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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

& Debates - Responsibility - UPDATED

One of the sites I frequent is the Star Alliance. Star Alliance is a game and modding site, but it also is known for something else: its debates. While not exactly the Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle of our time, the forumers manage to regularly engage in at least halfway intellectual debates (some more than other), often involving religion or philosphy. While there are some exceptions, these debates are moderately mature, particularly as the site ages, and the 'old school' forumers are in college, now.

Now that there's a formal debate forum (requires registration to view/post in) with more strict rules for posts, I've begun to periodically start debates (in fact I have a list of four or so I plan to start in the foreseeable future). The flavor of the week is the nature of indirect responsibility for something. The opening post (which is just to get the thinking started, before the debate begins):

This is, to my knowledge, a fictitious story (although it would hardly surprise me if sometime, somewhere in history it actually happened).

There once was a husband and wife. The husband worked nights, and the wife frequently became lonely, and went out to meet lovers during the night, although she always returned home before her husband. The wife always cut off the relationships if the lovers wanted it to get serious (as in, endangering her marriage).

One night, she was doing just that: dumping a lover. She had just left the lover's apartment, and was about to go home, when she realized she didn't have money for the ferry she would have to take to get back to her house. Reluctantly, she went back and asked the lover if she could borrow some money. Not surprisingly, the lover slammed the door in her face.

She then went and asked her previous lover (call him #2) for money, who lived nearby. He also slammed the door in her face. So she went back to the ferry, and begged the ferry operator to let her ride for free, and she would pay him back. He refused.

Finally, she remembered there was a bridge a ways away, but she thought she could still make it home in time. However, this bridge was known as being a dangerous area, especially at night. So, she takes the bridge, and, as luck would have it, gets mugged. Angered that she did not have any money, the mugger stabs her, and she dies.

Now, how would you assign blame for the death of the woman? Rank the six characters (the husband, the wife, lover #1, lover #2, the ferry operator, and the mugger) from most responsible to least responsible in your post.
A more recent post, which introduces the debate itself:

Well, where I was hoping to go with this was a debate about what constitutes responsibility for something like this.

As for myself, I'd say the blame belongs first and foremost to the mugger, as the mugger is the one who actually killed her. But I don't think it's correct to say the woman didn't contribute to it. She made several choices that contributed directly or indirectly to her death. In chronological order:
- She chose to be out there having an affair. While getting killed by a mugger is not a foreseeable outcome of having an affair, I have little sympathy for people who get hurt or killed as a result of perpetrating some crime (in this case the crime is a moral one; as I said a couple posts up, I consider being faithful to your spouse part of the job description for anyone who's married). If a terrorist gets blown up due to a bomb malfunction while trying to bomb some place, all I'm going to say is "Haha, loser!"
- She chose to take a dangerous route in the middle of the night. While that isn't to say she was "asking" to be killed, the fact remains that when you do something fairly dangerous (and you have viable alternatives), you have to take some responsibility for the plausible, predictable outcomes, of which this was one. If I'm welding something while not paying attention, and I end up burning myself (a plausible, predictable outcome for welding carelessly), it's my fault for not being more careful. If, on the other hand, the propane tank explodes and kills me due to some manufacturing defect (neither a plausible nor predictable outcome), that's the manufacturer's fault.

In other news, the usual response to that story (it's commonly used in college psychology classes) is that about half the people blame the woman primarily, and the other half the mugger. I guess this goes to show that you become more conservative with education... rolleyes.gif
Do not think to reply here. If you want to join the debate (which is the whole point of me posting about it), go to the debate itself.

UPDATE: As those of you (assuming there are any of you out there reading this blog) probably noticed, the Star Alliance site went down a day after I posted this entry, and has been down ever since. Seems they had some problems with their host, and are in the process of relocating. I'll try to remember to post when they come back up.

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