Refuting Villain Logic:

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If you were the hero, what would be your reply to this, if a major antagonist said to you:

"The sinner is more responsible for evil in the world than the Devil. All the Devil can do is give ideas, the sinner has the free will to act or not act upon them. Therefore, I am not responsible when I convince people to do horrible things...they decided to listen to me."

And no, this is not the Devil talking. Imagine if Sakaki lived for another few centuries and became a sadistic psychopath, a borderline Complete Monster who revels in being so, save for a few redeeming qualities? That's this character.

edited 20th Oct '10 4:16:36 AM by HaseoNatsume

Cogito ergo cogito
"I had no idea you were christian." ?
'It's gonna rain!'
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
"So that big book of brainwashing techniques you bought was just wasted money, huh? You should probably ask for a refund."
What's precedent ever done for us?
Interesting reply. What does that mean?
My teacher's a panda
Why respond at all? He's clearly just trying to justify his own actions. The hero knows that this villain is bad. He doesn't really need to convince the villain that he is bad. So why even give the villain the feeling that his argument has any validity at all by trying to argue against it? My hero would probably respond with a very disinterested "Whatever you say", then kick him in the face.
Because it's a very clever and loaded bit of sophistry, which could prove troublesome in the future.

For those who believe in absolute personal responsibility, it must be addressed because what if the hero is blamed for involvement in something that was ultimately the free will choice of the actual perpetrators, would the hero not basically say the same thing?

"Because fuck you" might be straight to the point, but the existence of free will and the implications when it comes to who is responsible for what is not something that should be taken so lightly.
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
@4: It's a snide suggestion that of course, the villain's mastery of brainwashing techniques had nothing to do with their success rate in persuading others to do their bidding.

I'm presuming they're well-versed in brainwashing, anyway. As a rule, people don't do really nasty stuff just because someone happens to suggest it to them in passing.

edited 20th Oct '10 7:47:51 AM by Iaculus

What's precedent ever done for us?
Well in a lot of cases, what the villain does is find people who are Well-Intentioned Extremist or close to it and use various sophistries that coincide with such thinking.

Or in this case, they go to someone who they know is a monster and get them to do it, and then wash their hands of it later, on the basis that it's the monster who chose to listen.

edited 20th Oct '10 7:55:25 AM by HaseoNatsume

My teacher's a panda
^^^ Personal responsibility might be an important issue, but is it really a discussion you want to have with a villain? The guy is bad and nothing he says or you say is going to change that. He wants to justify his own actions, but you yourself know that all the words in the world isn't going to justify what he did. And there's no way you're ever going to convince the villain that he is not justified, so what's the point of continuing the conversation. If the hero engages in the conversation, two things could happen. The villain could sway the hero to his side, convincing him that the villain truly is not in the wrong and that it's okay to encourage people to do bad things as long as you're not the one actually doing it. Or, the villain could trick the hero into saying something he could use against him later. Either way, a lot of words would be tossed around and the hero will not find himself in any better position by the end of it.

And I disagree that personal responsibility is as important an issue that you say it is. Everyone's always looking for someone to blame when something goes wrong, which is really a horrible attitude to have. I imagine something a fictional mother would say when a group of siblings did something wrong, "I don't care who's fault it is, just clean up this mess." Who's right, and who's wrong is not that major of an issue. What matters is that you do what you believe is right. If you get blamed for somebody else's actions, how does that affect you at all? Sure, it might affect how other people think of you and treat you, but that's on them. As long as you're a good person, and do good things, and take responsibility for your actions when you actually do do something wrong, it will show. In fact, taking responsibility for something that wasn't your fault can be more noble than trying to pass the blame to someone else. A hero is willing to accept personal responsibility, even if he didn't do wrong, and a villain will try to pass it along, even if he was the one that did wrong.

edited 20th Oct '10 8:09:07 AM by WackyMeetsPractical

Pronounced YAK-you-luss
In that case, I would suggest the following response.

"Yeah, they decided to listen to you. And you pointed Killsmash the Butcher in the direction of a preschool and bid him bon appetit. Know what, lady? You both suck."

edited 20th Oct '10 8:17:50 AM by Iaculus

What's precedent ever done for us?
I can think of many reasons why a hero would not want to take responsibility that is not his own.

In any case, you are correct inasfar as the hero is not likely to come out on top in a verbal spar with the villain, but the reason I want to resolve the issue regardless is if, you're writing something like this as a story, you need to have some good reason to deny the convincing sophistry of the bad guys, otherwise people might find themselves agreeing with it.
"the reason I want to resolve the issue regardless is if, you're writing something like this as a story, you need to have some good reason to deny the convincing sophistry of the bad guys, otherwise people might find themselves agreeing with it."

