questions
    A Few Questions From See Dubya re Suicide Sandy is a healthy eighteen-year old woman. She is well-educated, not intoxicated, and in her right mind. One day she decides to protest the policies of the Administration, and goes to Lafayette…

    Mythusmage Opines (71e36e)

  31. Read “The Savage God”, A. Alvarez’ book on Sylvia Plath. He says as recently as 1860 or so people were hanged in Britain for attempted suicide. The Church condemns it on the grounds that the body belongs to God, so it’s like destruction of church property.

    You can learn a lot of history by studying the law, you should do it sometime.

    Richard Bennett (c5751d)

  32. My only comment in response is, a right-wing conservative (as opposed to a traditional conservative) is someone who’ll spend three nights a week at a strip club for years, then claim to have found Jesus (after reading about as much of the Bible as the 9-11 hijackers read of the Koran), advertise his shame in public ad nauseum, run for Congress…and still sneak away to the strip club now and then.

    Tom Silvestri (d81031)

  33. Would I try to stop someone from preventing the suicide of either woman? No.

    Would I try to stop Sandy myself? Yes – but only because I object to the sight of someone putting themself through prolonged/excruciating agony, not because I am against suicide itself (so if she was trying to kill herself with pills or a bullet my answer would be ‘no, in that case I would respect her choice although I’d be deeply saddened by it’).

    As far Srindar – I would want to stop her on the same grounds but probably wouldn’t try it unless I was sure that I wouldn’t be arrested by local police or murdered by her relatives.

    Scott (57c0cc)

  34. I remember reading in the sixties or early seventies about a policy that the soviet Union had of p[utting political dissenters who couldn’t be convicted of anything else in mental hospitals on the theory that if you disagreed with the state you must be insane.
    Sandy has the right to her protest. I consider her actions a waste, but I wouldn’t interfere. I don’t impose my world view on others. Because I know why she’s doing this, I would, however interfere with anyone trying to stop her. Everyone is entitled to their world view. Nobody is intitled to impose it on others. Because I don’t know how far along she is or how I know she’s pregnant, I’m going to ignore that complication.
    Same for the sutti. If Srindar is more concerned with her community’s oppinion than her life, it’s her chioce.
    I’m a former enlisted Marine. I used to be a republican. I’ve got a wife, two daughter’s and a morgage. I’m not a libertarian, but I agree with most of the libertarian creed. Since it really matters to this discusion, I’ll also mention that I live in Oregon.

    IaintBacchus (64d5ff)

  35. Great hypothetical! It’s fun to see so many self professed libertarians squirming around to justify their blatantly un-libertarian intervention. I am a liberal with a lot of (Real) libertarian leanings. I would, like all good liberals, try to TALK her out of it. Above all else, liberals believe in the reasonableness of all people and the power of dialogue. However if she cannot be dissuaded, then I would have to leave her to her own devices. I wouldn’t watch, however. The power of her protest depends on an audience. And I will do my best to deprieve her of that.

    In the sutti situation I would not attempt to talk the person out of it…. unless I am indian myself and heir to the same tradition. The reason being this is not an isolated incidence. This is a societal issue. Even if you stop one incidence of it, thousands of similar incidences will go on. A problem like this requires a societal change. That’s ultimately the other difference between a liberal and a liertarian. A liberal realizes that there are matters of social good which must be mandated collectively.

    Jesse Lee (cb0ee7)

  36. And also because attempted suicide is a capital offense in some jurisdictions.
    He says as recently as 1860 or so people were hanged in Britain for attempted suicide.

    Silly me. In my idiolect, we use the past tense rather than the present tense to describe things that happened as recently as yesterday, let alone as non-recently as 1860.

    You can learn a lot of history by studying the law, you should do it sometime.

    Either that, or you should learn basic English grammar. It’s actually quite simple, compared to other languages.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  37. This is perhaps the dumbest hypothetical about “libertarian ethics” that I’ve ever seen. Burning yourself to death in a public park is not an expression of freedom. [Why not? — Patterico.] And being a libertarian does not equate “no morals” with “ultimate respect for freedom.”

