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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Hypothetical moral quandary

    I think this might be frowned upon, but since it doesn't have anything to do with the Giant's works or a widespread social issue, I give it a good chance it won't be.

    Say you have a villain and a hero. The hero confronts the villain, but the villain tells him he just activated a bomb that will go off in a crowded place and surely kill dozens of people, but in a room on the other side of the lair, there's a deactivation mechanism that the hero would easily be able to reach in time even with mooks in his way--but this would allow the villain to escape. The hero responds at first by saying he's not going to allow the villain to escape, because he'll just keep killing and generally doing evil things if he stops the bomb here. The VILLAIN then says: "Well...are you REALLY willing to let people die just to stop me?"

    The quandary is this: Say the hero says basically he WILL still stop him and refuse to go after the bomb instead. On whose hands is the blood of the people killed by the bomb? Personally, I'd say the villain full stop--he's the one that's willing to kill just to get what he wants or save his own neck. If he didn't put people in danger, they wouldn't NEED to be saved. However, judging by a LOT of instances in fiction where this sort of scenario actually plays out, a lot of fiction heroes seem to think the opposite is true. Thoughts, any/everyone?
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Lheticus View Post
    I think this might be frowned upon, but since it doesn't have anything to do with the Giant's works or a widespread social issue, I give it a good chance it won't be.

    Say you have a villain and a hero. The hero confronts the villain, but the villain tells him he just activated a bomb that will go off in a crowded place and surely kill dozens of people, but in a room on the other side of the lair, there's a deactivation mechanism that the hero would easily be able to reach in time even with mooks in his way--but this would allow the villain to escape. The hero responds at first by saying he's not going to allow the villain to escape, because he'll just keep killing and generally doing evil things if he stops the bomb here. The VILLAIN then says: "Well...are you REALLY willing to let people die just to stop me?"

    The quandary is this: Say the hero says basically he WILL still stop him and refuse to go after the bomb instead. On whose hands is the blood of the people killed by the bomb? Personally, I'd say the villain full stop--he's the one that's willing to kill just to get what he wants or save his own neck. If he didn't put people in danger, they wouldn't NEED to be saved. However, judging by a LOT of instances in fiction where this sort of scenario actually plays out, a lot of fiction heroes seem to think the opposite is true. Thoughts, any/everyone?
    In the interest of good drama, the blood is of course on the hands of the hero. He was provided a means to save innocent lives and choose instead to sacrifice them for what he perceived as the "greater good". True "heroes" don't sacrifice innocent, defenseless people like that, even if it means letting a villain get away.
    Edit: And in RPGs, making the fault be on the villain quickly leads to a sort of "action-optimization" mentality where any sort of drama or no-win situations are being handwaved with a "well I had the best of intentions", which is rarely good for a game.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Driderman View Post
    In the interest of good drama, the blood is of course on the hands of the hero. He was provided a means to save innocent lives and choose instead to sacrifice them for what he perceived as the "greater good". True "heroes" don't sacrifice innocent, defenseless people like that, even if it means letting a villain get away.
    Edit: And in RPGs, making the fault be on the villain quickly leads to a sort of "action-optimization" mentality where any sort of drama or no-win situations are being handwaved with a "well I had the best of intentions", which is rarely good for a game.
    All right...but what about real life? I'm not mentally equipped to provide an appropriate example for the application of this principle to the real world, but still, what then?
    Last edited by Lheticus; 2014-08-13 at 10:51 AM.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Guilt and responsibility are different things. At no point is the hero guilty for the situation, but he's still responsible for people dying if he has a real choice in the matter.

    The hero's problem is that he has two mutually-exclusive goals. Pursuing one in this case enforces negligence of the other. Overall evaluation of his choice depends on the strenght of his justification - namely, how likely is the villain to actually murder more people?

