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Author Topic: The Grey Area  (Read 1812 times)

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Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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The Grey Area
« on: November 28, 2010, 07:08:53 PM »
I'm not sure if this is the correct forum, but I thought it was the most appropriate.

This is just a question that occurred to me a second ago.


A man murders someone, first degree murdered someone, and then loses his memory entirely (fill in the details).

Is it ethical to punish him?

Offline Oniya

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2010, 07:14:34 PM »
If he completely lost his memory, he would be unable to provide assistance to his defense lawyer.  As a result, he would be deemed incompetent to stand trial.  He would probably be put into some sort of mental facility until his memories returned, or until it could be determined that he was not a danger to himself or others.

Offline cirdanf

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2010, 07:17:52 PM »
If the question is from a PURELY ETHICAL point, I don't know laws, but I know my point of view.


If he killed my mother, or my sister, or anyone I know, I'd like him to be punished even without memory.


If he killed someone I didn't know... I'd doubt it. I wouldn't know what to do, but probably a lighter punishment, or just locking  him up in an asylum for the crazy.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2010, 07:18:32 PM »
Say his memory never returned.

And say that he was already convicted of the murder, but then he slipped on some black ice on his way to the jail and hit his head really badly, resulting in the full memory loss.

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2010, 07:20:49 PM »
... then he would be unable to assist his attorney in appeals and whatnot, and would probably again end up in an asylum. We have laws for this.

It is unethical to withhold from someone the consequences of their actions, though it is not always immoral.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2010, 07:24:09 PM »
But he's not insane. Just memory-wiped.

I don't quite understand that sentence. "It is unethical... always immoral."

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2010, 07:26:52 PM »
Memory-wiped people don't belong in jail, and if I were in charge of his safety, I would send him to a high-security asylum rather than a prison. I am not a judge, though, and that's a somewhat subjective call.

I'm not sure what you need explained.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2010, 07:28:38 PM »
The second half of the sentence. That it's not always immoral.

Offline cirdanf

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2010, 07:34:17 PM »
I guess she means that ethics could be more shallow than morality, which goes to our very core of how we see things.


Boy this is an interesting topic.

I am not sure, how could we prove he has no memory, recollection of it?

If he actually has no memory of how, why , when or who, he doesn't belong in jail, though he does belong in somewhere where they keep everyone safe from him. Or her. The fact is: The person is a danger to that one's surroundings.

Offline Trieste

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2010, 07:35:08 PM »
The ethical tenet is that it isn't right (and isn't my place) to withhold the consequences of someone's actions from them.

What if my child slaps a dog or pulls on its tail? What if my brother gets caught stealing money, but the punishment is exceptional and I can mitigate it?

Consequences are how we learn from our actions, and it does people a disservice to try to shield them from those. However, given certain individualized circumstances, something might be unethical to do, but moral to do. Of course I'm going to try to help my brother, and it would be wrong not to do so. Of course I'm going to try to save my child from a bite, and it would be wrong not to do so.

Ethics tend to be absolute, whereas morals tend to be situational, at least in the manner I was using the terms.

Offline cirdanf

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2010, 07:36:25 PM »
Of course I'm going to try to help my brother, and it would be wrong not to do so. Of course I'm going to try to save my child from a bite, and it would be wrong not to do so.

Ethics tend to be absolute, whereas morals tend to be situational, at least in the manner I was using the terms.


This!

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2010, 07:38:24 PM »
Ohkay, thank you. That clears that up.


But-- if he doesn't even know or recall doing it, do those rules still apply?

Well, for argument's sake, we'll assume he legitly did.

Offline Sure

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2010, 07:42:23 PM »
Depends on what you mean by 'ethical'. Depending on the ethical system you might get different answers.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2010, 07:45:16 PM »
"moral principles that govern a person's or group's behaviour"

I guess. I don't define it in my head, I just have an idea of what sounds right and wrong to me.

Offline Sure

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2010, 07:56:10 PM »
I'm sorry, I was obviously unclear. There are multiple systems of ethics, just as there are multiple systems of logic. The three big divisions are aretaic (morality is contained in the person), deontological (morality is contained in the action), and consequentialist (morality is contained in the result) systems.

For example (again simplified), someone who believes in Kantianism (a deontological system) would attempt to solve the problem by establishing or citing to a categorical imperative. In contrast, a utilitarian would solve the problem by seeking the action which produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

In order to answer the question whether something is ethical, the system we are operating in needs to be established. Is it ethical from a Kantian point of view? Is it ethical from an egoist perspective? And so on.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2010, 07:59:22 PM »
Right. Haven't thought about those since philo-- which was in french. ><

I guess that completely complicates my question.

