What Prevents You From Murdering People?

December 19, 2010
By Anonymous

Now here is a question. It may seem simple, but put some thought into it. It is truly much more complex than ever imaginable. Why don’t you kill people? Now truly think about it, and answer it genuinely. I am sure that a large fraction of those who read this will be very confused, and even shocked that anyone could ask such a simple question. However, it is easy to assume what answers can come up from this.
I am sure a large fraction of you answered that you do not murder people because it is against the law. However, I am doubtful that this is the true reason. People break the law frequently, from driving over the speed limit, to even drug abuse in some situations. However, both of these laws are broken much more frequently than murder. How could this be, as they are all laws in the United States? If this is truly your reason, you must never break any of these other laws. Also, if this is true, then if you were certain that you could kill someone and get away with it, you would? The answer to this is probably no, so if this actually is the reason, it means that you must either be very uncreative, or have already become a serial killer.
A final reason that I imagine many of you will say is that they could not stand the way that their actions might affect others. By killing someone, you are taking them away from those that love, and care for them. It would take a horrible person to do such a crime, and if it would be traumatizing to those who had a personal connection with the victim. However, once again, this is most likely not the reason. If this was the true reason, then anyone who lives alone is useless, and simply wasting resources that could be used to fuel others who do influence people. Simply by being antisocial, they are insignificant to you.
I am also sure that another large portion of the people said that they do not kill people because they fear risk of judgment from god. In most religions it is against the religious code to do commit murder. And, there is no way to escape the deity’s all Seeing Eye, and then you will go to hell, move backwards in your cycle of reincarnation, etc. But again, this may not be the true reason. If this were true, then if god appeared in front of you and told you that there was no form of judgment, and god was impartial to the act of murder, you would just go around slaughtering everyone? If so, then I recommend immediately checking in to a mental institution.
So then what is it that prevents you from murdering people? I know for me, it is not a lengthy jail sentence, punishment from god, or harming those close to the victim that prevents me from murdering people, but something else. So what is it for you?

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This article has 1 comment.

Todd D said...
on Dec. 27 2010 at 6:33 pm

Ok, here is a super long answer as this was basically the exact question I did for homework:

It must first be said that people do murder in many different circumstances, whether it is an honour killing, capital punishment, war, etc. Therefore, it must be said that nothing prevents murder, but something acts as a deterrent. However, not all murder is considered bad by our societal standards, with the best example being in war. A war veteran, though, after murdering in war, will not necessarily murder at home. Therefore, it must be said that murder is not simply prevented, but is a decision made based on circumstances. By recognizing that murder vs. not-to-murder is a decision, it can be deduced that our reasoning is a part of this.

                Whether or not to murder is a moral decision, as it is a question of what one ought to do. Also, it is a decision that regulates our relationship with others, as morals do (i.e. do not steal, do not kill, do not lie, etc). Therefore, the nature of the relationship between oneself and others must be examined. I know what I am thinking. I do not know what you are thinking. I know how I plan to act. I do not know how you plan to act. This applies vice versa too. This is based on the premise that one can only know himself absolutely, but not know others absolutely. However, I can and do assume what you are thinking and how you plan on acting.

With the case of morals, I can – using reasoning – assume what others would think based on my actions towards them. As we only know ourselves – and cannot know the thoughts of others – the following is our only means of making this assumption. If you insult me, I know a few things: I will be hurt to some degree, I might walk away, I might insult you in return to hurt you equally, or escalate the confrontation. Thus, I can reverse this and use it to assume that if I insult you, one of our parties will be hurt, and possibly I too. Both ways, the civility and stability of our relationship breaks down. This is a version of The Golden Rule – treat others as one would like others to treat oneself – with the addition that one can assume that he is likely to be treated as he treats others. If I commit murder (and we are now talking about criminal murder), there are the possibilities of revenge-murder (and it can be argued that capital punishment is the more modern form of this, although revenge-murder still may be done extra-judicially), or exile (the modern form being life imprisonment). In both cases, the role of a stable society – which is to protect all involved – has broken down with both parties damaged. By being a part of this stable society, one has a duty to uphold its premise. By making the decision of committing criminal murder, the murderer has undermined the premise of his society and failed in his duty. Therefore, society as a whole can condemn his actions. In addition, this duty towards maintaining a stable society is what deters one from not only committing murder, but also the other actions that we as a whole consider – quite simply and bluntly – bad.

The question of why we have a duty towards society is a separate one, and is more focused in political philosophy. This, on the other hand, is a question of descriptive ethics, thus it is sufficient to outline what is the deterrent to murder, and that I did.


- Basically an oversimplified and slightly botched version of Kant's ethics. Kant probably gave the best answer to this question with his catergorical imperative, in my opinion.

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