    On one end of the spectrum we have the Joker, who will kill plenty more people on the drop of the hat if let loose, and on the other we have someone a bit like the Phantom Blot who only threatens people with death in order to escape. If their behaviour patterns are known, letting the former go free is probably worse than allowing a few people to die, where as in the latter case people are only guaranteed to die if the hero opts to stop the villain.

    More generally, the question is: what's at risk if the Villain goes free?

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    The blood is on the hand of the villain. In the end, he's the one who chose to kill.

    What you have here often shows up in the RPG forums as a common paladin problem (usually in threads talking about forcing a Paladin to fall). Do you stop the criminal (lawful) or save the innocent (good)? Is the potential future damage sufficient enough that you have to accept the current damage in order to stop it?

    Heck, Roy could end up in this situation. Back in the beginning strips, it seems pretty apparent that if Xykon had threatened innocents in order to escape, Roy would save the innocents.

    But let's say we're nearly at the final gate. Xykon has shown up, there's been a fight, and Xykon set's up one of these situations where X (let us say 100) innocents will die if Roy doesn't save them. Roy can save the innocents or fight Xykon. if he fights, he has a strong chance of winning (for whatever reason). If he saves the innocents, Xykon will make it to the gate and have time to do whatever he plans. And Roy knows this.

    Which does he choose? Is he still working off of incomplete information (he didn't see what happened to Lauren and Co)? Does his decision change if the number of innocents goes up or down?

    But the important thing is: Regardless of what Roy chooses, the blood is on Xykon's hands. He's the one who chose to kill. O'Chul sums it up best here.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Here's the thing: Morality is a social construct highly biased toward cultural values. It's not a tangible force, like in DnD.
    Granted, some faiths and philosophies would say otherwise, but that's a result of their cultural values.

    If a fanatic blows up a room full of people, the only actual change is that those people are dead and the building is destroyed.
    Whether this is good, bad, horrendous, admirable, or any other adjective is based entirely on the opinions of the people who observe it or learn about it. If it's a lunatic blowing up children, then it's generally met with sadness and rage. If it's a government official taking out enemies of the state, then its often met with resentment on one side, but congratulations on the other.

    So the problem isn't absolute. Its not whether the blood is on the villains hands or on the hero's. Its whether the hero FEELS like the blood is on his hands, and whether people choose to blame the hero or the villain. Fortunately for the hero, most courts and prosecutors would not hold him accountable, but would blame the villain. That is, of course, unless the death toll is particularly high and the villain is not brought to justice properly. If people don't get the closure they feel they deserve, they'll prosecute the hero anyway.

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Stop the bomb now and let the villain escape.

    Actual, right-now life or death is more important than "if this guy lives, he might do something bad sometime." I mean, what if the villain trips on the way out and breaks his neck falling down the stairs? The hero's going to look like a real jackass if he lets a lot of people die for nothing.

    It's sort of a reverse of a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

    Or it's like Franklin's "it is better that 100 murderers go free than that one innocent man be hanged" (paraphrased).

    Real people dying right now are more important than theoretical people maybe dying in the future. IMO.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by gr8artist View Post
    Here's the thing: Morality is a social construct highly biased toward cultural values. It's not a tangible force, like in DnD.
    Granted, some faiths and philosophies would say otherwise, but that's a result of their cultural values.
    That's absolutism.

    Social values construct morality, but they don't build it from nothing.

    Society and culture is just one factor influencing an individual. An individual's choices are still individual.

    If culture dictated morality, there would be no dissenters and no politics. People with similar beliefs form subcultures, but they have to be drawn into those subcultures by their individual personalities.

    You say morality isn't a tangible force, but neither is culture.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lheticus View Post
    I However, judging by a LOT of instances in fiction where this sort of scenario actually plays out, a lot of fiction heroes seem to think the opposite is true. Thoughts, any/everyone?
    Good guys don't blame themselves because they might be evil, rather the opposite.

