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Clear And Unclear Morality


(permanent link) added: 2011-10-19 21:37:58 sponsor: phantomreader42 (last reply: 2013-03-01 13:38:09)

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An addition to the moral "colors", involving conflict between ordinary people and a threat that has no real moral dimension (clear as in colorless), due to being mindless, lacking the ability to control itself, or having no understanding of what it is doing. Rolling Updates. Needs More Examples. Needs a Better Description.

Not all conflicts involve good vs. evil. Sometimes, the concepts of "good" or "evil" may not apply at all.

A plague is a threat, but it isn't evil. It's just a disease, it can't think or make decisions, it just reproduces without even being able to comprehend that it's causing the horrible deaths of beings many millions of times its size. There are thorny moral questions involved, such as whether it's acceptable to imprison or kill the sick to prevent a deadly disease from spreading, or the morality of a Mercy Kill on someone dying in agony. But The Virus isn't capable of considering those issues.

A wild animal can be dangerous, but it isn't evil, it's just acting out of instinct, fear, confusion, and hunger rather than malice.

A machine (at least, a non-sentient one) can't make any decisions for itself, it just does what it's programmed to do. The program in question might have been written by evil people for evil purposes, but that doesn't make the machine itself evil.

And then there's the question of Mind Control. Forcing someone to do your bidding is evil enough, but the people being so forced are not responsible for their actions. Is it acceptable to kill them to prevent them from achieving the goals they're being used for?

Examples:
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, the alignment system lists animals (Intelligence score less than 3) and Vermin (mindless insects with no Int score) as True Neutral, because they act entirely on instinct and are incapable of making moral decisions. Most plants and constructs also get this treatment, though mindless undead and flesh golems do not. The primary god of nature is True Neutral due to presiding over such creatures.
  • A quote from Short Circuit: It's a machine! It doesn't get happy, it doesn't get sad, it doesn't laugh at your jokes, it just runs programs!" Does not apply to Johnny 5 after being struck by lightning and coming to life, but the other prototypes are just tools acting as they're programmed to.
  • In the movie WarGames, the conflict arises when a kid looking for games hacks into a computer with control over nuclear weapons and starts playing a game called "Global Thermonuclear War". He was stealing, but had no intention of destroying the planet. And the computer was only doing what it was created to do, seeking a tactical solution that would win the game.
  • In both the first two seasons of Digimon, a major plot arc revolved around digimon who would attack the digidestined because they were being controlled by an outside force. The kids generally saw no moral problem with (non-lethally) attacking these Brainwashed and Crazy mons, at least until they were able to free them. Season two followed this up with artificial digimon made and controlled by a villain, and these were mostly destroyed without pity because they had no hearts. But when enemies started showing up who were fully possessed of their own will and could not be stopped without lethal force, the new recruits suffered Heroic BSOD because their more experienced partners Did what they had to do, violating their previous rule of Thou Shalt Not Kill.
    • The Big Bad of the first half of season two also suffers a Villainous Breakdown when he realizes that the Digital World is NOT a videogame, and he has been ruining the lives of real, living, sentient beings for his own amusement. Before, he at least claimed to believe that none of it was real.
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