Murder the Murderer, or Murder Itself?

Henry Miller wrote an essay once called, “Murder the Murderer,” in which he claimed that doing so was a moral and proper act and was not an act of murder at all.

Along the same lines:

Murdering a murderer isn’t the same as murder itself.

Stealing from a thief isn’t theft.

Cheating on your cheating wife isn’t cheating.

A sarcastic response to an intellectually dishonest comment isn’t sarcasm.

Apparently all of this stuff is just fighting fire with fire or giving a bad person their just deserts. The moral argument might be that it’s ok to steal from a thief, but not from a non-thief. One may be sarcastic with liars, but not with an honest person. One may kill a killer, but not the non-homicidal. You can cheat on a cheater, but not on a faithful person.

It’s an interesting argument that appears to go against the categorical imperative. It’s also open to much abuse. Narcissists, sociopaths and other antisocial radical individualists are always defending themselves. Bad people make up all sorts of BS to say that their victims were bad themselves. In this way the bad person can pose as a good person, a sort of Robin Hood, to those who need such validation.

But most bad behavior isn’t driven by such ends. Bad people are simply egotists following their Id’s. They don’t care about the consequences of their acts or whether they are right or wrong. Recent science shows that sociopaths know the difference between right and wrong, but they simply don’t care about the differences, and they don’t care about the consequences of their antisocial behavior.

I’ve known this for a long time now. Bad people don’t feel bad. They feel good. The worse you are, the better you feel. Only good people feel bad, and the best people feel the worst.

Well of course. The Catholic Church has known about such things forever, and there are Catholic writings on the subject dating back several centuries. Priests learned long ago that the best people were compulsive confessors of nothing, and the worst folks never showed up in the booths at all.


Filed under Ethics, Philosophy

8 responses to “Murder the Murderer, or Murder Itself?

  1. that’s true…sometimes bad people uses that as an excuse….

  2. Amy

    The urge to exact revenge is deeply ingrained in our psyches, even in good people. (This is why mothers tell their children “two wrongs don’t make a right.”)

    Yeah, being bad is fun. Otherwise what’s the point? If you aren’t troubled by feelings of empathy or a guilty conscience it’s probably even more fun. I’m reminded of a character from this past season of Being Human (BBC version), a psychopath who exclaims “Being evil is like travelling first class. Try it once and you can never go back!”

    • Hacienda

      Genghis Khan! Genghis Khan! Genghis Khan! Genghis Khan! Genghis Khan!

    • Steve

      Brain scans of very experienced meditators have shown exceedingly high activity in brain areas associated with both compassion and positive emotions. Buddhist monk, Matthieu Ricard, may be the happiest person known to science 🙂 His readings are off the scale.

      Being evil is like travelling first class….straight to hell.

  3. Pingback: Murders Can Have Supporters and a Website? « GoodOleWoody's Blog and Website

  4. Steve

    Couldn’t the maxim that you will to be a universal law be don’t kill non-killers or something like that? In that case it doesn’t necessarily go against the categorical imperative.

  5. etype

    The problem is that being ‘good’ is often extremely hard, not terribly popular, and unrewarding work. A great difficulty often encountered is seeing that there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in everyone, and that no one is perfect.

  6. Pingback: Linkage is Good for You: Week of April 15, 2012

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