Is that such a bad thing? Maybe you could go the route of 'he had to be taken down, but he did have an interesting point' and challenge the readers to decide whether or not he was right.

Oh, and here's an argument against his perspective - yes, they could have resisted, but his actions increased the probability of harm to people.

Or: Free will doesn't exist (or has limits) - our actions are determined by a variety of influences outside of our control. Therefore, if you set out to be a bad influence, you are partially responsible for the effect on others' behavior.

But the hero's argument, or indeed whether they give any at all, should be determined by the hero's characterization. A Hot-Blooded, Book Dumb hero would probably just say Shut Up, Hannibal!, an Anti-Hero might go 'you're right, you're not responsible for their actions, but I still want to pound your face in', an insecure hero might go 'gee, I don't know, maybe he's right' and Wangst after killing him, etc. You really need to be careful to avoid a Character Filibuster. Oh, and remember how much time your hero has to think of a reply. If he gives his reply immediately after his first exposure to this argument, it won't be very well thought out.
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
My teacher's a panda
^^ You don't necessarily need to address the issue of the villain. As long as you set him up to be a bad guy, he is likely to become an Anti-Role Model. As long as you set the guy up to be a smooth-talking villain, the viewers should get immediately that anything he says is wrong. They should recognize that his words are merely a way to justify his own actions because that's the only way villains know how to act and that the argument has no merit whatsoever. If anybody ends up agreeing with your villain, it's likely because they shared those views to begin with. It's not likely that a fictional character is going to convert good people towards the dark side, especially if he ends up suffering for his actions in the end. Let your audience make up their own mind about who is right and who is wrong and concern yourself with telling the story.

If you must provide a counterpoint, it might be more effective to handle it in a different scene. Have the hero talk to a friend and confidante at a bar after the fight is over, and have the hero tell the friend about the things the villain said and whether or not he was right, and have the wise friend set matters straight. Or, if it really needs to be between the hero and villain, wait until there's an opportunity where the hero is in control, such as when the villain is behind bars and prison and the hero comes to visit him, and then have him present the counterpoint. It will have a much stronger impact if the hero wins the argument after he's already won the battle. Once the villain is defeated and behind bars, he's not in much of a position or mood to continue the argument.
All good points.

Now, let's brainstorm additional counters to it.

Let's see..

If it were me, I'd be like "That's what I'd do if I were a slippery villain, so I'm not fooled."
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
I've got to say, I am really having difficulty seeing why asking somebody already known for extreme behaviour to do horrible things for you could in any way be considered OK. It's like button-mashing in an ICBM silo.

Yeah, yeah, they have free will, it was their choice to do it, but you picked them because you thought they were likely to make that choice. You did it because you wanted those babies killed, that neighbourhood burned, or whatever. How the hell is 'I delegated' an excuse for that?
What's precedent ever done for us?
Because actions are more important than intent?
Convincing people to harm others is very much an action. The villain can't really argue that she is kind of innocent- her responsibility is too obvious. She can only claim that the ones doing the deed were just as much or even more responsible, but there's no question that what she's doing is 100% evil.

edited 20th Oct '10 11:40:55 AM by Dealan

To be fair, she does know she's a Borderline Complete Monster and she revels in being so.

But for the sake of argument, let's continue to assume she would try to claim innocence.

Conflating words with action does not ring true, if the people on the receiving end of the words have the choice to do or not do, regardless of their propensity to do.

All she would claim to be doing is proving that they are the corrupt ones.
My teacher's a panda
Because actions are more important than intent?

That is not the way I've been taught. My father had this philosophy of punishing us kids based on attitude instead of actions. We could do something wrong, but as long as our hearts were in the right place and were truly sorry and attempted to make things right, we would get in less trouble than if we had bad intentions. On the other hand, we could do the right thing, but get in trouble because we did it for bad reasons. My father's belief is that if you are a good person, with a good attitude and good intentions, and generally respected other people, than it doesn't matter what you do because it will always be for the correct reasons, but if you have a bad attitude and don't respect people, everything you do will be wrong.

It's like if you have two different artists, and one paints for money and the other paints because they love painting. They can paint the same thing and use the same methods, but the painter painting for the right reason will always have a better product. Intentions determine the actions and are therefore more important.
I will not comment on your childhood, seeing as I recently had a Gary Oldman style Villainous Breakdown when watching a judge show discuss parent-child tropes. But let's just say, I'm borderline Chaotic Neutral myself.

Now, to argue the point, I do not think it is as clear cut as you think. How many times have you seen people who are impressed by a work or a performance, only to later hear that it was 'just a paycheck' to the person involved?
^^Unless the first artist is just better at his job. But your point is clear.

If it were me, it would probably be something like:

"Yeah, you know, morality doesn't quite work that way. You're still more guilty than they are."

But this isn't an argunment, and I have trouble making one that's not stating the obvious and/or being very narmy.

