I know the question doesn't really hold much since it is asked after the fact. But what if you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that killing this innocent child will stop a war, would you do it?
I know the question doesn't really hold much since it is asked after the fact. But what if you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that killing this innocent child will stop a war, would you do it?
Cant say anything
For me to be certain would require a knowledge of future events that I could only get through supernatural means. Any universe in which such things were possible would be one which I don't understand, and I would probably need to go for a nice nervous breakdown before killing anyone.
Consider - what is to say that this boy wouldn't immediately be replaced in the time-line by another?
To KNOW that my action would have a positive impact would imply a deterministic universe in which interactions can be forecast 100% accurately. That kills any remaining vestige of the notion of free-will - which I can cope with, since that is not far from my actual belief; but it also kicks a hole in causality, which is mind-messing notion....
You mean a moral decision based on the end justifies the means? Even when the means is immoral? Doesn't work for me. If the morals are so corrupt that it would take the killing of a child, to prevent war, then maybe war is inevitable anyway. If we were asked to do something immoral, then the person/s asking this off us may be immoral in everything else, including having a war regardless of the outcome of killing someone. Better to follow our own conscience. For me it would be not to kill the baby and to figure out a way to stop the war anyway.
It is really hard for me to think of a situation when this is the case. In real life there is always some doubt.
Maybe I can lie and say the child fell into the water and still let it live hidden away somewhere. How I feel about the war and thousand other things could also affect my decision.
The fact you chose some old picture makes me think that picture its self holds some relevance,who is it?
EDIT: oh its Hitler.
So if I could travel back in time and meet Adolf Hitler as a child would I kill him? Probably not. It would change history and I have no idea if that would be to the better or to the worse.
This is like a Grandfather paradox. It's like would you be able to kill your grandfather if you travel to past?
If I kill the child and the war didn't happen, would I be able to send myself to the past to kill the kid Hitler If I have no reason why? But if I travel to let's say a parallel universe, that wouldn't change the universe where I came from and it is possible that I would be killing an innocent Hitler.
But let's say I have the omniscience to know the future with 100% accuracy. It's like seeing a person pointing a gun on another person and I know by certainty that he will pull the trigger, should I shoot the guy? And let's say I know I have no other opportunity to stop the kid but only today when he is still 1 year old, does that make a difference from shooting a guy who is about to kill another person(an innocent person)?
Honestly, it's actually a complicated situation for me. My heart and brain would have a war with each other. Why would I kill a kid who doesn't have the consciousness in mind to plan a war? Maybe that's it, it is immoral to kill a child just because he is the cause of the war. He is innocent. A person maybe a cause to some death of millions of lives, but he is morally innocent because he didn't consciously have the intention of it. We are only to kill a guilty person, right? Maybe, utilitarianism shouldn't only be the basis of morality. Justice should also be a measure like a sense of guilt and innocence. Premeditation should be a sign of guilt. In this case, the kid doesn't have until he grew up and started the war.
Actually this kinda reminds me of an episode of Lost. Sayid met the young Ben Linus in the past and shot him. His friends who were also a victim of Ben Linus's instead helped the young Ben Linus.
I agree with most of the answers posted here.
This question was somewhat of a trap, especially placing the picture of kid Hitler as bait. It's not hard to 'rationalize' that if someone ended Hitler's life while he was still a toddler, it would then follow that there would be no adult Hitler (pun) who led Nazi Germany to war.
Well the thing is, I do not believe in destiny. Neither can anyone actually see it. The kid and the full-grown Hitler are two completely different people who only share the same name. And it's wrong to accuse a person for the wrong doings of another. Plus it's impossible to tell at the time that this little boy will grow up to be the fuhrer. The boy just made a series unique choices as he grew older that led him to being what he was. So no, I would not kill the little boy. Instead, I would lead him down a different path - if you have the luxury of time to actually nurture him into becoming a good human being. This applies to both past toddlers (hitler, pol pot, etc) and present toddlers (no idea).
Just to complicate things, let's say time travel was possible (messy ). What if you did not have the luxury of time? What if the time travel machine only gave you approximately 1 hour to spend with the child Hitler? What would you do (knowing full well that this kid will launch a war in the future)?
I already made my answer with that. It's like a Grandfather paradox. How can you send yourself to the past if you didn't have the knowledge(because there was no war) that gave you reason to do it? If you're travelling into the same universe, you can't change the past - take the hint from the movie "Time Machine" - You simply can't (If the scientist's girlfriend didn't die, would he send himself to the past?).
