When, if ever, is revenge morally justified? Please explain why or why not in your response?
Let's say that someone rapes and murders little children. The rapist goes to jail and a fellow prisoner murders him for his crimes. There are no retaliation killings for the murder of this killer, and the families of the children are happy that the rapist is dead. What's morally wrong with this scenario?
Very often it is discovered that the wrong man is convicted of crimes. In teh U.S. there is a bias against the poor and against minorities. In this case, an innocent many may have been brutally killed. Maybe time for someone else to take revenge for the revenge?
OK, let's say that there is evidence that leaves no shadow of a doubt that the man accused is the child rapist/murder. What's wrong with that scenario?
revenge is usually defined as retaliation for a hurt done to one's self or family. the prisoner in this scenario i assume is not related to any of the victims, so why would he even be interested in revenge? i know these things happen, but revenge is not the motive-it is more likely the prisoner is placing himself above society as a judge, which is funny assuming he has been judged. his motives must be immoral, there is no reason for him to intervene in the situation other than a sense of arrogance and self righteousness that really displays no interest in the actual situation.
murder is still an act of violence, and some societies have set rules for capital punishment which they do not believe to be immoral. the prisoner in question here is breaking all the rules.
Most people on death row are convicted based upon the above scenario. The problem is that humans see what they want to see, and they can convince each other of that. There is simply no way to divorce actions from the subjective judgments that created these actions. There is always doubt. I don't know how many people have been legally murdered/executed based upon the judgment of people who were sure beyond a shadow of the doubt.
I see here an attempt to avoid the problem. Revenge is simply a retaliation for a previous injustice. We can question the other prisoner's motives all that we want, but it is revenge nonetheless. He is retaliating against the child rapist/murderer for raping and murdering children.
So that we can face this problem head on, I'm going to add a personal factor to the prisoners act of revenge. The prisoner was beaten and raped as a child, or the prisoner is related to one of the victims. Once again, what is wrong with this scenario?
---------- Post added 08-17-2009 at 09:08 PM ----------
OK fine . . . the guy videotaped himself raping and murdering the children. Now what?
this reminds me of my go-round with xris on torture!
no, i am not trying to avoid the issue or the question. i absolutely and unequivocally do not believe that revenge or retaliation is ethical under any circumstances whatsoever. it is understandable and even forgivable but not ethical, not justifiable, not rational. (oops-now you may say i am trying to weasel out of this somehow) delete that last sentence if you want.
revenge/retaliation is self gratification stimulated by negative emotions. it contains an element of arrogance. it is an ego based action. this is the best i can come up with.
i wish i could better explain why i believe it is unethical. i am trying to avoid the issues of law and order for the sake of clarity because ethics comes first-ideally humanity writes their laws to satisfy ethics.
I what if it were a situation where the father of one of the victims sought the killer and killed him in an act of revenge, thereby saving countless people from harm? What's wrong with that scenario?
I think that revenge is wrong most of the time, but I don't think that it is wrong all of the time. The example I gave you had no bad consequences whatsoever, as nobody cared to seek revenge for the child rapist/murderer. Also, what if it were a situation where the father of one of the victims sought the killer and killed him in an act of revenge, thereby saving countless people from harm? What's wrong with that scenario?
You seem to be implying that an action that is based on the gratification of the ego is always immoral, but I disagree. Is it immoral if someone chooses to save themselves over another person?
i would say ego gratification is immoral, yes-all the time. not necessarily causing harm to other people, but to the self. it is not immoral if someone chooses to save himself over someone else-there would have to be a good reason to choose to give up one's life for another, otherwise it would be contrary to nature which includes the pursuit of life and avoidance of death. choosing to save oneself over another is not ego gratification, it is will to live.
the way i think of it, good results can come from immoral deeds, but in the long run the species suffers from the effects of one of its members being immoral and immeasurably moreso if society imbibes this as a value and applauds him. the ends dont justify the means for me.
and thanks for the questions, i needed more clarification on these things myself.
They don't always kill the right person, that is why vigilantism is illegal, the wrong person can and does get killed.
I'm not arguing for the legalization of vigilantism, nor am I arguing that it is always the right thing to do. But for the sake of discussion, let's say that I actually witnessed the man committing the crime. Let's say that it was on tape. In that situation there is no question that he is the culprit. What makes it wrong for the father to track him down and kill him?
Nature has no place in moral judgment. One can argue that the denial of rape, murder, and misogyny is contrary to nature. There is a quote, though I'm not sure of it's origin, that nature is what we were put on this planet to rise above. Many of our moral concepts are contrary to our natural inclinations, because some of our natural inclinations have the tendency to result in bad long term outcomes.
The ego is anything concerning the self. Is it not pleasing (or gratifying) to preserve your own life? I'm not arguing for egoism, the ethical theory which says that one should value only that which serves one's self-interest; selfishness. I'm simply speaking of the role that self-interest plays in moral decision making. It is plainly false to deny the role of self-interest in moral decision making. It's not always bad to consider how an action makes you feel, and just because it serves to gratify your self-interest does not always make it wrong.