The difference between causing the death of a number of people of a certain category and risking the death of a number of people of a certain category is merely gradual (if existent at all). It is only with respect to a particular person that the difference between causing and risking 'er death is of greater significance. Thus when it is certain that a particular person has been convicted of murdering someone else, it is also certain that the execution of this convicted murderer causes the death of a convicted person. But considering the system of capital punishment in general, it is not always the death of a guilty person which an execution causes; in practise it may also be the death of an innocent person. Therefore every time that an execution causes the death of a convicted person, it risks the death of an innocent person. This is another, very serious, objection against the death penalty, because insofar as it is based on maximizing the number of lives saved (and not on fanaticism or retributivism) it is actually based on minimizing the risk of death. If the death penalty prevented other killings, it is only a question of the risk which would be lower if the convict were executed (instead of being given a life sentence): people never have the knowledge of the number of actual killings which would be prevented; and similarly, if, and insofar as, the death penalty deterred other killings. This is why one theorist has said about executions and assassinations with uncertain consequences that the decision makers in question 'are gambling with lives, whether they kill or not'. The certain death of a convict or public figure whose career is costly in lives is simply gambled against the chance of averting a number of other deaths. Not only the institution of capital punishment but terrorism in particular involves then the risk of the death of innocent people.

Risking the death of people, or their bodies, who have not committed any crime, is an everyday practise. Allowing cars to drive on the road is risking the death of others, not only of the people who drive a car themselves, but also of people who do not drive, of small children and of nonhuman animals. All systems of motorized traffic take their toll of lives, and we know that a number of lives will be saved --if not a great number-- by not building such systems or by building more expensive systems (without dangerous level crossings, for instance). Only those who believe in the fundamental sanctity of life itself, and who also attribute to life, or to human life, a value incomparable with anything else, are committed to saying that allowing motorized traffic is definitely wrong for this reason. In their so-called 'no-trade-off' view the complete absence of motorized traffic must be preferred to any kind of general system of motorized traffic, a piece of life-saving equipment to any amount of better housing or schooling, and so on and so forth. But for no-one else can the saving of life automatically have such absolute priority over all other objectives. If on balance the existence of a traffic system is better than its nonexistence, then the advantages outweigh the number of fatal and other casualties (such as the 'statistical deaths') in consequence of its existence (and which would not have been there without it). Yet, such does not release anyone from 'er personal duty to minimize as much as possible the risk of killing, for example, by not speeding or by not driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. It is in such cases that killing another person is slaughter (manslaughter in traditional parlance): an unintended or accidental killing (and accordingly without express or implied malice) for which a person can be held responsible nevertheless. It is not that one would not be allowed to take any risk, for taking the risk of killing someone is inherent in a system of motorized traffic; it is rather that one must not take too big a risk.

There are, or can be, important moral differences between running a general system of motorized traffic and carrying on a war (civil or international), the most important one being whether participation is voluntary or not. Yet, there also is, or can be, a remarkable similarity. It is that war too --particularly a revolution-- may be waged solely to attain a social objective, and not to kill anyone. Nonetheless, by engaging in a war (or revolution) the decision maker always takes the risk of people being killed, if not at the other side, then at 'er own side. The metadoctrinal principle requires that no-one be killed against 'er will who respects other people's extrinsic rights, but if the people fought against in the war concerned do not recognize other people's extrinsic rights without being, or having been, provoked to do so, then they cannot appeal to the right to personhood. (They may, for example, keep and use a considerably larger portion of the natural resources than belongs to them according to the rules of the extrinsic right-duty constellation.) In such a case one may fight such people, but whether one should do so is another issue altogether again. The doctrinal principle of neutrality may affirm that the social objective of the party whose extrinsic rights are violated is a good one, but when the war is bound to bring about the death of living beings, the death of happiness-catenal beings, an awful lot of destruction and terrible suffering, the badness of the war itself may outweigh the goodness of the proposed objective. In other words, the end does not justify the means on the neutralist model, for both the end (a penultimate or lower-level value) and the means will have to be judged by the same catenary standard. By choosing means which are worse than what is fought for in the first place, a party or country would overshoot its mark. One way, then, to prevent defeating one's own ultimate end is to minimize the risk that others in the conflict concerned will be killed. Again, it is probably true that some risk of killing human or other living beings will have to be taken in a war or during an insurrection, yet this in itself does not justify taking too big a risk, nor does it justify taking a risk of killing too many human or other living beings.

'War' is a conflict between opposed parties characterized by the coercive use of violence. Violence itself has been defined as intentional infliction of damage, pain, injury or death by forcible means. Now, genuine pacifists would argue that people are to refrain from using violence under all circumstances. On their view violence is evil, and people ought to eradicate, or at least minimize, it by not getting involved in it themselves. (Their reply to those who 'fight for peace' is sometimes that this is as absurd and self-defeating as 'fucking for virginity'.) The crux is, of course, whether pacifism does indeed reduce violence given that not all other people are pacifists as well. An interesting point made is then that a moral principle is not a principle to be adopted by one person or group only but by everyone. And if everyone were to adopt the principle of pacifism, violence would indeed cease to exist. But it has been demonstrated that this argument is fallacious in that it does not solely apply to the pacifist principle but also, for instance, to the principle that violence should only be employed defensively. If everyone were to live up to this principle, violence would be eradicated too. The principle may not be as simple as that of the pacifist, but it is equally universal. Defensively tho, is too vague a term for us, as it may be so narrow that it only concerns a person's own body (or the lives of the members of the group 'e belongs to), or so broad that it also concerns everything that is called "'er property" in the country or community in question. On our normative considerations the alternative to the pacifist principle is rather: use violence against other people only if extrinsic rights are violated . However, if they are, the implication is not yet that we should use violence. We may still, like pacifists, actually never use violence.

In cases of armed conflict risking the death of other people or their bodies does not only mean risking the death of those belonging to an opposed party, it equally frequently means risking the death of others belonging to the same party. When a government forces its own citizens, or a particular category thereof, to fight in a just or unjust war, it risks the death of other people; those making the decisions at the top are seldom or never the ones risking their own lives. In the event that a person who fights in a war has voluntarily agreed to participate in that particular war, or in all wars waged by the government in question, 'er right to personhood is not violated in this respect. The situation is quite different, however, if the person whose life is at stake is forcibly made to partake in that war despite 'er conscientious objection. It may be that the war in question is a brutal act of violence, or a serious violation of foreign extrinsic rights. It may be that the government in question requires its citizens to die, or risk their lives, for a state of religionism and/or monarchism, or for a state of party-political and/or military totalitarianism. It may be that the nation's armed forces discriminatingly conscript or hire people or human bodies of one particular category only (gender, race or otherwise). These are all reasons why risking the death of a countryman or countrywoman in a war can be in the same league as murder.

©MVVM, 41-56 ASWW

Model of Neutral-Inclusivity
Book of Fundamentals
Life and Nonlife
Causing, Risking or Allowing the Death of Others