If you're also travelling into another parallel universe, how are you sure you're not killing an innocent Hitler?
This is just purely intuition but I would not kill young Hitler in any situation, because he hasn't premeditated anything yet. I'm saying the young Hitler is innocent and it would be immoral for me to kill him.
Here's another situation, if you were young Hitler and somebody from the future told you with evidence that you are going to start an unjustifiable war, and the only way to stop it is to kill yourself because no matter how you avoid from going to that path, you will eventually find a reason to go to that path, What would you do?
not necessary to think. the answer is absolutely not.
I'm not sure about this moral question. I tend towards yes, I would, if 100% it would stop the horror which happened under Nazis. It would be better to attempt to change him if possible instead.
However. Without Hitler, there would have been a war anyway in all probability. Whether it would have taken on the properties of facism and Jew hating I can't guess.
Who can say how today would be without that particular war? Perhaps another may have risen and joined forces with Soviet Russia, swinging the likely balance towards Soviet style communism. Perhaps the other may have joined with the allies, or made up another form of government, or maybe created a similar regime.
What if no war had happened? Germany would likely have been a broke hamstrung indebted country, not the financial powerhouse or vibrant democracy it is today. What would Europe look like today if Germany wasn't bailing half of Europe out?
Given all the scenarios, given the circumstances at the time, I think a war based on German pride was a likely outcome regardless of the personalities involved.
Killing a child cannot be an option. Even if it is someone like Hitler. Even if he had been killed, there was no gurantee that someone else would not take his position. It was the cause, rather than the person which was more important.
I think that people often bring up children just so that it plays on peoples' emotions and they start using those instead of their heads. Because, really, it doesn't logically change anything. I guess you can argue that killing a child is slightly worse than killing an adult because the child theoretically has more life ahead and so you're taking more life. But, then again, you can argue that killing an adult is worse because death would be harder to face for an adult.
But I would have a hard time killing the child because not only would you have to be 100% sure that it would prevent the war, you'd have to be 100% sure of the consequences. Many historians argue that Hitler actually saved more lives than he killed because he taught the world a very important lesson that would have to be learned eventually and made "genocide" a very dirty word. The chances of anything like that happening again are slimmer than they once were because of Hitler. Most importantly, he did it at a time that was slightly before nuclear weapons. If something like that was done today, it could be much more drastically. Luckily, however, it happened before we had current technologies.
That may or may not be true; nobody will ever know. However, I'm just repeating the argument because it is a valid argument.
There's another practical reason: presumption of innocence. Making it a child stresses the fact that there's no rational way they could have done something to warrant being killed. There's no way you can reasonably say that little baby Adolf is already "tainted", which would make the NSDAP takeover (or even just something similar) inevitable.
You could ask why not kill Hitler just before he met Dietrich Eckart, or just before the Beer Hall Putsch, or while he was in prison for treason, or... whatever. But each of these questions has slightly different moral weight, because at each point he's gone further and further along the path toward the war; he's done "more" of the bad stuff he'll eventually do, even if he hasn't yet crossed the point of no return. Taking it all the way back to infancy removes all of that, and makes it a question about a purely preemptive move.
Bikerman has a point.
If the future can be predicted with certainty, then neither the child nor you have any free will.
So, you might as well do whatever the heck you want, since the opportunity to make a 'choice' between the two options is just an illusion.
--Then there's the whole necessity of force question... It may not be necessary to kill him. Kidnapping him and letting him be raised by a family in a completely different place would probably be just as effective, while being a less harmful, and therefore more moral, action.
As said above, there's also the grandfather paradox involved... If you kill him to prevent the war, there will be no war, and then what would have prompted you to kill him in the first place?
...On a slightly related note... you might justify killing the child based on the child's future crimes... but once dead, the child will not ever commit those crimes, so is now innocent in past and future.
I cannot help but feel there are about half a dozen different questions being answers in this topic, and the original post didn't help with it's shortness and ambiguity.
* Yes, I would theoretically kill a child if it would 100% prevent a war and greater death / suffering. That's basic moral mathematics as far as I'm concerned.
* No, I would not time-travel and kill baby Hitler, because in practice wars come about from far more causes than just one individual.
* No, I would not kill a present day baby Hitler even if he would be the sole cause of a war because in practice there would be other options and knowing the future isn't really possible.
