Consider the view that killing in any form can never be justified.
According to Aemilius Papinianus,
“It is easier to commit murder than to justify it.”
Unsurprisingly, modern-day humans are still committing homicides that may be irrational or unforgivable, due to negative emotions or psychological defects. In cases as such, murderers must always be culpable for their actions. Nonetheless, there are other murders convicted for the betterment of a household or unborn child, for the nourishment of the human body, for the overall welfare of society, and for the increase in social security, which are generally warrantable. These can be justified through the concept of utilitarianism by Jeremy Bentham, a famous eighteenth century philosopher, where the overall welfare of society is being prioritised above the individual well-being. The following seeks to discuss the justifiability of murder in a variety of cases to eventually make a statement that the taking away of any life can sometimes be reasonable.
Some may say that a life is a life, killing in any form may never be justifiable. Ethically speaking, life is a precious gift to every human being on Earth. To take away that gift from a person is to cause the person to cease to exist. It is according to Immanuel Kant that a murderer should suffer the same proportion to the way he made others suffer, in the case, through death. The categorical reasoning he gave was that actions, which had been deemed as morally wrong, should be subjected to proper judgments and the bearing of consequences. Only by death, can a murderer be rightfully punished, and never by any other means. By this logic, it is clear that the taking of another’s life can never be ethical in the face of life and death. In committing such a crime, the murderer will have to pay his moral debt with the greatest punishment of a human life: death. Nevertheless, not all situations can be seen as white and black; grey areas do exist. In any case, the concept brought up by Kant shows that the killing of a murderer is reasonable; the murder of one who deserves to die is moral. In such a case, the society will be rid of additional homicides that may be committed again by the same murderer. Thus killing a person, who may inflict additional harm in the future if not annihilated, is caring for the society as a whole. Utilitarianism, a concept founded by Jeremy Bentham, completely holds true to this by stating that the overall societal welfare should be prioritised over the individual’s well-being. If taking the life of a person translates to better health for the rest of the society, murder of that person is commendable.
Some believe that fetuses are lives that have the same value as anyone else on Earth and that abortion should never be legitimate. Merely not fully formed, fetuses are living beings like anyone else. Based on the video of an abortion graphically described by Carly Florida at the U.S. Republican presidential debate, the fetus continued to show signs of life outside of the womb through movement, with the presence of a beating heart and kicking legs. Similarly, many abortions show instances as such, causing the majority of the public to take a stand against abortion to stop the killing of physically little but living fellow human beings. However, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, fetuses are very unlikely to feel any pain before the third trimester, which is within the Abortion Act’s legal time limit of most countries. Thus, fetuses will not die agonising deaths during legal abortions, which is more than 90% of the time, easing the moral debate on abortion. Also, according to Turnaway Study by ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health), 99% of women who went through abortions believe they made the best decision. This further reinforces that the right decision is the decision that is best for the overall society, not just for the unborn child. If having another child born into this world makes people’s lives worse than before, taking away the life of that child would be the sensible thing to do, maximising the overall welfare of society based on utilitarianism. Therefore, the justifiability of taking the life of an unborn child is contingent on whether the overall society is better off without that child being born.
Some people choose to be vegans because they view the killing of animals as unjustified. Animals are living things that have lives of their own as well. Killing of an animal can sometimes be recognised as killing a fellow person. As mentioned in Carl Safina’s book – Beyond Words: How Animals Think And Feel, animals have sensory systems and a complex mind similar to humans. Animals are very similar to human beings, and if the killing of a human being is deemed as homicide, the murder of an animal should also be seen as immoral and punishable. Despite this argument, humans cannot make our own food, and require to kill and consume living organisms for nourishment and energy for our daily activities. Since we live in a world where there is the presence of predators and preys, where each living organism that does not make its own food obtains its nutrients from another living organism, humans are no different and should be allowed to kill for consumption as well. This holds true in Safina’s case, where he believes that it is okay to kill animals for manducation, but only morally right if the animal has had a comfortable life of its own before. Hence, for the survival of mankind and for the natural process of predation to take place, humans should be allowed to painlessly slaughter and consume animals to acquire sustenance for living.
The killing of a person is justified when it is for the betterment of the overall welfare of society. In situations where the death of one person has less negative effects but more benefits as compared to the survival of that person, which could bring about more negative effects, it can be said that based on utilitarianism, the person should die for the sake of the rest. During a particular shipwreck in 1884, Tom Dudley and Edwin Stephens decided to kill a cabin boy – Richard Parker for the crew’s consumption during their ravenousness out at sea. In this case, the death of an orphaned Parker saved the lives of the other married family men in the lifeboat, maximising welfare and minimising negativity. During their murder trial in court, many Victorians sympathised with their actions and believed their actions justifiable. If not for the death of the orphaned boy, all the men on board the lifeboat would likely have died from starvation on board, there will be fewer people grieving in this way. Similarly, when the death of a person is overall beneficial to the rest of society, it may be reasonable to take the life of that person, presuming he consents for his life to be taken away for the benefit of the whole. Thus, taking one’s life may be sensible if it is for the overall health of society.
Killing is vindicable if it increases social security. Some people may deserve death due to their sins, and some need to die because their survival may cause much greater destruction than if they were dead. For instance, the survival of late leader of Al-Qaeda – Osama Bin Laden meant tremendous uncertainty in global security for innocent citizens of the world. In a short span of 23 years, he led Al-Qaeda to kill thousands of people worldwide. If not for the successful murder of Bin Laden by then President Obama, more lives could have been taken by his plans of massacre. The slaughter of an individual and his family saved the lives of many potentially killed people. As a result of Operation Geronimo being successful, thousands of innocent people were saved from imminent death. Hence, the death of people who live for the purpose of killing others is reasonable and necessary in keeping social security and world peace.
All in all, murder in particular forms may be justified, warranted or even essential in maintaining survival through nourishment, ensuring the overall welfare of society, and keeping world peace. In certain situations, abortions, killing of animals for sustenance, murdering someone for one’s survival, and slaughtering to stand up for human rights, may be reasonable. Not every murder is justifiable, and not every homicide is unjustifiable. It is all about sympathising and caring for others that we can decide on the justifiability of each and every case.