A murderous ABC

A holds a gun on B and tells C, “If you don’t do what I say, I will shoot B. You will then be a murderer.” C refuses to comply, and A shoots B. Is C in any way morally responsible for the murder of B?

No. The guy responsible is the guy who pulled the trigger. End of story.


Not even slightly. A is entirely guilty.

Now, if C doesn’t do anything to see that A gets arrested and convicted…

I agree with posts #2 and #3.

I will add in passing that Hollywood movies, TV shows, comic books, and so forth often have scenarios in which the bad guy kidnaps the hero’s girlfriend/family/busload of innocent children/miscellaneous other and tries to force the hero to do what the villain wants. Invariably the hero finds some way to rescue the girlfriend/family/busload of innocent children/miscellaneous other and thwart the villain’s plan. To me this seems like a cheap way out of the dilemma, and I think a much more interesting story would occur if the hero actually had to make the choice.

The only way C would be guilty is if he helped create the situation. Like if A and C were robbing a bank and C got cold feet so A threatened a hostage.

I don’t say this much to you, but I totally agree.

And no, C is not responsible.

I think it depends what the act is.

If A is a total whack job, and tells C he will kill B unless C gives A one of the sticks of Juicy Fruit he has in his pocket, and C refuses, I would argue he has a degree of moral responsibility. No legal responsibility, but I know I would not feel particularly good about myself afterwards if I was C in that scenario.

Essentially I think C has a moral responsibility to seek to prevent the death of B here. Now that may well involve refusing to do the act, or agreeing to it but going to the police instead or something. But I don’t think it is as clear cut that there is no moral responsibility for the death regardless of what the act involved is.

What if B was on fire? What then?

Not seeing the relevance.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. In hindsight, this might not be as relevant as I originally thought, but it was the first thing I thought of reading your OP.

Would you shoot child and kill your child in this situation?

The basic problem with these hypothetical questions.

I would go further I think; I think C should be willing to commit any crime purely of property. Handing over the money in a bank drawer? Hell, yes.

To answer your OP: no, C, has no culpability in the murder of B. It never pays to negotiate with terrorists, and this is (at least in my mind) the scenario you have laid out. It does not matter what the act is; it is important to stand up to tyrants like A, even with such a high cost. Can you imagine how it could escalate if C acquiesces to A’s demands?

The person with the ‘moral responsibility’ is the one holding the gun and deciding, consciously, to pull the trigger. That’s where the ultimate responsibility lies. It doesn’t matter what the act is, if A is coercing C to do something and the threat is to B, then A has all of the ‘moral responsibility’…the choice to shoot or not to shoot is entirely with A.

C might have some GUILT, if through acting or not acting on whatever action A is attempting to coerce C to do in order to save B, but the responsibility for the actual act of killing is ultimately on A. You could make up any number of scenarios where most people would do whatever A wanted or not do whatever A wanted, and that might or might not save B’s life (after all, it’s A who ultimately decides whether or not to pull that trigger, regardless of what C does), but it always comes back to A, since A is the one with the gun.

To me this one is a no brainer, the way the OP is crafted.




Batman had to make the choice. He wasn’t prepared.

I agree. It doesn’t matter what the act is. A is solely responsible for his own acts.

I thought you were asking about a murderous American Born Chinese (ABC).

On the other hand, I was hoping this would be about the Tiger Lillies song

It’s only a no brainer if you (mistakenly) think that there is a limited amount of moral responsibility to go round. Of course the responsibility for the actual act of killing is ultimately on A, but that doesn’t mean C is automatically in the clear morally. Moral responsibility isn’t a zero sum game.