* No, I would not kill a present day baby Hitler if I did somehow have 100% knowledge that doing so would split a time stream to avert a war or something - although in this case mostly because I'd selfishly wimp out of the act itself as well as the jail time and hate that would follow me.
* Yes, I would theoretically support killing somebody innocent to prevent them turning evil and cause greater suffering later ... but practically I wouldn't since that's not a judgement any human is going to have enough knowledge to make, and the better choice is to attempt preemptive rehabilitation or give the best growing environment. Maybe you risk them still turning out evil, but it's a better choice than killing them now (which is always evil) and your methods for preventing evil will improve over time and turn out better in the long run even after putting up with a few evil adult Hitlers.
* No, if I would not kill Hitler if I had a time machine that let me spend exactly one hour with him in his youth. I might, however, cut his right hand off. Let's see you heil now, adult Hitler!
The question is too hypothetical. A better question might be:
Given a 'likelihood' that killing a child would prevent future wars, at what likelihood would you kill the child? 50%, 75%, 95%? Less .. more?
Still, the question remains too hypothetical. Nothing - especially future knowledge - is certain.
No... even if i would know that it's little adolf... it's still a child ..
besides.. no one is allowed to judge ob someone else .. NO ONE.. even not if it would be grown up adolf.. maybe sound a little bit radical to some guys.. but only god judges.. adolf sure got his "loan"
Ummm... That's an extremely dangerous and delusional approach to take. No one is allowed to judge? Bullshit. Without judges and juries all justice systems would collapse. God doesn't keep the rapists off the streets and away from the rest of society.
And this isn't about judging anyone. The point of this topic is about preventing a war and saving thousands or even millions of lives. If you won't judge someone in order to do that then you're a really dangerous person.
That is true; however, I do not think that is the case most of the time. Usually when I see something like this I feel that the author is using a child to hit the emotional side of people and those people will not respond rationally. If a child was being used to show that innocence is more likely, it would probably mention something like, "Would you kill an innocent child who isn't even old enough to have done something evil?"
So if I kidnapped your family, strapped them to the back of mountain lions, gave your house to a terrorist group, gave the terrorist group guns, released the lions in your former backyard, and then set fire to the house ... you wouldn't be allowed to judge me as kind of a dick. Okay.
Killing a child even if he was Hitler is wrong.. If you have to kill Hitler, if you travel back in time, why not kill him before he made his first evil decision?
Actually I had heard this a few months ago, that Hitler wanted to be an artist, and submitted his paintings, which was rejected and he could not get into the Vienna Academy art school, after which he lost interest in art and focused more on politics.
So, if you could change history... rather than killing someone, perhaps there is the opportunity to change someone's mind altogether.
The grandfather paradox would only work if the child is already dead. So, as long as the child is still alive, from the moment you step into the time machine right until the moment you end its life, you still hold the necessary knowledge in order for you to complete your mission: which is to travel to the past and kill the Hitler toddler. Once he expires, that's when the grandfather paradox settles in.
What happens to you afterwards? I dunno. Your existence in that timeline would probably just be erased... (You'd probably just fade away like Michael J. Fox's character in the Back to the Future movies. ) ...and your presence before Hitler's death would be nothing more than an anomaly.
Then you've just killed an innocent Hitler. Since the war happened which caused you to go back in time, then someone else started the war. Not Hitler. Exactly like Bikerman said. He will be replaced by another. That makes Hitler innocent. Though that is still a Paradox. How would you know that Hitler did it when someone else did it? Or maybe, the twin of Hitler did it and you just killed the wrong Hitler. Actually if you manage to go back in time, you will fail in your mission. Something or somebody will eventually stop you. Or suddenly you get a heart attack when you're already inches away from Hitler.
*Let's all talk about paradoxes because we're uncomfortable acknowledging the possible morality of killing one to save many!*
Yes, it is a difficult problem which requires laser precision or accuracy in making a decision. I think it's a problem where one side will only win by a hair.
With a paradox, you don't have to make that difficult choice.
After reading ocalhoun's humanzee thread, I wonder what moral obligations does a kiddo Hitler have?
Does he deserve death sentence.
If you accept that the future is immutable and possible to know, then this would be the most likely outcome.
All your efforts to change the future would simply fail in some way or other, because the future already exists and can't be changed.
(If it can be changed, then it is unknowable and you have no justification for killing anybody.)
