How do you solve this paradox about killing someone then?

Well now let’s say that someone wants to kill someone who they feel has ruined their life and they want kill them as a form of revenge. There seems to be a paradox because “if he kills them his liberty will be at risk” but “if he doesn’t kill them he can never be free”. Of course a lot of this will hinge on what “liberty” and “free” mean personally to him. Is there a word for this kind of paradox or any way that it can be explained algebraically? And is there any way to analyse this or any way this paradox can be successfully resolved now then?

Where I’m from we solve the paradox by keying their car.

Reported for forum change.

“pick your poison?” “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?”

Moderator Note

I think this can be answered factually. I’ll leave it here for now, unless the OP wants it moved somewhere else.


Happens all the time in the subculture of back streets and late nights, while the eyes of society are elsewhere.

Well, the way you posed it, he can “never” be free. But his liberty is only “at risk.”

So go ahead and do it, you might get away with it.

I’m not really seeing a paradox here. One doesn’t necessarily contradict the other.

The underlying assumption is that the person has to kill the other person in order to be free, and that is the only possible solution to the problem. There are many more ways to handle a situation like this and most of them don’t involve killing. I would describe it more as a sucky situation, not an actual paradox.

You can contrive the situation a bit so that the person doesn’t have a choice. Then this becomes a no-win situation, and it is generally referred to as that or as a lose-lose situation in game theory.

Wikipedia link:

I did a fairly quick google search and wasn’t able to find a good link to the no-win situation in game theory, but if you do a more exhaustive search than I did you might find a good resource about it.

I couldn’t find one either, but what the OP brings to mind for me, is a somewhat vaguely “Kobayashi Maru exercise” variation.

So other than “no-win situation” or “lose-lose” the closest I term I could come up with was just that, “Kobayashi Maru variation”

I’m glad I’m not the only one.

There’s no paradox here. This is just a discussion on the limits of freedom.

If John Doe is 100% free then he can do anything he wants. He can kill people in the middle of a public street without worrying about being arrested or imprisoned.

But to the extent that John has this absolute freedom, other people have their freedom diminished. They lose freedom because of John’s freedom to do things, including murder, to them.

So most societies don’t aim for absolute freedom. They aim for equal freedom. Everyone gives up their freedom to commit murder and in exchange they gain the freedom from being murdered. People give up their freedom to steal things and they gain the freedom from having their stuff stolen. They give up their freedom to drive however they want and they gain the freedom to travel on safe highways.

These are relatively noncontroversial examples. There are others where people might object that they’re being forced to give up a freedom they wanted in order to gain a freedom they don’t want. But democratic rule is itself an example of this kind of exchange of freedoms; you give up some of your freedom when you lose a vote in exchange for knowing other people will give up some their freedom when they lose a vote.

I suspect most people who plot and follow through with a murder for whatever reason don’t think they will get caught (which is why they plot in the first place). So they are willing to play the odds in a scenario where they think they have a pat hand.

Killings that occur more or less spontaneously are a different matter - the offender acts on the spur of the moment with likely no thought whatsoever of the consequences to themselves.

To the OP: Need answer quickly?

You are free in your own actions, but that does not extend to the rest of the world. If you’re in a 10’ jail cell, you’re free to go through the motions of walking 20’: You’ll just smack into the bars in the process. Or, to take it at an earlier step of the process, you’re free to kill someone, but this won’t stop the police from arresting you and throwing you in prison.

It’s a dilemma, not a paradox.

As for solving it, I can see only two options. One is to weigh the alternatives against each other, taking costs, benefits and probabilities into account. The other is to come up with another choice that you haven’t considered before. In the example given by the OP, you could come up with a strategy for revenge that doesn’t involve anything illegal.

Imagine you see me standing at the doorway to my house.

“If I go inside my house,” I say, “I’ll be inside my house, in 2016. But if I don’t, then I won’t be inside my house – again, in 2016. I sure want to go back in time and save Abe Lincoln from an assassin’s bullet back in the 1800s – but I can’t do that by going inside my house! And I can’t do it by staying outside my house! Oh, what a paradox!”

Do you gently correct me by pointing out that, no, that’s not actually a paradox?

This is a “huh?” thread.

We’re talking two entirely different ‘freedoms’ here.

Yeah, or definition of freedom. The most common in ‘liberal’ (in the old sense) thought is that freedom automatically doesn’t include acts which reduce other people’s freedom. Eg. my freedom of expression doesn’t reduce somebody else’s assuming a context where they are free not to pay attention to me.

Then debates in modern politics often revolve around positive rights to receive things (education, basic sustenance, health care etc) for less than their cost but disallow those forced to pay for those things (which they don’t directly receive) from saying that reduces their legitimate freedom. Or we debate which things are in that category and/or what (if any) degree of taxation to pay for them would impinge on freedom.

The OP seems to define freedom in a way I’d frankly never thought of. Strange maybe but I’m not young and have never conceived of ‘he can’t be free till he kills somebody’ as a literal statement. Satisfying an urge for vengeance is not literally freedom in any useful sense of the word IMO.

Anyway definitely not a paradox. Of course there’s a dilemma or trade off in deciding to commit any crime for perceived personal gain, pretty much by definition. The crime has some punishment in principle, some likelihood of being subjected to it in practice and some expected personal gain. It’s a matter of weighing them, if excluding personal morality.

The solution is simple. And *does *resolve the non-paradoxical but very real dilemma.

The anguished revenge-filled person shoots himself in the head. At a stroke he is free of risk of incarceration and also free of the feeling of unrequited revenge.

Problem solved. Cheaply & quickly. Heck, he doesn’t even need to make the rent payment at month-end. Win-win-win solution.

Any other toughies you want to me tackle, there Mr. Dunmurry??

The OP’s describing something like a zero-sum game:

If you kill your enemy for revenge, you have your closure and satisfaction, but you’ll likely be incarcerated.

If you don’t kill your enemy, your life will be haunted and hindered by knowing your enemy never received the justice you think he/she deserves. In this case, death.

But, this is only a zero-sum game if you’re the sort of person that can’t move on, forgive and/or accept what’s happened. The real issue is either killing or not killing your enemy won’t change whatever they did to ruin your life. So, why play at all?

I also think there is no paradox here. What we have is a very simple logical fallacy that is creating confusion.

The fallacy of equivocation is when a term is used in two different ways, or different contexts, such that the term is the same but the meaning is different. In this case, the words “free” or “liberty” are words that can have similar meanings, but not necessarily so.

If he commits the murder, he will probably be confined in a prison cell. If he doesn’t commit the murder, he will be angry. Just because the words “not free” can be applied to imprisonment and the feeling of being under stress doesn’t mean that we are comparing apples to apples.

So, there is no paradox, because each ethical question is different.