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Cannibalism in a desperate situation

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Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:13 am
Rubric says...



L Ron Fuller famously used this kind of case as an examination of different Judicial modes. It can be found here: http://www.nullapoena.de/stud/explorers.html

I think most defences are usually something cobbled together from "self-defence" "coercion" and "being outside of the jurisdiction of the law due to the extreme nature of the circumstances involved". They seem awkward approximations for the gut reaction that the men have done something that can neither be excused, justified or condemned.

I was recently reading up on public international law and came across the principle of neccessity (article 25 in the Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts). I found this very interesting because it was distinct from a defence of the grounds of self defence and force majeure (unavoidable force) and is formed around the idea that if a state has no reasonable alternative and if the interest is vital enough, a State may not be held accountable for what it is forced to do. I think this makes a better analogy for the gut reaction to the case we're presented with that any talk of self-defence against circumstance (made by one of the judges in the case of the speluncean explorers). If it were to be applied by analogy to this case, it would clearly clash with the case law Nate referred to earlier as it doesn't consider transcendental values that might be attached to the value of the human life, or deontological axioms that traditionally frame killing as inexcusable.

I find the whole thing rather fascinating, but more as a study of what the law can and cannot do than as one of the nature of man.
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Sun Jan 15, 2012 2:22 pm
Karzkin says...



In response to Tr3x's original question; yes, they should be charged with murder. Why? because it's the law (as Nate so helpfully pointed out), and they broke it. A more interesting question (and the one you all appear to be debating) is whether or not it was wrong. A yet more interesting question (and, in my opinion, the one we SHOULD be debating) is this: Would you eat human flesh if you could? Three things to take into consideration:
-You would not be charged with any crime
-The person is freshly dead, but you do not have to kill them yourself
-You may cook the flesh any way you like (or eat it raw if you'd prefer).
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Sun Jan 15, 2012 8:47 pm
inkwell says...



Karzkin wrote:In response to Tr3x's original question; yes, they should be charged with murder. Why? because it's the law (as Nate so helpfully pointed out), and they broke it. A more interesting question (and the one you all appear to be debating) is whether or not it was wrong. A yet more interesting question (and, in my opinion, the one we SHOULD be debating) is this: Would you eat human flesh if you could? Three things to take into consideration:
-You would not be charged with any crime
-The person is freshly dead, but you do not have to kill them yourself
-You may cook the flesh any way you like (or eat it raw if you'd prefer).


You know, I honestly would require a couple more things: consent of this person's loved ones, and consent with this person's will.

Now, that being settled, of course! The real question is what's the best cut? My intuition tells me to grill the thighs. *licks chops*
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Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:34 pm
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Griffinkeeper says...



Aet Lindling wrote:With the specifics you've provided, I see it as simple: the choice between potentially saving two lives, or killing all three. They did the right thing.


There are actually three possible outcomes.

1. They decide not to revert to cannibalism and there is a chance that all of them are rescued.

2. They decide to revert to cannibalism and there is a chance that two are rescued.

If they all of them are ready to sacrifice their life so that the other two can live, then each of them is ready to die. It stands to reason that they would be ready to die together. Therefore, the first option is the one they should pick.

The rational behind eating someone is already dead is clear in this example: because the casualty has already occurred; eating the dead man would ensure the maximum number of people could be rescued; given the new circumstances. Always try to have the most people rescued.
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Sun Jan 15, 2012 11:29 pm
Pigeon says...



In response to Tr3x's original question; yes, they should be charged with murder. Why? because it's the law (as Nate so helpfully pointed out), and they broke it. A more interesting question (and the one you all appear to be debating) is whether or not it was wrong. A yet more interesting question (and, in my opinion, the one we SHOULD be debating) is this: Would you eat human flesh if you could? Three things to take into consideration:
-You would not be charged with any crime
-The person is freshly dead, but you do not have to kill them yourself
-You may cook the flesh any way you like (or eat it raw if you'd prefer).


Wait, so the desperate situation is removed in this scenario? You just happen to come across a dead body which you can eat with no consequences, while all usual food sources are still available to you? I would definitely not eat it. But, you know me Mr K, I have enough trouble eating any meat, so I guess I'm not the best person to answer this.
I kind of feel like I should be saying yes though. I mean, if corpses suddenly became a viable food source we could stop slaughtering so many animals and it would probably be good for the environment in a whole lot of ways. I guess, I wouldn't mind other people eating human flesh if the whole of society suddenly decided that that was what we should do with our dead, but I don't think I could do it myself.
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Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:33 pm
Karzkin says...



Ink: What if you could do it with no one ever finding out? And I think I'd go for the rump first.

Pigeon: Ok, so vegetariansim aside, you'd do it (even if I offered you more delicious barbecued veggies)? I suppose what I'm aiming at is this: most people wouldn't it because they think it is 'wrong'. If society suddenly decided it wasn't 'wrong', it wouldn't be an issue (and the debate would nosedive). So the question boils down to "would you do something that is considered 'wrong' by most people if there was no chance of repercussion or consequence?" I want to sort out the white knights from the morally flexible :P

For the record, I'm moral jelly... So I'd happily munch away :)
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Mon Jan 16, 2012 11:07 pm
Kyllorac says...