Sounds good to me.
The part that gives me a problem is the preemptive nature of it.
How would you like it if someone was trying to kill you for crimes you would supposedly commit in the future?
It seems that would be the case, which is what is troubling with this topic.
To be honest, I doubt killing Hitler would ever prevent WW2. I guess that war was just poised to happen in that era of escalated tensions in Europe and elsewhere. It all becomes a matter of who else is charismatic enough to step up to the plate - an individual who I think isn't that hard to find in Nazi Germany.
But that's a different topic. This thread assumes that if you kill Hitler as a toddler, WW2 would definitely not happen.
I'd say I would give the child to those who I know would get killed in the war and leave the moral question to them. Would they sacrifice their lives for the child? Maybe they can vote it out. But that also means I'd kill the child if the majority decides to kill him.
I just think that it would be stupid for me to kill the kid when the majority of those who will get killed are willing to sacrifice their lives for the kid.
I'm not sure what I'm saying but the question now is, do they have the right to defend themselves against a child? Or does a child have the capability to cause a war? I don't really think that the kid would directly cause the war. Let's say for example the kid accidentally hit a button that would ignite a war, shouldn't we focus on the button instead? Or the kid grow up to be Hitler, shouldn't we concentrate on Hitler? But maybe it would be justified if we don't know the direct cause or that we have no access or make contact to this direct cause and the only knowable or reachable cause is the kid, then maybe. But if we don't know the direct cause then how do we know the kid is the cause? We should know the link between the kid and the war to know that the kid cause the war. And also if the kid has made contact to this direct cause, then there isn't any reason why we can't reach it unless the kid has a special magic in him that explains why he's the only one who's able to reach it. Because we know that the kid can't be the direct cause and that it's impossible to not know and reach the direct cause then therefore I think we can stop the war without killing the kid.
hmmm.. I think there's a flaw to my argument. Let's say the kid grow up to be Hitler and there's no way to reach Hitler and also there's no way to destroy the obstruction. So the only way to stop the war is to make contact with the kid Hitler. Maybe you don't have to kill the young Hitler yet. Just kidnap him. But wait, I just said the obstruction can't be destroyed, so kidnapping isn't possible. And also you said killing Hitler will stop the war. You didn't said that kidnapping him will stop it. So unless you kill the young Hitler then the war will not be stopped. Even with proper nurturing and love, some definite cause or event will eventually cause him to cause the war.
Also if I have the chance to give the decision to other people, I'd perhaps give that decision to the victims. But that would also default to me deciding that the kid dies if the majority makes a decision to kill him. Or maybe I don't have to give them the kid. I just have to know if they are willing to sacrifice.
That leaves everything to me deciding the future. Should I or should I not kill the child?
This also means that such decision asks whether I should or I shouldn't kill the victims.
What if some of those victims are children? Would I be inclined to kill him?
Should I shoot five kids or this one kid?
Whatever that decision is, my conscience is doomed.
Oh bother... I've just realized that there's even more paradoxes possible with that...
Preventing such a war would affect a huge change on history as we know it... What if your ancestors only met because of the war? By preventing the war, you might be preventing your own birth...
And that only scratches the surface of what not having that war might change over the course of history... Would you return back to your own time only to find that in the newly changed history you've made, fascism spreads across the whole world*? Or that a nuclear war had happened later on, because different nations invented the a-bomb at different times than happened in our familiar history**? And then there's economics... The US became dominant mainly by being the only industrial economy not devastated by the war... What would the world economy look like if Europe (and Russia and Japan) hadn't had such a huge setback***? And then there's the technological changes... nuclear power, aviation advances, radar and radios, and probably a lot more... would those things have been developed as soon, or at all, if not for the war?
*What if, without the war, it was never vehemently renounced and was therefore able to spread?
**The US only developed the bomb because Nazi Germany was trying to, and they felt they needed to as well in order to keep up... Without that motivation, who else would have been the first nation to make a nuke? And how would a different nation handle being the only nuclear power before others caught up?
***Which might change the balance of power during the cold war period... and would certainly change the (mainly economic) circumstances that spelled the end of the cold war...
I suppose that raises a bigger question... Can we even be sure that preventing the war is really for the best in the long run? Tampering with history on such a grand scale might not end well...
What if killing Hitler didn't prevent the war, but only delayed it? Delayed it enough so that ICBM's and nukes had already been developed before it started...