    One must be self critical in order to be good. If you can't examine yourself and see where you might be making mistakes, then you are likely to fall onto the wrong path.
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    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog Psion View Post
    Actual, right-now life or death is more important than "if this guy lives, he might do something bad sometime." I mean, what if the villain trips on the way out and breaks his neck falling down the stairs? The hero's going to look like a real jackass if he lets a lot of people die for nothing.
    Agreed. Definitely letting people die is worse than maybe letting people die.

    I actually have a problem with this type of moral quandary and I think they're inherently evil. I mean, they're fun to think about but the premise is that they're multiple choice. You have a limited selection of actions and need to choose the least evil. When you do so, whomever is asking the question finds another way to weigh the sides of what you're choosing between until they're roughly equal and you're left question whether it's better to act and kill N people or sit back and watch as N people die.

    Anyway, my problem is that this conditions you to accept the multiple choices options. Instead of picking "c: other" and acting out an answer that solves both problems, you get used to the idea of accepting a lesser evil.

    I've never put this idea to any kind of test outside of gaming. As a GM I like giving my players choices with lesser evil consequences. I like getting them to roleplay by figuring moral dilemmas that divide the party. I usually give them a few obvious options and secretly hope that they come up with an idealistic solution that solves all the problems without making a sacrifice. The players are so used to philosophical dilemmas and so eager to play characters who make hard choices that they don't bother thinking up better ways to solve the problems.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    I'll be honest, for me it would depend on the villain. Joe Schmuck who rigged a bomb in his garage? No, disarm the bomb save the people. The freaking Joker, who kills hundreds of people as a joke, consistently and has proven time and again that nothing stops his kill spree? I'd probably deal with him and then suffer crippling guilt for the rest of my life.

    Admittedly, since types like the Joker are nearly non-existent in the real world, I'd probably save the people.

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog Psion View Post
    Stop the bomb now and let the villain escape.

    Actual, right-now life or death is more important than "if this guy lives, he might do something bad sometime." I mean, what if the villain trips on the way out and breaks his neck falling down the stairs? The hero's going to look like a real jackass if he lets a lot of people die for nothing.

    It's sort of a reverse of a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

    Or it's like Franklin's "it is better that 100 murderers go free than that one innocent man be hanged" (paraphrased).

    Real people dying right now are more important than theoretical people maybe dying in the future. IMO.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dienekes View Post
    I'll be honest, for me it would depend on the villain. Joe Schmuck who rigged a bomb in his garage? No, disarm the bomb save the people. The freaking Joker, who kills hundreds of people as a joke, consistently and has proven time and again that nothing stops his kill spree? I'd probably deal with him and then suffer crippling guilt for the rest of my life.

    Admittedly, since types like the Joker are nearly non-existent in the real world, I'd probably save the people.
    I've posted both of these quotes since I see them as very interrelated. First to Bulldog Psion, the scenario I posited isn't "if this guy escapes he might do other bad things later" it's he WILL do other bad things later. I mean...in most fiction scenarios, which is really where my example is appropriate, there usually isn't much doubt that the Big Bad will continue killing/exploiting/generally delivering bad days to innocent people. To Dienekes, you definitely raise an interesting point--in the real world, Joker types are virtually non-existant, and honestly, I think in the real world the opportunities to bring someone to justice after the fact of such a "sadistic choice" are a lot more prevalent than in fiction--a factor I had not considered.

    In general, I've received insight from this discussion that at the end of the day, whose hands the blood is on is probably not even the critical factor in such a scenario at all--DEFINITELY something I hadn't managed to consider. Thanks a bunch thus far!
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Go save the people, but contact compatriots to try and stop the super-villain, or at least track them. Then, once everyone is saved, then you can help them going for the baddie.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by tomandtish View Post
    But the important thing is: Regardless of what Roy chooses, the blood is on Xykon's hands. He's the one who chose to kill. O'Chul sums it up best here.
    There's a critical difference in the situation there, though. O-Chul simply had no power to save the people on the tower, no matter what he did--he wasn't good enough at lying to fool Redcloak, and he couldn't escape. The situation as presented in the OP has the hero being perfectly capable of rescuing the people in the room with the bomb if he chooses to do so.

