Justice: Consequentialist versus Categorical Moral Reasoning

art-sta-ivstitia-1Over the past week, we have looked a great deal at the notion of “Justice” and we have even created our own wiki in an attempt to create our own textbook on the subject. We have also looked at experts, such as Michael Sandel and Arthur Schafer, to help us in our quest. See Sandel’s lecture below:

Now we have undertaken the task of reading the infamous case of the The Case of the Speluncean Explorers. Read the case and the judgements made by the various justices and comment on what you think is justice in this case. Please provide a rationale for your argument and comment on what your colleagues are arguing.

7 thoughts on “Justice: Consequentialist versus Categorical Moral Reasoning

  1. I believe both Judge Foster, and Judge Handy made the right decision in concluding that the defendants are innocent of the crime charged, and that the conviction and sentence should be set aside. All of the men inside the cave would have died without food and killing and eating one of their members allowed four of the five members to survive. All the members agreed to roll the dice to see who would be killed except Roger Whetmore. However, Roger Whetmore first brought up the idea of eating somebody while they were trapped in the cave, and he also agreed to let one of the defendants to roll for him. The defendants were never told it would become a crime to kill and eat one of their members as the judges and doctors on sight never responded to them when asked through radio contact. I think the defendants should be found not guilty as killing, and eating Roger Whetmore was their only chance at survival and all of the members agreed to the terms of Rogers proposal. It would also be a bad idea to convict the defendants of murder when 10 lives were lost trying to save them from the cave, only to kill the defendants for committing the acts that they did.

  2. I think that J. Foster and J. Handy made the right decision of coming to the conclusion that the defendants are innocent. The point of view which i am siding with is that all the men would have died, if they did not eat someone. as Devon has mentioned above. Even though Roger did not roll for himself he agreed for another person to roll for him. He lost. I think the defendants should not be proven guilty under these circumstances. Killing the men would have meant innocent lives were lost for no reason. This its self could have caused another case of the families of the deceased versus the crown.

  3. I agree with Devan, I think that Judge Foster and Judge Handy have the right idea acquitting the defendants. When the explorers became trapped in the cave, they held out for as long as possible. Only when they had exhausted all of their supplies they then decided to consume one of their members. An argument could be made if they had got together in secret to kill Mr. Whetmore and went through with their plan that it would be murder but it was Mr. Whetmore who conceived the idea himself. Only when all four members of the group agreed that they rolled dice to see who would be the unlucky one to sacrifice himself. It ended up to be Mr. Whetmore and he was killed and eaten. Judge Foster brings forth an excellent argument. My favourite point he makes though was when he said, “Ten workmen were killed in the process of removing the rocks from the opening to the cave. Did the engineers and government officials who directed the rescue effort know that the operations they were undertaking were dangerous and involved a serious risk to the lives of the workmen executing them? If it was proper that these ten lives should be sacrificed to save the lives of five imprisoned explorers, why then are we told it was wrong for these explorers to carry out an arrangement which would save four lives at the cost of one?” It seems very strange to put four people to death after saving them from the brink of starvation at the cost of ten lives, it would be a complete waste.

  4. I agree with all the previous comments saying that Judge Handy and Judge Foster are right in saying that the defendants are innocent. I would also like to add that it was Wheatmore’s idea about rolling the dice in the first place and also when asked if the dice rolling was fair or not he said it was. I also think that if the government were willing to accept the loss of life of the ten workmen who were killed trying to save the lives of the four/five explores then how is it different that they killed one person to save the life of the four.

  5. I am going to not jump on the band wagon with you guys and say that they are guilty of murder. although, if I were a real judge in this case I would probably not be able to make an actual decision on what should be done to the four men. But, since we are just reflecting, I would agree with Judge Keen, and that the conviction should be affirmed. He states within the meaning of the N.C.S.A. 12-A did these defendants willfully take the life of Whetmore? the exact language of the statue is as follows: “Whoever shall willfully take the life of another shall be punished by death.” Judge Keen continues by saying that although the other judges do not like the fact that the written law requires the conviction of these defendants. He then adds that he respects the obligations of an office that requires him to put his personal predilections out of mind when he comes to interpret and apply the law of this Commonwealth. I agreed with Judge Keen, because although four lives were saved, I do not think it is just to kill a friend in order to do so. I know that if I was in that situation with four of my friends, I would accept the fact that we were trapped, and wait till we were either rescued or until we met our fate, and I would be ready to accept either one.

  6. I don’t think I can make a true judgement call in the name of the law on this one. On the other hand, I can highlight some of the most intriguing statements I found/ideas that were presented. In my opinion the most impacting point was from judge foster, that in an insecure, away from civilization environment our laws shouldn’t neccisarily be implied. This seems to be a highly debated point, for which I would side with judge foster. The other most notable statement came from judge keen, saying that he is normally a calm and collected judge who doesn’t normally let his emotions get in the way, but in this case he would want to side with the men instead of the law. As judge foster pointed out, the best way to uphold the law is sometimes to change/disobey it. The rest of judge keen’s arguments were probably my favourite because he discusses his concious and morality compared to what he’s trained to know and do, ie. upholding the law.

  7. I would have to side with James. The men in the cave should not have killed Whetmore he did not not agree to be killed, If Whetmore were to die of starvation or of suicide i believe it would have been just for the men t eat him but since they killed him it is a whole different ball park. I agree with Keen on how he says the men in the cave should be charged with no clemancy.

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