Says the carnivore, I wouldn't eat human flesh unless I was extremely desperate just for the disease potential alone. Any time you have cannibalism, you dramatically increase the chances of acquiring and spreading nasty diseases. Even cooking can only go so far as cooking will not reliably kill prions and other resilient vectors (like parasite eggs).

That, and the thought of all the cholesterol and fats most people contain are enough to make me nauseous. Ew.
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Tue Jan 17, 2012 8:34 am
inkwell says...



Karzkin wrote:Ink: What if you could do it with no one ever finding out? And I think I'd go for the rump first.


Of course I'd behave the same if no one knew! :wink:

P.S. Good choice! :p
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Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:41 am
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Pigeon says...



I would be freaked out enough by the fact that there was a dead body there! Sampling it would not be high on my to-do list. I would have to be starving to death to consider eating a human, and even then I probably wouldn't be able to.

A Mrs Lovett response does seem kind of rational ("Seems downright shame, seems an awful waste; such a nice plump frame, whatsisname has...had...has"), I am far from rational when it comes to the idea of of a dead person. I cannot see a corpse as simply meat. (although "with the price of meat what it is...") I don't know that it's really a moral issue for me though, it's more about the 'eww' factor.
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Tue Jan 17, 2012 10:04 am
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Aet Lindling says...



Griffinkeeper wrote:If they all of them are ready to sacrifice their life so that the other two can live, then each of them is ready to die. It stands to reason that they would be ready to die together. Therefore, the first option is the one they should pick.

They are not randomly deciding they wish to die, they are ready to die under the circumstance that it would potentially save two other lives. There is no reason for them to abandon their human drive all of a sudden, which is far different from sacrificing one's life for the sake of others.

Griffinkeeper wrote:The rational behind eating someone is already dead is clear in this example: because the casualty has already occurred; eating the dead man would ensure the maximum number of people could be rescued; given the new circumstances. Always try to have the most people rescued.

However, according to the original setup, the people were going to die theoretically simultaneously. "Another day, and they would all have starved to death," "All the men were in the same physical and mental state when the deed was done." Murder would be necessary for anyone to be fed upon. In addition, even disregarding that, the men did not know when they would die, and at this point surely felt as if they were nearing death at any moment. If the dead man was chosen to be killed arbitrarily, there was necessarily some sort of decision made, between men who did not know if they would even have the strength to eat by the time any of them passed away naturally.
12-18-12 7:43 PM
AmelieoftheValley: ...Aet and Bog sometimes sound like a comedy duo.
12-18-12 7:43 PM
AmelieoftheValley: Just pointing it out.

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Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:26 pm
Karzkin says...



Pigeon, it's posts like that one that make me miss the old like button :P
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Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:14 pm
Undercover_Ninja says...



I believe that the survivors should be charged with murder on the basis of principle. When you start making "if" exceptions to killing a fellow civilian, you can get into a lot of trouble. Other murders can be justified using similar, though slightly more complex, reasoning. If so-and-so hadn't killed this person, such-and-such would have happened that would have ended up in the killer's death.
And to accept cannibalism, even in the most extreme cases, can be immensely damaging to the morals of a society. By allowing cases such as this to slip by as acceptable, I believe the ethical foundation of a society will be slowly eroded away.

This may sound harsh, but you have to remember to look at the entire picture. By just looking at the situation of these three people, it's tempting to compromise on a principle for a practical reason. But when you look at the big picture and implications of the action, it will be more apparent to be what it really is-- lethally dangerous to the foundation of a society, which is its members' respect and value of other individuals. This question is not an issue of a hypothetical situation. It's an issue of principle.
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Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:26 am
PinkPanther says...



I as moral human being I would say that there is no doubt of their guilt. They killed another to save themselves, and while it is self-preservation and simply human nature, we are in this world to defy it. The men did what animals would have done. You can argue that if they haven't done it all three of them would be dead, but I say better dead then cannibal.
At the same time, because most humans would have done precisely as they have, I don't think the court should have issued that punishment, after all they only did it to live, and obviously surpassed all boundaries of starvation first. The men should have been given a chance to repent, for it is before G-d that they are sinners, not before man. All men would have done the same, their human bodies would have killed to live, therefore the men shold have been excused, even though theoretically guilty.
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Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:53 am
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Pigeon says...



You can argue that if they haven't done it all three of them would be dead, but I say better dead then cannibal.
I find this interesting. You seem to be more outraged by the cannibalism than the murder.
The men are almost certainly guilty of murder, or at least of assisting suicide (in those places where that is a crime) since the man consented. I would say 'better dead than a murderer'.

Why is it that so many of us see cannibalism as morally wrong? I think it is gross, and there's a huge disease risk, but I don't think the act of consuming human flesh is evil, especially in a desperate situation.

There have been cultures which considered cannibalism normal. And it didn't always involve murder. Some cultures cannibalised those who died of natural causes. So why is it so morally reprehensible to us? Why "better dead than cannibal"?
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Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:48 am
Karzkin says...



I believe that the survivors should be charged with murder on the basis of principle.

I as moral human being I would say that there is no doubt of their guilt.

The men are almost certainly guilty of murder


Why are we still discussing whether or not they're guilty? We've already established that it is a crime to kill and eat a fellow survivor, even in a desperate situation. No ifs buts or maybes, no question of morality or spirituality, it's law.

I think Pigeon nailed it though. Why is cannibalism so wrong?
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