    This is a Kobayashi Maru situation, I reckon--there *is* no right answer. Either choice the hero makes will have some bad consequences.

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    The question asked is irrelevant. The question in front of the hero is not whether he or she will be blamed for their deaths, but whether to save lives.

    Person A pushes person B (who cannot swim) into the river. The hero cannot be blamed, but he or she will try to rescue B.

    Person C sets a house on fire. There is a baby on the second floor. The hero will try to save the baby.

    The villain is not trying to tell the hero that the villain is blameless, and that the hero will have killed those victims. He is pointing out that the hero can choose to save them, but that capturing the villain will carry the consequence of leaving them to die.

    It is simply untrue that the reason to save somebody's life is to avoid blame. The reason to save lives is to save them.

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Optimal solution is to maximize lives saved, minimize damage.

    Multiply probability of future crimes by quantity of future crimes by magnitude of future crimes, compare to magnitude of present crime. Prevent whichever number is greater.

    More data needed to make a conclusive choice at this point.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    False paradox. The hero hits the device then tracks down the villain immediately after. In such a short amount of time the only way the villain could get far is by having a convenient escape pod handy, and even those have limited fuel and the hero presumably has a vehicle of his own(having reached the lair somehow).

    Not to mention a number of alternates available. If the hero has a gun on hand the resulting firefight won't be too long and if he hurries he can still do both. Or if he's got a capable party at his back they can split up or delegate as necessary, with the fastest of them running for the switch while the rest have their battle.

    And again, even if the villain escapes his lead won't do much good. He'll leave tracks, or a trail of some kind, and with his M.O. and details left over in the base itself there's more than enough information to gain the upper hand even if he temporarily falls off the radar. Even in the event of any electronics shutting down the mooks in the base can be interrogated unless you're using 100% lethal instant death bullets exclusively, and contrary to popular belief mercenaries don't have much loyalty and terrorists aren't usually well thought out plan wise.

    Assuming our hero has even the smallest amount of brains or resources it's basically a non-issue.

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayngfet View Post
    Assuming our hero has even the smallest amount of brains or resources it's basically a non-issue.
    To ignore a thought experiment by taking a third option is to remove the point of that thought experiment.

    In answer to the actual question, the technicalities of agency are irrelevant in the face of the actual benefit or deficit to people. If the villain escapes, working out whether or not he will actually do more damage than his bomb is basically the only worthwhile consideration.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay R View Post
    The question asked is irrelevant. The question in front of the hero is not whether he or she will be blamed for their deaths, but whether to save lives.

    Person A pushes person B (who cannot swim) into the river. The hero cannot be blamed, but he or she will try to rescue B.

    Person C sets a house on fire. There is a baby on the second floor. The hero will try to save the baby.

    The villain is not trying to tell the hero that the villain is blameless, and that the hero will have killed those victims. He is pointing out that the hero can choose to save them, but that capturing the villain will carry the consequence of leaving them to die.

    It is simply untrue that the reason to save somebody's life is to avoid blame. The reason to save lives is to save them.
    I followed you until you mentioned avoiding blame. The question isn't "who is blamed", it's "does intentionally failing to save lives in order to prevent even worse things from happening later, when there is plenty of reason to believe such things will happen later unless the opportunity to prevent them is taken here, itself constitute killing?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayngfet View Post
    False paradox. The hero hits the device then tracks down the villain immediately after. In such a short amount of time the only way the villain could get far is by having a convenient escape pod handy, and even those have limited fuel and the hero presumably has a vehicle of his own(having reached the lair somehow).

    Not to mention a number of alternates available. If the hero has a gun on hand the resulting firefight won't be too long and if he hurries he can still do both. Or if he's got a capable party at his back they can split up or delegate as necessary, with the fastest of them running for the switch while the rest have their battle.