Offline Asuras

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2010, 08:03:42 PM »
I'm having harrowing recollections of trying to parse Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals in the three courses I was asked to read it...

The example I have in mind is someone that commits a crime when they're drunk. So drunk they can't remember it when they sober up. The law doesn't excuse that and they're not going to an asylum for it.

Regardless of the mechanism by which the person lost their memory, the crime remains. From my point of view punishment is justified as deterrence and in this case to not punish the person simply because their memory was wiped does not make sense.

From a retributive standpoint...if the only thing that's lost is their memory than the same person that committed the crime is there after the fact. In personality, demeanor, that person remains the person that committed the crime and therefore should be treated as the person that committed the crime.

So the point is, I don't see any reason that memory loss has any effect on the legal process. I'd like to have it clarified for me how this could be so.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2010, 08:13:42 PM »
But-- it's like locking a doll up.

Offline Asuras

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2010, 08:23:46 PM »
But-- it's like locking a doll up.

Why? If I commit a crime and just forget about it...I don't think that absolves me, I don't see why.

I mean, I get that when they're incarcerated they wouldn't remember the reason that they're incarcerated. That is tragic. But that doesn't invalidate the reason for the punishment - there was a crime committed, they were responsible, they were the person that committed it, they are still the person that is capable of committing that crime - consequently they're a danger to society and the example needs to be set that when crimes occur people are punished (whether they remember the crime or not)

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2010, 08:29:11 PM »
I think this delves into something a bit deeper. Well...two things a bit deeper:

1) What is the purpose of punishment? Vengeance or Reformation?

2) Where resides the nature of a man or woman? Are we nothing more than the sum of our memories, and when our memory is gone do we become a different person? Or are we the same person regardless.

I think that the answer to your question will necessarily be predicated on the answers to these two primary considerations, and that there will be a great deal of variation in opinion on them.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2010, 08:31:12 PM »
DarklingAlice, you have absolutely summed up my problem. Or rather-- the root of my problem.

Offline Asuras

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2010, 08:38:19 PM »
1) What is the purpose of punishment? Vengeance or Reformation?

It can be both. Personally I don't see value in vengeance; the main focus in criminal justice ought to be deterrence. We ought to have punishments that deter people from committing crimes.

We also should rehabilitate people if possible - and after all we do that, if someone is a kleptomaniac and gets convicted we put them in treatment. Plus punishing them, with adjustments for the fact that they are ill.

So I don't see it as a choice between the two. The question here (if I understand it) is that someone committed premeditated murder, then somehow forgot that they did it. If there is a mitigating circumstance (they were for some reason psychotic) then the punishment may be reduced and rehabilitation may be applied.

2) Where resides the nature of a man or woman? Are we nothing more than the sum of our memories, and when our memory is gone do we become a different person? Or are we the same person regardless.

I'm think that if the sole memory that gets removed is the incident of the crime then the person is almost exactly the same person that committed the crime. He will have the same criminal demeanor that he had the moment before he committed murder and so continues to constitute a threat to society.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #22 on: November 28, 2010, 08:40:21 PM »
The factors in my question were that his memory was entirely wiped. Nothing left. He had a very bad fall.

So how can you rehabilitate someone who does not have any indication of being ill?

Offline Asuras

Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2010, 08:50:04 PM »
The factors in my question were that his memory was entirely wiped. Nothing left. He had a very bad fall.

So how can you rehabilitate someone who does not have any indication of being ill?

If his memory was entirely wiped then yeah, it's questionable whether or not this person remains murderous. That would be a question for a neurologist or a psychiatrist, whether or not a person's demeanor and personality are retained after massive memory loss.

My guess is that those things are retained for the same reason that when I go to by a Snickers bar I don't go through all of my recollections of what Snickers bars taste like; I simply know I like them, and so I buy one. This is not based on memory but simply demeanor.

Notwithstanding that question, I still think punishment is justified since if we didn't punish this person then we're basically saying "If you commit a crime but can't remember it, you're off scot free." I do not think that that is sound law; I could kill someone, take a pill to wipe my memory, and according to this logic I'd be unpunished. So anytime someone wanted badly enough to kill someone they'd do that.

Offline Fae BrinTopic starter

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Re: The Grey Area
« Reply #24 on: November 28, 2010, 08:51:41 PM »
But would you go that far?