By Celina Simmons
The other night at the Philosophy Club, an interesting thought experiment took place. One member set up the scenario of a person who lived on their own in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, detached from society completed. With no motive, repercussions, or consequences you decide you want to kill him. The only person who would ever know of the incident would be you unless you decide to tell someone. The question asked was “is this wrong to do? And why or why not?”
Majority of the members sided with yes, this is wrong because of our natural human right to life and potentially devaluing your own rights as a human being. This brought up the question of whether or not there is such a thing as inalienable human rights. Are there any hoops that one must jump through to obtain such rights?
An argument as to why this would be okay was the fact that he isn’t contributing to society in any way. This was refuted by the idea that maybe if he wasn’t contributing to society at the time, that is not to say he hadn’t before or never will. But how can we decide for ourselves who does or does not contribute to society. And further, since there are so many people living outside of our societal structure, do we kill all of them?
Another point brought up was whether or not you would be able to live with yourself after the fact. Sure, there may be no legal consequences but there could be some sort of a conscious repercussion.
A similar and less extreme version of this thought experiment would be cheating on your significant other. If you are the only one that knows and no one would ever find out unless you told them and you decide to not tell them, is that a bad thing?
The point is that if you perform an act that is deemed wrong, but no one ever found out, did you really do anything wrong? Synonymously, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, did the tree fall?
Now, let’s switch roles. You are the person living in the cabin by yourself. You have logged off the societal grid for some reason and you have no impact or value in the outside world and someone decides to kill you with no consequences. How have your feelings changed?
What are your opinions on this thought experiment? The Beacon would love to know! If you have any feedback on this, send us a short write-up on your point of view and share it with the world! (Or at least your fellow SMCC peers) And if you enjoyed this thought experiment enough to try another, join the Philosophy Club! We meet every Wednesday from 4:30 to 6pm at the Howe Hall Seminar Room.