    Bill from INDC (da1376)

  38. being an extreme right wing conservative i would of course try to save these people. In the extreme right we believe that each of us has a personal obligation to help others. The only thing government is to do is print money, keep order by the least intrusive means possible, organize a national defense. All welfare is private in this view. As to comment 30–I volunteered for vietnam and you can rest assured that if you ever have real problems it is not going to be some libertarian or liberal that saves your butt. It will be come conservative that risks his life because he does not believe that government is your savior and does believe that there is a social contract between us: that we are each of us our brothers keepers.

    john (e6dc5c)

  39. Very interesting. Four people so far wouldn’t save her, which is less than I thought. Two quick points:

    A. Many of you say that politics wouldn’t really enter into this kind of decision–especially since it happens so fast. I never thought that a csae like Terri Schiavo’s would be a “political” decision either–until it happened I naively assumed that if someone was not terminal and not suffering, no one would even think of ending her life. If you would act reflexively to save Sandy or Srindar in this situation, good for you–but I think this discussion shows that doing so (or not doing so) would have political or philosophical implications.

    B. Dafydd ab Hugh says if he is in this situation, he would evaluate that Sandy’s choice is probably the result of a disordered mind and therefore not a free choice, and save her. I say above in the update why I think that’s a cop-out, even though it produces a result I agree with!

    The problem is that definitions of insanity sound much like Marxist definitions of “false consciousness”–if you really knew the way things are, you couldn’t believe the way you do. The potential for abuse in this situation is obvious. I could say–just to hit the libertarian holy grail here–that anyone who used mind-altering substances was obviously delusionary or misinformed about the true facts, and they should therefore be forcefully prevented from doing so.

    C. Just some more background–I had reached the conclusion that a true libertarian would be bound by ideology to allow Sandy and Srindar to kill themselves. But I also know that libertarians aren’t a monolithic block and there’s no reason to assume they believe that way just because I thought they might. I suddenly had an opportunity to ask some actual libertarians and other folks about it.

    So far I’m not convinced that libertarian ideology permits you to interfere with their suicide. But I am gratified to see that most of you are not so bound by the implications of ideology that you would fail to act in an emergency. Logical consistency is nice and all, but if Sandy’s my daughter,or even if she’s not, I’d much prefer that you’re a hypocrite. As a commenter up top put it, if your ideology prevents you from acting, you’ve lost your humanity.

    Keep ’em coming!

    See-Dubya (0cec7f)

  40. Why, thanks for your gentle correction, Bill. Where did I say libertarians have no morals? I don’t think you can burn that straw man here in a public space.

    Why isn’t burning yourself in public an expression of freedom? What if I happen to think it is? You can burn the flag in public. Why not yourself?

    See-Dubya (0cec7f)

  41. A profoundly dense comment from #5: And please don’t try to tell me I’m wrong. This a question of personal judgment. There is no wrong answer.

    As if there is some ojective principle protecting a personal judgement from being judged. Well, if there is some objective protection, then how can your personal judgement be immune from the concept of objectivity?

    That was a conceptual oxy-moron.

    captain mainline (4a3fa0)

  42. I am liberal and the closest short statement of my religious beliefs is that I am a Deist although I also identify with the Jewish tradition..

    1. I snuff out the match. I believe in self-defense and the doctrine of the just war. Other than that, violence is out. The young woman is being unethical and will be of more use to the movement without being dead. Besides I couldn’t live with myself knowing I did not blow the match out. Also, if depression is in any way involved with her getting this far, surviving the suicide attempt may allow her to get beyond it.
    2. No.
    3. No. Go See-Dubya!
    4. I try to convince Srindar not to immolate herself. In this case, the violence is being perpetrated against her by the social custom. It is equally unethical to my mind. But dissuading her is much more difficult than blowing out the match. If I try to physically intervene, the others may override that intervention. It could be dangerous for me and make the situation worse for Srindar by not letting her do it the traditional and, probably, pain minimizing way. She may try to do something equivalent later. All this points to the need to convince her. With situation number 1, blowing out the match only gives me, and others, time to try to convince Sandy.
    5. No.

    Actually the eighteen year old has probably been living on the street for two years supporting herself by prostitution because her Christian Conservative parents beat her for wearing lipstick. So, this job is a big step up. And, hopefully, it pays a living wage not just a minimum one.

    lindat5a (58da30)

  43. Stop both women, but only to sit down and talk to them a bit. Human Beings have an obligation to offer help when we see someone committing a self-destructive act. So I will use every argument I can think of to convince her to change her mind, or least to sleep on it. I wont use or support permanent physical coercion to stop her though, since that’s futile in the long run.