When you consider all the unpredictable variables in play, and just how badly things could possibly go, perhaps it's better to just leave history the way it was.
Perhaps that is the biggest obstacle posed - would you be willing to change the face of history, your existence included, to save more than 70 million people?
Still a paradox, but I like to think of time travel to the past as a divergence from the original timeline, creating a new timeline with your time-traveling self existing in the late (new) 1800s.
No I would not kill a child to prevent a war. Not even if asked to and that would be the only way to prevent the war.
If two hostile parties are close to a war, there most probably are a million excuses available to start the war. Also, in real life it's very improbable that a single act could prevent a war.
If it's creating a divergent timeline, then you wouldn't be successful in preventing the war, since it would still happen in the original timeline.
True. You would be preventing the war for that new timeline, thereby molding a 'better' timeline in the process.
Hmm, but if it then happened, where otherwise not, in another timeline, then the net effect would be zero. If there are an infinity of timelines then the question becomes moot, because every possible outcome would already be in play - including the ones where you did and did not kill.....an infinity of each...
That emotional manipulation may be what they have in mind, but if that's the case then they're bad philosophers (and the people who fall for it are even worse). i'd rather assume people are good philosophers, until proven otherwise. (Usually doesn't take too long for them to prove otherwise, so it's not really that expensive an assumption.)
Why does it always have to be the "easy" way?
if you could predict the future or go back to the past, wouldnt it be worth to change what made that kid Evil.
it's the classic one, Would you kill adolf hitler baby?
why kill him if you could change history and make him a great leader? i doubt he was an evil baby or an evil kid, and i think in his mind he wasnt evil at all...
i mean sure its hard, but if you figured out how to travel thorgh time or predict the future with certainty it's going to be a piece of cake
i remember one of the vlog brothers had some very interesting ideas about that, he spoke about the american civil war, if you ask any american if it was a good thing, most people will say yes because it mean freedom from the british rule, but when it happened many many people thought the war was evil no matter which side you're because many people died in both sides...
Letting the war happen also prevents the birth of those victim's descendants. I guess if you're able to calculate all the futures, that means you have to do much more calculations of its consequences and benefits before you will have to decide. What if one of those descendants was the one to discover the cure to an epidemic that would cause the death of a majority of our population or even cause the extinction of mankind?
You have a point, maybe world war 2 isn't the only thing to consider here but all people in the future. Sum up all people in both futures and weigh how many will benefit the death of baby youngster hitler.
Poor baby. But maybe it'd be easy if you just kill the parent given that you start predicting before hitler was born. At least you can try to explain to the parent why you have to do such thing. Maybe you don't have to do it with your own hands.
But why stop your calculations based on just that action?
What if you ran through all of your predictions and possible actions, and found that in order to create the 'best of all possible worlds', you had to kill not Hitler, but a random and truly innocent civilian who, by chance, had a tiny, but pivotal role to play?
1- You get an F in 'American History 101'. The war that freed them from British rule was the 'revolutionary war'. The 'civil war' came much later and was a war between union and confederacy. (Yeah, I know, I'm nit-picking.)
2- In any war, at least one side thinks it's a good idea while it's happening, or neither one would be the aggressor and there would be no war. (Much like the cold war, probably. Neither side ever decided that all-out war between the two would be a good idea, so it never happened.)
Lets change it slightly,we all know how things ended up after the war,killing hitler may not have changed a thing as tensions in Europe decided the first world war and it could be argued that the consequences of the first world war decided the second,with or without Hitler.
How about someone from the future comes to you and tells you and shows evidence that 3 quarters of the worlds population will be wiped out in a nuclear holocaust in 2050,and then tells you it can be prevented if you kill an as yet unborn baby,giving you the name and date and place of birth,no other information is given.
So would you still kill an as yet innocent child?
But that's only possible if killing that innocent civilian could offset what Hitler did in history which probably requires an accidental interaction that caused that offset if that person is truly innocent. Regardless, it would still depend on Hitler's life whether that offset happens or not. The main difference is Hitler did the whole thing consciously. Maybe that civilian unconsciously indirectly influenced or caused Hitler's decisions, which lead us to conclude that we should kill the innocent civilian instead of Hitler. That means you can either kill Hitler or kill that innocent civilian. But that's already going off-topic. The spotlight is on Hitler. Should you or should you not kill Hitler? Whatever decision you make in that action, that would likely influence the effect of any action in the future. Yes, you can do other actions in the future that causes major change in the future but that doesn't get you off the hook from making a decision about whether Hitler dies or not.