    And again, even if the villain escapes his lead won't do much good. He'll leave tracks, or a trail of some kind, and with his M.O. and details left over in the base itself there's more than enough information to gain the upper hand even if he temporarily falls off the radar. Even in the event of any electronics shutting down the mooks in the base can be interrogated unless you're using 100% lethal instant death bullets exclusively, and contrary to popular belief mercenaries don't have much loyalty and terrorists aren't usually well thought out plan wise.

    Assuming our hero has even the smallest amount of brains or resources it's basically a non-issue.
    Then why does crap like I've posited here WORK all the time in fiction? :P

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    To ignore a thought experiment by taking a third option is to remove the point of that thought experiment.

    In answer to the actual question, the technicalities of agency are irrelevant in the face of the actual benefit or deficit to people. If the villain escapes, working out whether or not he will actually do more damage than his bomb is basically the only worthwhile consideration.
    So...Batman should have killed the Joker in The Dark Knight? I don't disagree, mind. Incidentally, and pretty much definitely off topic, what even HAPPENED to him after that movie?
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Lheticus View Post
    So...Batman should have killed the Joker in The Dark Knight? I don't disagree, mind. Incidentally, and pretty much definitely off topic, what even HAPPENED to him after that movie?
    Certainly. I don't know much about batman, but the Joker is one of those categorically-CE watch-the-world-burn types, and he always manages to elude everyone, so if you have the chance to take him down, you should take it.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    I think we need to differentiate between "hero" and "main character" here.
    A hero doesn't sacrifice innocent lives on the expectation that it may prevent further loss down the line. A main character, sure, but not a "hero". Heroes are held to higher standards, a hero would save the innocents and then work tirelessly to prevent the villain from endangering further people, but never let civilians, or anyone really, die to convenience or "greater good". At least, that's how I see it.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Lheticus View Post
    Incidentally, and pretty much definitely off topic, what even HAPPENED to him after that movie?
    I believe there's an unfilmed scene in The Dark Knight Rises: Bane is breaking everybody out of Blackgate Prison and you see a close up of a prisoner's scarred mouth smiling as all the newly freed inmates rush into the corridor. One of Bane's henchmen reaches forward to open the door to let the prisoner out, but Banes stops him, saying "No. Not this one."
    As they all leave, there's a close up of the prisoner's mouth again, only with a bigger smile.

    Some checking doesn't corroborate my memory, so it may have been a bit of fan fiction or random musing I remember reading somewhere.
    Other theories include the Joker being the sole inmate of Arkham Asylum after the Dent Act transferred most of the prisoners to Blackgate Prison, thus completely out of the loop for the last film.

    Quote Originally Posted by Driderman View Post
    I think we need to differentiate between "hero" and "main character" here.
    Agreed. Someone like the Punisher wouldn't even bat an eyelid and just pull the trigger.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    If the hero stops the villain here, the blood of the dead civilians is on his hands. I'm not saying he should be persecuted for it, and depending on the villain, this might be the preferable choice (if letting him go means he will certainly kill thousands, for example); but their blood is still on his hands. Because sometimes, heroism is hard.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    To ignore a thought experiment by taking a third option is to remove the point of that thought experiment.
    Seconded. If a thought experiment provides you with only two options, then don't try to weasel your way out of it. It's a thought experiment, not a real situation, its purpose is to show which of these two tough choices do you prefer.

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    It's rarely that clean. The guy who killed people – who planted the bomb and set it off – is at fault. The idea that the hero is at fault is based on villains being functionally amoral, set pieces and not people who make decisions. They frame the issue such that there is a clear and present danger and only the hero has any agency. That's bunk. The villain has choices and decisions too.

    Of course, the correct answer is to kill the villain as swiftly as possible and then get to the bomb switch, or toss a rope over his neck and drag him, so you get to the switch and he doesn't escape... Or turnabout and rig a bomb on his escape vehicle and pull the same stuff.


