There are many who believe that killing another human being is always unethical – an evil deed, regardless of the circumstances and motivation behind the act. Because of this, many victims of violence and tyranny have died needlessly – thinking they were acting ethically by refraining from defending themselves. It’s time to set the record straight.
To acquire a profound understanding of the issues involved in this matter, we must start with the definition of a valid ethic. Here is an example:
“An act is ethical if it increases the creativity of at least one person, including the person acting, without limiting or diminishing the creativity of anyone.”
From this definition, we can derive the following principles by pure logic:
• Every ethically non-trivial act falls on an ethical continuum, in accordance with the degree to which the act increases creativity.
• Murder is unethical (as is obvious), because, by definition, it reduces the creativity of the person being murdered.
• It is unethical to permit an unethical act if one can effectively forbid or prevent it.
This raises the question, “Is killing in self defense properly construed as ‘murder’?” To answer this consider the following diagram:
The horizontal line above represents a creativity scale. A person who consistently makes the most creative choices might achieve a maximum score of +100 – whereas one who consistently makes destructive choices might score -100. These are also obviously opposite ends of a corresponding scale of ethics.
Now imagine that someone credibly threatens to kill you if you do not comply with something they demand. At this point their creativity, and hence their ethics, is at the -100 point on the creativity scale. If you now take action stopping the threat – and if it your action results in the attacker’s death – then you have effectively raised his creativity from -100 to zero.
Note that, in this instance, the attacker’s creativity was raised rather than lowered – so it follows that the act of killing the attacker was not murder. And, what is more, had you not stopped the attack on yourself, you would have effectively permitted the attacker to murder you – and that would have constituted an unethical decision on your part, by allowing your own
creativity to be diminished.
• When lethal force is required in order to prevent an act of murder or mayhem, that lethal force is ethical.
• When lethal force is required in order to prevent an act of murder or mayhem, one’s refusal to use lethal force is unethical.
While these conclusions will seem counter-intuitive to many, they are nonetheless correct; and identical results will be obtained by the application of any valid ethic.