    I dont know what category I fit into, probably left leaning moderate, but I borrow and steal from all political and religious pursuasions as a matter of routine…

    Mark Key (0ead32)

  44. I cannot see where politics enters into this. (For the record, I am a reactionary conservative with libertarian leanings, age 53) Life experience counts for a lot more. If you have lived little, interfering in the life of a complete stranger might sound like a good idea. I’ll bet that all college students would snuff out both matches. But experience teaches that no good deed ever goes unpunished. Snuff out that match, and the would-be victim will sue you or call a cop. Besides, until one is faced with such a life and death decision, he has no idea what he will do in the split second available to act. Many responders here flatter themsalves with their predicted response. When faced with such a situation, most humans will do exactly the same thing – wait for more developments. The few who would act instantly are rare, and are called “heroes.” Everybody else would freeze until it was too late.

    Aside from that, there are two principles that apply here. First, I do not feel that I have the right to interfere with the life choices of complete strangers. Second, as to suicide #2, we Americans have no right to force our Judeo-Christian sensitivities upon ancient societies. Having spent two years in India, I can assure you all that that woman’s life would not be worth living, as far as she would believe, body and soul. By interfering, you condemn her. And, you would then probably be immediately dismembered by a mob as soon as you had seen to it that she was “safe”.

    Michael Gersh (07be25)

  45. I object to implication that politics precedes personality/moral choices. The causality seems to be exactly opposite–people choose their politics by their personality.

    If we were to let politics define morality, there would be consistency in my neocon styled answer in #17.

    Now, putting the cart before the horse and thinking as a “liberal”, I would probably ask Sandy to pause long enough to search her purse for any credit card that wasn’t already maxed out and any loose change, etc. If not, then definitely get a photo or video for the historic record of the moving event (and maybe a cool 10G or better from AOL-TW).

    As a libertarian, I would probably do little circles around her babbling off nonsense about freedom and respect until she got dizzy at which time, well …. There is shrubury in the park right?

    As a conservative, I would realize that with so many young hippies eventually become multi-billionaire insurance salesmen, media moguls, and entrepreneurs, that it would likely be good hedge to my social security “fund” to investigate the potential fiscal feasibility of the proposition that was about to go up in flames. As a conservative, I do appreciate opportunity costs.

    Paul Deignan (86e248)

  46. 1. The right to life is an inalienable right, meaning that it cannot legitimately be surrendered. Thus I am not bound to respect a person’s wish to commit suicide. They have no right to do so, and any person of good will has a duty to stop it. I snuff out the fire.

    2. The possibility of a pregnancy makes no difference, I snuff out the fire either way.

    3. No I don’t stop him. One is not bound to respect her attempt to kill herself, because the right to life cannot legitimately be surrendered, rendering the suicide attempt illegitimate, and thus compelling any person of good will to attempt to stop it.

    4. Yes, I stop Srindar from committing suicide as well. Same reason as #1.

    5. Question is unclear. If you mean “intervene” as in question #3, then you help them. If you mean “intervene” in terms of stopping you from saving the woman, you should use force against anyone who would intervene to ensure that she does not commit suicide.

    thoughtomator (e88291)

  47. I am trying my hardest to address these questions seriously, but I don’t see what it is that is so difficult about them.

    They seem to me to be based on the false premise that libertarians are paralyzed from doing anything, or that their morality has to necessarily be different from a conservative’s or a liberal’s. Libertarianism is not necessarily about what the right or wrong thing to do in a given situation is. It’s about whether or not a law should be passed because of that situation, and usually, the belief that the government is too blunt an instrument to use in many cases.

    I, personally, would snuff out the match. Because I think that while she might be resolute in the moment, she also might not have made that decision at a later or earlier moment in her life. If she’s pregnant, then I would HOPE that, given time to cool off, she would decide not to do that.

    But of course, if she truly wanted to kill herself, then I would be powerless to stop her in the long run. Given the opportunity, however, I would definately stop her.

    There is no reason other than that is what I feel the right thing to do would be. I would not be able to live with a clean conscience if I had had the opportunity to stop her and had not taken it.

    That is all.

    Adam (b4dc6f)

  48. I’m a prototypical young college male who pretends to be a fervent liberal as a tactical stratagem to lure impressionable coeds into the sack.

    Therefore, if Sandy’s a hottie she must be stopped at all costs and vigorously, uh, lectured back in the room about the evils of second-hand suttee.

    If Sandy’s a bowser and/or pregnant, well, I didn’t even notice her since I’m kind of hurrying to the sorority hall to prattle on about global baby seal warming — or whatever gay crap those chicks are mooning about this afternoon.