1: Better be some really convincing evidence. Even without moral considerations, I'm likely to go to jail or even be executed for acting on it.
2: Why can't the guy from the future do it himself? Why does he have to involve me in his dirty business?
3: Many of the paradox concerns remain in that scenario... though not all.
But, to stop nit-picking at your scenario, and actually give an answer... I think no, actually. What can I say? I'm an individualist at heart, and sacrificing one to save many doesn't seem right to me.
Ok, I'll try to make it even easier for everyone. We know that time travel would only introduce some paradox, so it doesn't really effectively show the potential of sacrificing one to save many.
Let's say innocent baby Adolf Hitler is on a heavy bomber german aircraft with his crazy dad as the pilot. Then his crazy dad told everyone that he's taken his son Adolf Hitler as his hostage, with a live video evidence showing baby hitler as his passenger, and will bomb any commercial tower that can be easily toppled by dropping heavy bomb from air or anything he can find in the city where there's plenty of lives to kill. For example, you have the power to order a powerful jet fighter or some high precision missile launcher to shoot down the plane and make it crash on an open field.
Would you shoot down the plane or not?
And if you know by certainty and accurate calculation of the future to know that Adolf Hitler would cause World War and the only way to stop it is kill Adolf Hitler, how would that influence your decision if it would?
And how is shooting down a baby hitler-loaded plane to save many lives any different from killing hitler to save many lives?
I think what makes this a more difficult question (and a better one) is you've effectively eliminated any emotional attachments a person has with the said war - whereas the original question dealt with WW2 - a war that had already affected us one way or the other.
I agree with Ocalhoun. It will need some pretty good convincing for anyone at present to believe such nuclear holocaust will happen in 2050. That's probably why the best candidate to actually carry out the killing would be the guy from the future.
As for my present-day living self, and being the skeptic I am, I think I won't be able to do it.
Yeah, probably. (We'll get to the reasoning later.)
Not at all... as said earlier, that's either wild speculation, or completely unavoidable.
Because you're killing the (guilty) crazy dad to save many lives.
That the baby hitler hostage dies as well is regrettable, but collateral damage with the blame resting mainly on crazy dad, not on the shooter.
So, killing the baby would still be entirely immoral, but the blame would be on the crazy dad, not the one who made the decision to do it.
I'm confused. Do you mean Hitler's actual dad or the adult Hitler?
Considering the connection between the baby and the adult Hitler is as intimate and irrevocable as it can be, it's just unfortunate that the baby Hitler will naturally be subjected to constant death threats. I realize I'm changing my tune right now, since earlier I said both (baby and adult) are two completely different people. They are, but since their physical relationship is so intense it's undeniable - the baby will become, and ultimately is, the adult... unless there's some sort of intervention between.
And with that it is also perfectly logical to say that killing baby hitler is just a collateral damage in killing the adult Hitler given that the only way to stop the war(given also that stopping the war is the most logical option) is to make a preemptive move by killing baby Hitler.
While I found the talk of paradoxes interesting I will ignore them and getting to the root of the question, I believe in the sacrifice of the few for the good of the majority. While this may seem cold hearted and cruel, I don't have to be sure it will stop the war, there just has to be a good chance. I also dislike the fact that you can call any man evil. A test I use to run said that if you were in power of a nation that had just lost a war and you blame group b wouldn't it be your patriotic duty to eliminate group b? Most people say yea, his actions were evil and stupid. The man was just crazy. You shouldn't be asking if you could kill an evil man, you should be asking if you can kill anyone, even a child, for the sake of peace.
I question the validity of the idea of using violence to create peace.
... Sort of like using light to produce darkness, or using heat to create cold, right?
You know, both of those things are scientifically plausible. In fact, the latter is how refrigerators work. (The former has been done in laser cooling systems, too. To change the direction of a photon you need energy. A photon is energy. So, to turn photons away from some area, you can fire photons at them. It's the same conceptual principle as the air curtains used in the doorways of stores.)
The fact is, you can create peace through violence. The most obvious way is to kill everyone; an empty space is pretty peaceful. Less obvious is to kill everyone who is violent for a few generations to breed meekness into the population (then, for completeness, the ones doing the killing should kill themselves); that will leave you with a peaceful world, eventually.