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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Lheticus View Post
    I've posted both of these quotes since I see them as very interrelated. First to Bulldog Psion, the scenario I posited isn't "if this guy escapes he might do other bad things later" it's he WILL do other bad things later.
    Ah, okay, so it's absolutely fated that the bad guy will kill people if he/she escapes.

    In that case, the choice becomes extremely easy, though. It all depends on the level of the hero's knowledge.

    1. If the hero thinks that free will and chance exist, and is totally ignorant of the fact that the villain absolutely WILL, inevitably, with all the force of destiny behind him, kill other people, then I posit that in 99 cases out of 100, the hero will make my choice.

    2. If the hero knows the rules of the game, and is convinced of their actuality, the hero will, IMO, choose whichever option kills less people. If the hero knows, for a certainty, that disarming the bomb will result in 100 deaths, and catching the villain will result in 75 deaths, he or she will catch the villain. If less deaths result from disarming the bomb and letting the villain go, that becomes the better option.

    In either scenario, there is really no choice involved. So I'm not sure what the point of the exercise is.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    There's a critical difference in the situation there, though. O-Chul simply had no power to save the people on the tower, no matter what he did--he wasn't good enough at lying to fool Redcloak, and he couldn't escape. The situation as presented in the OP has the hero being perfectly capable of rescuing the people in the room with the bomb if he chooses to do so.

    This is a Kobayashi Maru situation, I reckon--there *is* no right answer. Either choice the hero makes will have some bad consequences.
    My point was that O'Chul sums it up nicely whn he says "If you must throw those men to their undoing, then do so and be quick. The act is on your hands, not mine".

    Point being that whatever O'chul does or doesn't do, Red Cloak is responsible for his own actions. If he kills, then the blood is on his hands, not O'Chul's.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by Lheticus View Post
    So...Batman should have killed the Joker in The Dark Knight? I don't disagree, mind. Incidentally, and pretty much definitely off topic, what even HAPPENED to him after that movie?
    Problem is, the Batman was visible to the law both times he had the chance to kill the Joker. So he would have been arrested immediately in both instances, especially the first one in the cell.
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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    On the side topic. Nolan said after Ledger's death he would not be recasting the Joker in honor of him. There was no plans to have Mr Jay in TDKR.

    However, in the novelization it briefly mentions that there's a rumor that he is roaming around the ruins of Arkham. Though personally, I just go with after he was captured by the police he was sentenced to death and is now going to spend the next 40 years in Bomber's Row before he gets the needle.

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Quote Originally Posted by tomandtish View Post
    My point was that O'Chul sums it up nicely whn he says "If you must throw those men to their undoing, then do so and be quick. The act is on your hands, not mine".
    And my point is that this is a different situation to the one described in the OP and thus the situation here is not as clear-cut as that. If O-Chul could have escaped from his bonds and rescued those people, would you still consider him blameless if he just stood there and did not do so? I have a suspicion the Twelve Gods would certainly have something to say if that had been the situation!

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    Default Re: Hypothetical moral quandary

    Okay. We have established that the question is very much "are you at fault if someone else gives you power to do something moral", and the specific examples don't really matter.

    The answer is that determining fault doesn't do anything. Both sides are right; you allowed people to die. But you also weren't responsible for it.

    The real crime here is the context that if you can pass "responsibility" into someone else, then you're off a or-free for something that doesn't work like a debit account. Yes, the hero feels bad about it and the blood is on his hands. That's part of why he is a hero. Heroes are Greater than mortal men. Both in the quality sense and quantity sense.


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    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    This is a Kobayashi Maru situation, I reckon--there *is* no right answer. Either choice the hero makes will have some bad consequences.
    Incorrect. There is a right answer, but it hinges on knowledge not provided. There is no costless answer.

    All of you must've heard the saying "can't save your cake and eat it too". That's what's going on here. This isn't a true no-win scenario, unlike O-Chul's. In O-Chul's case, he had no ability to save anyone. He had no worthwhile choices. Our hero does, both answer just have a cost associated.

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