    Srindar’s on her own, dude. Nothing personal, I’m just not usually into black chicks … except as good friends of course. We ARE talking about Srindar the Alpha Tau pledge, right? From Philly? Don’t worry, she’s bluffing. Trust me.

    Che, BMOC (4f5230)

  49. Fascinating topic. Thank you. I am right of center, with libertarian leanings.

    I would, in all instances, act to save the lives at risk. There being no time for thought in such situations, one ought to act first and sort it out later.

    In theory, I might agree that the rational actors are entitled to kill themselves (not the baby), but I cannot accept that they are entitled to make me listen to their screams or lessen my humanity by forcing me to stand aside.

    carpundit (47fc7b)

  50. See Dubya, while jumping from the World Trade Center to avoid being burned alive is understandable and not in my opinion blameworthy, there is no way that it was a heroic act. You don’t become a hero by taking the easy path (or by taking a hard path pointlessly). If I recall correctly at least one person on the ground was killed by a jumper so it is at least arguable that not jumping was the heroic action.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  51. I agree with carpundit, libertarian ideology may imply a right to suicide but public suicide which involuntarily involves unwilling passersby is a different matter. Compare with masturbation.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  52. Right, it’s the old “cry for help” thing.

    Richard Bennett (869893)

  53. “I agree with carpundit, libertarian ideology may imply a right to suicide but public suicide which involuntarily involves unwilling passersby is a different matter.”

    But, aren’t you voiding the cause of the suicide by not allowing it is public. If the said person commits suicide in private, the suicide it no longer advances a cause andtherefore is no longer “contimplative” and “rational.” Would not a litbritarian say this voids the right of self determination and the right to speek.

    I just need some clarification.

    Good topic though.

    Dingo (e478de)

  54. Dingo, libertarian ideology does not mean everyone gets to do whatever they want. Reasonable restrictions are allowed when needed to protect the rights of others. Of course people will differ as to where to draw lines. The US has traditionally allowed most speech even when “offensive” to others. You could argue that burning yourself alive is a form of expressive speech (such an argument has been made for nude dancing) and should be allowed for this reason but I consider this dubious. In any case even regular speech is subject to reasonable content neutral restrictions such as no bullhorns at 3am. I find “no burning yourself alive in public parks” to be a reasonable restriction.

    Also even a private suicide might be used to advance a cause if observers are present. The most plausible such cause is making suicide socially acceptable for the terminally ill.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  55. Thanks very much to all who responded. I remain unconvinced that intervening to save Sandy and Srindar can be justified according to strict libertarian ideas–although you’ve posted some very interesting corollaries and provisos that might permit it. On some level, saving these women’s lives involves a negation of their right to end them, and an interference with their absolute control of their bodies. Snatching the match away implies at least an assault and battery as well as a petty larceny–and therefore an insult to their rights. I haven’t, on the other hand, seen any explanation of how their suicide harms others.

    Maybe because setting fires in public places is bad? Because it burns the public grass and because EMT’s might be summoned? Because it smells bad? Is that the strongest libertarian argument against stopping self-murder?

    As I said in a comment above, however, I’m glad to see that in most cases decency trumps political and intellectual consistency.

    See-Dubya (0cec7f)

  56. Sandy’s suicide harms others by spoiling their peaceful enjoyment of a public park just as playing a boom box extremely loud would. In addition by giving you a chance to stop her, she is involuntarily involving you in her death. There have been cases of “suicide by cop” in which people trick cops into killing them. Would you claim there is no harm to the cop?

    As for “assault and battery” and “petty larceny”, I doubt that these apply. Is it assault to push someone out of the way of an approaching car?

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  57. No, but it is a battery, technically speaking.

    Xrlq (6c76c4)

  58. Xrlq, are you saying it is unlawful to push someone out of the way of an approaching car?

    [I doubt he is. It’s a battery — but defense of others is a valid affirmative defense. — Patterico]

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  59. XRLX has a very interesting concept of the law.

    Richard Bennett (2959d8)

  60. It depends on what you mean by “unlawful.” It wouldn’t be a criminal offense, of course, but civilly, just about any unconsented touching is a battery. Of course the circumstances would be relevant if the ingrate were to sue you later on, and would reduce to damned near zero the odds of a jury awarding him more than a dollar. However, I do not believe it would make the tort go away completely. If so, maybe a law student who still has this stuff fresh in his mind will chime in now.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  61. It might be a criminal offense, though I can’t see any elected prosecutor being stupid enough to charge it that way. If you intend to hit somebody and you hit them (or even touch them) that’s criminal battery. I think there’s a requirement that the touching be unconsented as well, but I don’t remember for sure. I’ll guess there are emergency exceptions that have developed in the common law or by statute, but the basic elements are there.

