Monday, October 14, 2013

Homicide or suicide?

Freewill theists draw a bright line between God "causing, commanding, or determining" a human agent to do something, and "allowing" the agent to do it to himself or other humans. Let's consider two different scenarios.

Suppose the paperboy has an affair with the wife of an insurance salesman. While he's away at work every day, his wife and the paperboy conduct an illicit affair. Then, one day, the insurance salesman comes home early and catches them in flagrante delicto. He shoots the paperboy dead. He's convicted of murder, but sentenced for manslaughter due to mitigating circumstances. 

Suppose, instead, the paperboy has an affair with the wife of a billionaire. The billionaire finds out. Due to his financial resources, this cuckold husband can be more creative about how he exacts revenge. Shooting the adulterer would be too quick and easy. He wants to make the adulterer suffer. 

He has a windowless cell built in the basement of his sprawling mansion. The cell is furnished with a bed, recliner, shower, wc, bidet, and a vending machine that's restocked from the back. There's a dvd player with a set of the paperboy's favorite TV series. Overhead lights come on 16 hours a day, and turn off 8 hours a day. The temperature stays at a preset 70º. 

The adulterer is abducted, sedated, and placed in the cell. Then the opening is walled in.  

One other thing: the cell contains a loaded revolver.

All his physical necessities are provided for. The captive adulterer has everything he needs to survive in there for decades. Everything he needs to live, but nothing live to for. That's the catch. Everything he needs to go on living except for a reason to go on living. 

He has some entertainment, but watching reruns of his favorite TV show will soon become torment. 

There's no escape. The only way out is to take his own life. Otherwise, he will die in there of old age. 

The vindictive husband knows that an interminable existence in the cell will eventually become unbearable. Sooner or later, the adulterer will use the loaded revolver on himself. The fact that the adulterer executes himself makes it poetic justice–from the husband's viewpoint. 

His captor didn't shoot him. His captor didn't put the gun in his hand and pull the trigger. Technically, it was a suicide, not a homicide. 

Let's say the captive had libertarian freewill. His captor didn't make the captive off himself. The captive was free to do otherwise. Free to stay alive. Die of natural causes at 90. 

Yet isn't there a sense in which the vindictive husband killed him just as surely as if he shot him with the revolver, rather than arranging circumstances for the adulteror to die at his own hand. So was it homicide or suicide? 

1 comment:

  1. It seems like this would fall under the category of a depraved-heart murder.