Thursday, June 21, 2018

The avengers

One objection to Calvinism goes like this: the Calvinist God is like a Mafia Don who puts out a hit on a rival. He doesn't pull the trigger. Rather, he hires a triggerman to do it. Yet the Don is just as blameworthy, if not more so, than the triggerman. 

And it's true that the distinction between proximate and remote causation isn't necessarily exculpatory, as this example illustrates. So this seems to be the principle: if it's murder for me to kill someone directly, then it's murder for me to facilitate their death. That sounds plausible, but is it true? 

As I've often said, what we find intuitively plausible usually depends on the example. Changing the example can change the intuition. 

Let's take a morally complex example. After WWII, some Nazi's become fugitives from justice. I don't mean Nazis in the sense of forced conscripts, but zealots who were devoted to the cause, viz. Josef Mengele, Walter Rauff. Some of them fled to Latin America, where they hid out or found safe haven. 

This gave rise to Nazi hunters. But some Jews to it a step further, becoming assassins (rather like the OT avenger of blood). They were called the Nakam.

Now, it might be possible to argue that their actions were just reprisal. But for discussion purposes, let's stipulate that assassinating Nazi war criminals is murder. 

Suppose I'm living in Latin America. I recognize one of my neighbors as a Nazi war criminal. 

Suppose the Nakam are hot on the trail of my Nazi neighbor. They come knocking, show me photos, ask me if I know him by name or by sight. 

I realize that these are Jewish assassins. If I give them accurate directions, they will murder him. Does that make me complicit in murder, if I accede to their request?

Although it would be murder if I killed him, surely I have no duty to protect him. I have no duty to lie to the Nakam to shield him from retribution. It's his fault that he's at risk. He brought it on himself. 

This seems to be a case where a second party could facilitate murder without his own action being tantamount to murder. Even if their action is blameworthy, and my action wittingly facilitates their action, that doesn't make my action blameworthy in a case like this. 


  1. People who object to Calvanism will not or cannot accept the sovereignty of God.

    How about Pharaoh. God said he would harden his heart. How about Gog:
    (putin?) I will put hooks into your mouth and draw you down.

  2. Why don't you have a duty to protect somebody from a wrongful death (revenge murder)?

    1. There's a prima facie duty to protect someone from a wrongful death. Put another way, there's a duty to protect an innocent person from murder.

      If, however, the individual is, himself, a murderer or mass murderer, then he's forfeited certain immunities which the innocent are entitled to. That's why he can be justly executed.

  3. What immunities has a murderer not forfeited? Can he be wronged in any way?

    1. The inalienable right not to be subjected to Disney princess movies.