    See-Dubya (85b967)

  62. The legal question revolves around intent.

    Richard Bennett (2959d8)

  63. Richard Bennett, I don’t think intent is determinative. If I am hallucinating and injure someone saving them from an imaginary car, I don’t think the fact I meant no harm will be a complete defense. Rather I think there is (or should be) an implied or assumed consent to act in some emergency situations to protect people from harm when obtaining their explicit consent is impractical.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  64. Your example is one of diminished capacity, where intent is more or less beside the point.

    Richard Bennett (2959d8)

  65. But maybe you’re saying that the tubers have diminished capacity. That’s probably true, and the key to their objection.

    Richard Bennett (2959d8)

  66. But in the hypos above, killing yourself probably implies a waiver of the “implied intent to rescue”, if there is one.

    See-Dubya (45d007)

  67. Richard Bennett, I don’t think diminished capacity makes intent besides the point. Running over someone accidentally while driving drunk is different from running over someone deliberately while driving drunk.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  68. There is no such thing as a right to end life/commit suicide; there is only the de facto inability to stop a committed and capable person from doing so. No libertarian tradition can justify that, only the unfounded fad-style anarchism that many mistake for libertarianism.

    Libertarianism is fundamentally grounded in liberty. It may sound redundant to say that explicitly, but it is important in that it also describes what libertarianism is not – advocacy of license to do just anything.

    Thus, any libertarian with a sound understanding of the term must justify his arguments based on some inalienable right of human beings, for it is from those rights that liberty is defined. The right to life is one of these inalienable rights. However, there is no right to death, and never has been.

    The alleged “right to die” is historically derived not from the Judeo-Christian tradition of liberty that traces itself from Exodus to the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, but instead from the eugenics movement in Europe from the 1880s onward.

    No soldier of freedom ever shed his blood for the right to die, as they have for the right to life, the right to own property, the right to free speech, association, and religion, or the right of self-defense. The “right to die” should not be associated with libertarianism in any way, as it is neither born nor derived from the tradition of liberty.

    thoughtomator (e88291)

  69. Dude, the fundamental right that libertarianism seeks to protect and preserve, as I understand it, is the right to be left alone.

    Plenty of people have fought and died for that right, thank you very much.

    Richard Bennett (869893)

  70. Thoughtomater, much as it pains me to agree with the resident troll, Dickie’s right about this one. Any libertarian worth his salt will indeed acknowledge that the individual owns his own life, and has a right to end it if he chooses to do so. To the extent a self-proclaimed libertarian argues otherwise, he should acknowledge that at least on this particular issue, he’s not a libertarian.

    Xrlq (e2795d)

  71. I disagree entirely. The source of our liberty is God and all the historical thinkers whose works have contributed to make libertarianism what it is acknowledge this, universally. Just take a look at the Declaration of Independence; or have a gander at the quote (from Deuteronomy) on the Liberty Bell. A person does not own his own life – God does. And thus it follows that only God can legitimately end it.

    thoughtomator (e7819e)

  72. That doesn’t follow at all. For one thing, many self-described liberarians (or, depending on which poll you read, most) are atheists. For another, anyone who advocates a legal system defining everyone’s rights and duties according to his belief structure is a theocrat, not a libertarian. Even if we all agreed that there is a God, and that only he has a right to end anybody’s life, could one not argue just as persuasively that only God has the right to stop anyone from killing himself?

    Funny how everybody’s version of God just “happens” to take that person’s side of every major political issue.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  73. Maybe it runs the other way, X. Maybe one’s political affiliations just happen to fall along the side you think God wants you on.

    As for theocrats, how about that whole endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights thing? theocrats at work?

    If I didn’t believe rights were granted by God, I wouldn’t believe in rights. So I guess I’m a theocrat in your book?

    See-Dubya (45d007)

  74. Potayto/potahto. Your own views color both your political preferences, and those that you are likely to ascribe to God. If everyone could agree what God thinks, who’d bother debating him in the political sphere? I can’t picture anybody, other than maybe a Satanist, arguing without irony that “God may support X, but I don’t,” regardless of the topic.

    As to your question, no, I would not call you a theocrat solely because you believe God created your rights. I would, however, call you a theocrat if you attempted to legislate along those lines. From God’s perspective, you have no right NOT to attend church (or synagogue, etc.) every Sunday (or Saturday). Should I have that legal right?