It's quite easy to create peace with violence, but is it valid? Well, i agree with your doubts, but i don't think there is a simple answer. Certainly not one backed up by physics analogies. i would say that it is probably moral to kill someone - even a child - for the sake of peace, but i would say that it can't just be any random child. There has to be a direct connection between cause and effect.
Put another way, what if someone said, "Kill that baby, or i'll start a war." i think it would be immoral to kill that baby - if anyone should be killed, it's the person who made the threat. The baby wasn't actually going to be the cause of that war.
On the other hand, if it could be proved beyond reasonable doubt that Hitler caused WW2, and you knew this before the fact, then i think you would be morally obligated to kill Hitler. Now... to kill Hitler as a baby? That's trickier. i don't think you could morally justify killing Hitler as a baby. i think you could morally justify killing him as a young man - when he was actually holding the beliefs that would eventually start the war. Baby Hitler wasn't the direct cause of WW2; adult Hitler was - him and the beliefs he held. i think it would be moral to kill him the instant he had the mindset to do the things that would lead to war, but not a moment before.
And in the general sense, i think it would be moral to arrest a criminal the moment they had the desire to do the crime... whether they were able to get around to do it or not. But not before that; i think it would be immoral to arrest the (eventual) criminal the day before it occurred to them to do the crime.
Woah now! That's a whole new can o' worms!
For starters, don't you think 'the moment they have the desire to do it' is a bit early?
They might successfully repress the desire, or be talked out of it, or simply never have an opportunity...
You could at least wait until they intend to do it...
*edit for clarity*
For any being blessed with powers of self-control, 'desire' and 'intention' are two distinct things; possible to have both, neither, or just either one without the other.
Personally, I'd hold off until they take some kind of action towards it. Otherwise you're (pretty much literally) arresting people for thoughtcrime.
I think the main goal is to stop the war.
Also sparing Hitler's life is more desirable than killing him since that would give him opportunity to change and make up for his mistakes.
But I think the best time to act is the moment before you lose any opportunity to act in the future. We should keep in mind that the main goal is to stop the war. If by certainty we could still find an opportunity to stop the war even Hitler gave his orders, then we should spare Hitler since that would be a more desirable choice. But if we lose any opportunity after, say for example Hitler's second birthday, then we should grab the opportunity and save more babies and kids in the future by killing baby Hitler before he turns 2.
But as olcalhoun said in an earlier post,if there is an opportunity to kill him at such a young age there is an opportunity to kidnap him and bring him up elsehwhere,different upbringing,different adult,different outcome. Killing at that age isn't the only option/solution.
i am working under the assumption that we have relatively perfect knowledge of the future. In other words, we know he's going to do it. So, clearly, he's not going to repress the desire or be talked out of it, and clearly he will have the opportunity. If he was going to repress the desire, be talked out of it, or simply be unable to do it, then he isn't going to do it... but he is going to do it.
The goal is to stop someone from doing something, and the assumption is that we have the knowledge that they will do that thing. There is no point in waiting until they do it, or until they start to do it, or until they intend to do it. We know they're going to do it.
The moment they manifest the desire to do it, they are the person - psychologically and philosophically speaking - who will eventually do the thing. At that point, we can step in.
To put it another way, suppose teenage Hitler had nothing against Jews. Stopping him then would be immoral. He is not currently the same person, psychologically, as the one who will eventually instigate the Holocaust. That also implies it would be immoral to stop him as a baby.
Then something happens, or Hitler grows up a little, or whatever, and now Hitler starts hating Jews. He is still not the same person, psychologically, as the one who will start the Holocaust, because although some parts of who he will be are now in place, key parts are still missing.
Then one day Hitler starts dreaming up a plan to eradicate the Jews. Now he is the person who will eventually cause the Holocaust. It doesn't matter that his plan is merely in its infancy and he doesn't even know if it will be possible yet, let alone the precise mechanisms of how he'll do it... because we know that it will be possible, he will and that it will work.
The point where he starts wanting to eradicate the Jews is the point where he's crossed a line. What line? Well, at any point before then, if we told him, "Hilter, you will one day murder six million Jews," he might say, "What, that's horrible!" or "Whoa, i hate Jews, but i don't want to murder them!" But the moment he starts wanting to murder Jews is the moment where he would start saying, "Wait, you mean this idea i'm dreaming up is actually going to work? Cool!" In other words, it's the moment when informing him he will one day do the action is no longer going to stop him from doing it (or have no effect), and will, in fact, probably encourage him.