EDIT: (Ninjaed)

edited 20th Oct '10 1:11:55 PM by Dealan

22 FurikoMaru20th Oct 2010 01:59:35 PM from The Arrogant Wasteland , Relationship Status: He makes me feel like I have a heart
Reverse the Curse
Seconding the objection to the artist analogy.

And it annoys me when people think intent doesn't matter at all.

As for the topic at hand,

"Interesting theory. Allow me to put it into practice. *to vicious 'pet'* Sic 'im, Toby."

23 Noaqiyeum20th Oct 2010 02:07:10 PM from the October Country , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The it-thingy
I'd say I have to agree with Wacky Meets Practical, and approve this response:
"Yeah, they decided to listen to you. And you pointed Killsmash the Butcher in the direction of a preschool and bid him bon appetit. Know what, lady? You both suck."

Edit - AND Furiko Maru, and her brilliantly pithy response. XD

Other alternatives -

"I already talked to your pawns; they said they're not responsible because they only did what you told them to. We seem to have a crime without a criminal."

"Because the 'I delegated' argument worked so well at Nuremberg, didn't it?" (Or for a somewhat less Godwin's Law-heavy approach, simply "The Hague disagrees with you.")


I want to go back and try to come up with an argument based on your premise that "actions are more important than intent"... If that's the case, what did the villain actually do?
  • If the issue is that (he? she? You haven't specified yet) merely made the suggestion, and we still think your villain is indeed morally culpable, then for parity's sake your hero ought to treat people who invoke Dead Baby Comedy through Rid Me Of This Priest in the same way as your villain.
  • If it's that he/she made the instruction seriously rather than in jest, that's a matter of intention and not action, so - skip.
  • If it's that he/she picked someone based on who would be suggestible, that's a matter of his intention as well; if the proxy hadn't followed through, then the villain's efforts were wasted on him.
  • If your hero objects that the villain kept making the suggestion to lots of people until he succeeded in getting someone to do it... then it's morally wrong to convince other people of anything. Even though their intentions, and therefore their goals, opinions, and beliefs, don't affect the moral rectitude of their actions. That seems contradictory to me, but if you're okay with that, go for it. tongue
  • If it's simply that he/she made the suggestion to someone who would act on it, that places the primary responsibility on his proxy but still gives the hero a reason to go after the villain. But from a moral standpoint we're straying away from egalitarianism again, because we've placed the proxy in a special category of "people it is not right to use Dead Baby Comedy Rid Me Of This Priest Sarcasm Mode around" compared to other people with whom it is okay; and, if some joker makes a joke to the wrong person in ignorance, he's still responsible and punishable for the consequences to the same degree as your villain. If you are comfortable with this, this is probably your hero's best argument.

edited 20th Oct '10 2:11:42 PM by Noaqiyeum

Anyone who looks dangerous is dangerous.

Anyone who doesn't look dangerous is dangerous and sneaky.
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
Again, the free will defence would ring a little less hollow if she wasn't cherrypicking catspaws according to how likely they were to carry out her requests. In case you hadn't noticed by now, different people are more or less willing to do different things, and whilst one might argue that the folks she was delegating to would have done something similarly horrible anyway, the fact remains that she was giving them a direction to aim in.

If I gave someone who I knew to be a paedophile directions and letters of commendation to a school so that he might get a job there, and he later molested several students, would I be devoid of responsibility for it? After all, it's not like I fiddled the kiddies myself...
What's precedent ever done for us?
Perhaps it would help to expand on the character a little bit.

As I said earlier, when she was younger she was sort of like Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh...tall schoolgirl, and a Broken Bird (in her case because of massive Survivors Guilt).

Now, in terms of appearance and role, she is something like a psychotic, borderline Complete Monster version of C.C. from Code Geass.

I'm still deciding where her Moral Event Horizon took place, but I am getting ideas from Umineko. They will be suitably horrifying, as evil really should neither be sexy nor cool.

One specific incident: She once became an advisor for a kingdom. She did so in order to get closer to the Princess (a Lawful Evil Well-Intentioned Extremist), who she could sense had a special destiny. When the time was right, she convinced the King to justify his exploitation of natural resources by starting a 'just' war with a neighboring country. This set into motion events that led to what she wanted; the Princess had revolted against her father and his monstrous deeds, and she became the Queen, only to leave the throne in the hands of a steward.

The villain convinced the now Queen that if her father was a good and decent man, he would never have been swayed by her to begin with, therefore she is not to blame for leading him down that road. The Queen, not really having her head on straight, accepts this logic.

If anyone wants clarification, go ahead and ask. I just don't want to end up describing the entire setting all in one post and wasting everyone's time. :p

But yeah, basically she does 'delegate,' but argues the lack of responsibility to sway those who are more noble.

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