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  75. I do too have the right not to attend church, one I exercise fairly often. But, then, God gave us free will and reason.

    As for making laws along theocratic lines, I think life is precious even when it’s damned inconvenient (eg Schiavo), certainly not because I love people so much but because God commands me to. And I’m perfectly willing to ram that value through the legislature.

    See-Dubya (85b967)

  76. How about we change out simple-minded way of thinking about “religion” for a moment. Religion is not something you buy off a shelf at a 5&10 nor is it a form of mental bondage.

    The essence of religion is an awareness of trancendence in the Universe. In the western tradition, that trancendence extends to the human individual. I use the mathematical context in the word “trancendent”–it is the product of extradimensionality.

    Realizing this, thoughtomator is correct to base his concept of libertarianism on a religious notion. I would differ with him perhaps on the implications of this trancendental awareness. None of us can claim to be free unless we also acknowledge a trancendental aspect in our existence. Otherwise, we are slaves to our environment.

    Paul Deignan (7c55a3)

  77. If God gave us free will to not attend church, he also gave us free will to kill ourselves, or for that matter, each other. Hardly a principle you’d want to base a legal system on, though.

    Xrlq (c51d0d)

  78. Xrlq,

    The alternative to free will is determinism and there is no reason for responsibility in that, only avoidance of punishment and search for reward.

    In other words, moral principles would be worthless. Laws would lack a moral character so that they would be respected only to the extent that someone would enforce them. While its true that many people act like this already, I think you would be surprised to see the what level we would sink to if only reward and punishement mattered.

    (The communist systems post idealism are one example).

    Paul Deignan (7c55a3)

  79. Just dropping a few thoughts in:

    A) A hearty endorsement of:
    “The alleged “right to die” is historically derived not from the Judeo-Christian tradition of liberty …The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, but instead from the eugenics movement in Europe from the 1880s onward.
    No soldier of freedom ever shed his blood for the right to die, as they have for the right to life, …association, and religion, or the right of self-defense.”

    I appreciate the clarification on “right to die” origins, and while libertarians want to be “left alone”, I am not sure how many have gone to war and have been willing to die simply to be,”left alone”.

    B)I would say the following happens all of the time, just not so explicitly: “can’t picture anybody, other than maybe a Satanist, arguing without irony that “God may support X, but I don’t,” regardless of the topic.”

    Typically when it happens it is more in the form of, “I don’t believe that is what the Bible means”, etc. Although “the legend of the Grand Inquisitor” in the “Brothers Karamazov” has a direct face to face where a religious leader tells Jesus He did it all wrong.

    C) Concerning the following:
    “Funny how everybody’s version of God just “happens” to take that person’s side of every major political issue.”

    The important thing is not if God is on our side, but it we are on God’s side (see Joshua chapter whatever where he meets with the Captain of the Army of the Lord).

    D) Free will to choose (granted to us by God) does not mean free from consequences. while it may seem unwise to “make laws based on religion” for some, I always found do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness as pretty good for starters.

    MD in Philly (b3202e)

  80. MD

    Good post. I hope somehow that “reward and punishment” sparked the “crime and punishment” reference. (It would make my day complete).

    Paul Deignan (7c55a3)

  81. “reward and punishment” -> “crime and punishment” -> Dostoevsky -> “brothers karamazov”?

    Paul Deignan (7c55a3)

  82. For those a little bored, this is worth your time: The Grand Inquisitor

    And they say there is no culture in the blogosphere.

    Paul Deignan (7c55a3)

  83. Let us cut through the free will/determinationism argument, and accept that if we didn’t all believe in free will, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.

    Given free will, however, does not make it follow that all choices born of free will are equal. We can murder through free will; but there are consequences to that choice. Likewise there is a consequence to the choice to allow others to kill themselves – we devalue our own lives, and the lives of every human being, where we do not acknowledge the special nature of humanity. We are not merely an evolved animal – we are something more than that. Our uniqueness in the known universe ought to be sufficient proof even for the most hardcore atheist, that rules for humans should not be made under the assumption that we are just another kind of animal.

    thoughtomator (e88291)

  84. […] If you can say you are comfortable with murdering that creature with a pair of scissors, you are like the libertarian who says he wouldn’t prevent a healthy woman from burning herself to death. You are allowing your ideology to blind yourself to your basic humanity. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » A Discussion of Abortion — Part Five: When Does a Fetus Resemble a Baby? (421107)

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