If the goal is to prevent some action, waiting until they start to take it seems a little late.
We know they're going to do it - whether they know or not is irrelevant. When a person commits a murder, the crime they are actually guilty of wanting to kill the victim. That's what separates murderers from people who kill in self-defence. A person defending themself may certainly intend to kill their attacker, but would not really want to. (For example, a police sniper shooting a criminal before they can shoot a civilian - they certainly intend to kill the criminal (they're not shooting stun darts), but they don't want the criminal dead.)
Normally, of course, we can't detect when someone wants to do something evil. And even if we could, we can't determine whether that want is just a passing fancy, or whether it will eventually become an action (let alone a successful action) - we can't determine whether it's just a thoughtcrime or the first stage of an actual crime. But in this Hitler case, the assumption is we can.
To be clear, i'm not proposing we act on any desire to do something evil. i'm only talking about situations where we are certain the evil desired is definitely going to be done if we don't act.
Well then, in that (impossible) case, where we do have perfect knowledge of the future...
I'd still say you should intervene at the last possible moment... Letting your target enjoy life a while longer (possibly years) increases the overall amount of good in the world.
(And really, with perfect knowledge of the future and years of time in which to act... you'd think we could figure out a way to change the future without killing anybody.)
i don't think you'd need perfect knowledge, just reasonable knowledge. i mean, if you think about it, you don't have perfect knowledge that jamming a knife into your lower brain will kill you; if you tried it, the knife may wink out of existence before any damage was done, or you might have some kind of freak physiology that you are unaware of that either allows you to live with a destroyed lower brain or will heal it instantaneously. Yet, i would say that you can be reasonably certain that stabbing yourself in the lower brain will kill you.
Perfect knowledge is unnecessary; it would be enough to be reasonably certain - and not reasonably certain that it could happen, but reasonably certain that it will happen. In other words, if we invented some kind of time viewer that allowed us to view the future - and that device had been extensively tested to the point were we are almost certain that anything we view in it will happen without our intervention - that's good enough. (For reference, a police sniper can't have perfect knowledge that some criminal will kill a hostage - someone with magic psychic powers could show up and change the criminal's mind at the last minute, or they could have a very sudden and random change of heart. But when they are reasonably certain the criminal is going to kill a hostage, they should act.)
(It might increase the overall amount of good, or it might increase the overall amount of suffering, depending on how the target lives their life.)
Yes, unless there's a need to strike early, there's no reason to. Even if the criminal develops the desire to do the crime weeks in advance, you could just as well wait until milliseconds before the critical action was taken.
My argument is just that it's morally permissible to strike from the moment the desire exists, not that it's something we should do (unless other circumstances make it necessary).
Perhaps. On the other hand, killing someone might actually be the way to create the best possible future.
Massacre of the Innocents http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_the_Innocents
did not prevent Jesus' activities.
urrrggg... my brain just melted, reading this thread.
To the original question: No I could not kill a child, even if I knew that doing so would prevent a war. I would try to find other way to manipulate the outcome instead.
I have to agree with some in this thread. I tend to believe that if we were to go back into the past and change it, it wouldn't make any difference. I believe that the future has been pre set and is going to happen as it is destined to. The war mentioned cleaned up most of Europe but Great Britain held out mainly through the leadership of Churchill. If you went back and killed Churchill as a baby then some one else equally as influential would have been the prime minister who led Great Britain in victory. Just as if you had killed Hitler then some one else would have led his people to an inevitable war.
I think that rehabilitating him would be a humane option instead of killing him which is cruel. Perhaps he could have been sent to a special school for that.
IMHO the question is purely theoretical because you don't know the future of a child for certain. It's nice to consider science fiction scenarios, but in case of time travel I would choose a more humane solution. I would let the Hitler kid disappear from Austria: kidnap it and take the time to raise the kid myself. I would find it very interesting to see this kid grow up and assert if it would make any difference if I would raise it and teach it humanism.
Reminds me of this film,
Anyway I don't believe the modern world is destined by the existence of a single person. Nazism would also have appeared in Germany, as a result of loosing WW-1 and the crises that followed.
I hope that is a typo Nick..
war happens, you can can try to stop it, but it will happen eventually, inevitably.
so either you kill or not kill a child doesn't matter.
it only matters when we are talking about your relationship with God.