How Would You Answer?

The following two questions have been asked hundreds of times under various circumstances. In fact, they were recently asked on another one of my blog posts.

In many ways, these two questions could almost be considered “unanswerable.” Yet whenever they appear, they tend to stimulate lively debate — which is why I’m presenting them here.

1) Is it wrong to force someone to do something against their will?

2) Is it wrong to take something from someone against their will?

Yes or no?

Quite frankly, I don’t think a simple “yes” or “no” answer is possible because the questions revolve around ethics, principles, and to some degree, morality.

What do you think?

22 thoughts on “How Would You Answer?

  1. So, you are designating yourself to be the Official Pot Stirrer? Nan, I hardly know you!

    The answer to your “yes or no” questions are, obviously “sometimes.”

    Consider a child in a burning house. Your arms are taken carrying yet another child, and so you must talk this one into how to escape the flames. So, you give instructions and the child whimpers, “No, I am afraid.” So, you say “I respect your will and will now leave with your baby brother. It has been nice knowing you?

    I believe virtually every parent would empty their playbook of coercive tricks to play on children to get both children to safety and then pick up the pieces later.

    As to the same question: a willful child has found a loaded pistol and has just taken the safety off. They do not want to hand over the gun, so you say … what?

    I am hardly the first person to employ situational ethics, but I think there is a firm foundation for all morals and ethics to be situationally based, otherwise why would they define all of them as to their situation. (Is it immoral for a two-year old to covet his neighbors wife?)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Nan, the answer would vary depending upon what that “something” is. Also, as Sirius points out, the word “wrong” would depend upon our ethics which may vary by culture, religion, status, or whatever.

    With regards to No. 2, I don’t think it would be wrong for we-the-American-people to take away the nuclear codes from our trigger-happy, irresponsible president.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. The questions cannot be answered outside of situational context. Is it wrong for a parent to force a child to do their homework? Is it wrong for the government to take money from its citizens in the form of taxes? Answering “yes” to these questions suggests an ideological opposition to authority (a.k.a. anarchism).

    Liked by 4 people

  4. We often hear those question from libertarians. The questions are dishonesly phrased, to make it look as if taxation is theft.

    I don’t have a problem with libertarians. But I do think that they should live in the jungle, and fight it out with the lions and other beasts.

    If they really prefer to enjoy the benefits of living in a modern society, but don’t want to pay their share of the cost of that society, then aren’t they committing theft?

    Liked by 8 people

    • The person who asked the questions described himself thus: classical liberal — a stance that now labels me as an ‘alt-right’ supporter amongst most progressives.

      This person also argued against “forcing people to fund government programs against their will.”

      Liked by 3 people

      • There was something libertarian about classical liberalism. But it was different from what we see in modern libertarianism. I think I should leave that to the historians.

        The world today is very different from that of classical liberalism. You cannot reject the idea of government, unless you reject the idea of the power grid, the Internet, the highways.

        Liked by 2 people

        • This is part of what I found in a search: Classical liberalism is … Closely related to libertarianism and to economic liberalism, it developed in the early 19th century, building on ideas from the previous century as a response to urbanization and to the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United

          IMO, there’s too many “definitions” of political leanings. I was asked on one of my other posts how I defined myself. When I consider all the different labels, I tend to think I’m just a mish-mash of several. And somehow I think if they’re honest, others would describe themselves the same way.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Nan, the person whom you referred to may have described himself as a “classic liberal” but his anti-government stance runs contrary to classic liberalism. Such a stance is fundamentally libertarian, and it constitutes a very profound difference between those two philosophies. In my essay on liberals and progressives, I wrote:

        “In the classical sense, liberalism is a philosophy that dates back to the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries. John Locke is one of its most influential founders who advocated inalienable natural rights and a social contract between citizens and government. The focus of liberalism is on the individual, and is embodied by the practice of democracy and the rule of law (republicanism).”

        Libertarians do not believe in a social contract between citizens and government and the practice of democracy. They see the rule of law as narrowly focused to restrict the size, scope, and power of government. Libertarians want the freedom of individuals to do pretty much whatever they want, and they share that desire with anarchists who occupy the opposite (left) end of the political spectrum.

        Liked by 4 people

        • What I find interesting when it comes to politically defining oneself is that it’s pretty much impossible to totally abide by any one philosophy. There are just too many variables within the various definitions.

          Also, it seems those who dislike “government interference” ignore the areas in which government regulations have made our lives better … and safer. IMO, if they really don’t like government interference, they should live on their own lands, kill and grow their own food, get around by horseback, etc. — and hope they never get sick.

          Liked by 4 people

      • What I wrote — IN CONTEXT — was:

        ” I’m neither a Republican, nor a Democrat. I’m mostly apolitical; but if pressed to decribe myself I would identify as a classical liberal . . .”

        The operative words are/were “if pressed to describe myself” — i.e., it I had to assign a convenient, one-size-fits-all label to my political leanings,then that one comes the closest to describing my political view. But as I made clear throughout the discussion: I argue towards principles — not political ideologies. Assigning labels and placing people into boxes is counterproductive to discovering their core principles and ideologies..

        Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you Neil. Taxes are as much giving back to what you’ve already taken as it is paying it forward. Such people who argue the position of taxation as theft, never seem to have an answer for how society would function without taxation either.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. If you do not put children or the mentally challenged into the mix, it should read:
    Is it wrong to force someone who is abnormally irrational to do something against their will?
    Is it wrong to take something from someone who is abnormally irrational against their will?
    And I would say no, if it is for their own good it is not wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I posed the questions, and have no problems ansereing ‘yes’ to both of them within the context of the discussion on civil liberties in which they arose. They were preceded by the following comments:

    “I support individualism, while you support collectivism. I strive for equality of opportunity, while you strive for equality of outcome. I advocate for negative rights, while you advocate for positive rights. I disapprove of coercion, while you approve of coercion. In short, we hold to fundamental philosophical differences.”

    “To govern means to rule. Republicans and Democrats represent different flavors of rulership. However, I wish neither to rule, nor to be ruled by others. This is why I cannot be drawn into partisan debates.”

    “Negative rights (i.e., the right to life, liberty and security of property) impose no obligations on anyone other than an agreement to refrain from negating the rights of others; whereas postive rights — such as the right to education, healthcare, welfare payments, a guaranteed minimum income, retirement benefits, etc. — place an obligation upon others to provide those rights. The former grants individuals the freedom of choice to live as they wish so long as they leave others alone. The latter forces individuals to do the bidding of others — which I view as immoral.”

    For those wishing to engage those questions within that specific context — I will be happy to oblige. But questions along the lines of grabbing poisons away from minors, or weapons away from those intent on causing harm to others, will not.


  7. No. And no.

    I was tempted to answer “sometimes”, as others did, but I checked the questions again. They don’t ask “is it *always* wrong?” They ask whether it’s *inherently* wrong. No it’s not. It is only wrong given ADDITIONAL circumstances.

    Yes, each of us can think of times when it’s right or wrong, given a hundred other factors. But the questions, as asked, have to be answered “no”, because the posited actions are not *inherently* wrong.

    Liked by 4 people

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