Hypothetical Moral Question...

And potentially controversial one at that. But I assume I am in the right place, you all being open-minded and not minding a good debate.

I actually first heard this hypothetical moral question on a nihilist website, possibly Quora (no cite as of now, sorry). Remember it is a moral question, not a legal one. So no need for it to take that direction.

A pervert secretly films his neighbor in the shower. She is never aware of what he does. And he destroys the tape before he dies, so basically no one ever finds out about the deed.

Question: Did he do anything wrong?

I know when I was younger, I would give an unequivocal Yes. And I would still have a tendency to do that now. But I do still have to tell you, the older I get, the more I tend to question my former beliefs. So at present, I not a 100% certain.

Plus I think the answer to this question says more about the person who gives the answer, than it does about the actual question.

Thank you in advance to all who reply:)

Hell yes. It was fiendish and an invasion of someones privacy. Legal or no, it’s just wrong.

“Wrong, but did not cause harm.”

It’s still wrong. And real harm could very easily have resulted, in a lot of other chance scenarios, that could’ve come to pass, like he dies tragically and suddenly, before destroying it.

Plus, are we going to assume a guy that does this, is doing so benignly? Because that’s not a reality, he’s wanking to it at the very least, I expect.

Also, only in a hypothetical does a guy like this commit only this one crime. Not reflective of the reality.

Yes. He could not predict that she would never find out or be harmed by other means. And there is harm in saying such things are okay, because, at some point, someone will find out or otherwise be harmed.

What we consider moral is as much about the harm of the action itself as it is about the harm that would occur if we were to declare it to be moral. Even if someone is coincidentally not harmed in this particular action doesn’t mean the action isn’t one that is likely to cause harm, and thus immoral.

By the other argument, attempted murder would not be wrong, as long as the person never found out about it.

I think the suggestion of not-wrong-ness depends entirely on his destroying the recording before anyone finds it. That’s a really flimsy basis for declaring the whole thing acceptable. I can’t see a way for it to be OK at all.

If he had asked permission and she had said OK, that would be different.

If acts are only judged on their consequences a lot of bizarre examples become moral.

It’s like someone firing a gun in the air and not hitting anyone, indeed no-one else even notices the shot. It’s easy to say “no harm done”, but I can understand the value in discouraging such behavior since sooner or later somebody will get hurt.

Of course, even asking about it as a hypothetical suggests that yes, someone did find out about it, which is a significantly different situation than the peeper taking the knowledge to his grave. Thing is, being concerned about all the dumb/icky/victimless stuff we can safely assume is going on about which only the person doing it will ever know leads to wanting to keep everybody under constant surveillance which is impractical, to say the least.

Depends on whether you’re a utilitarian or not.

A utilitarian might say it’s ok because it brings more happiness into the world than it causes grief.

As one of those crazy theists, I believe in objective morals who always have an impartial observer and that intent has a moral value as well as action. So I would have to say that Yes, it is immoral.

He filmed a woman in the shower without her permission. Of course it’s wrong. How is this even a controversial question?

I think a better analogy would be if I stole $20 from your wallet, and you never noticed it. It’s still theft. I’ve still caused you (financial) harm.

Privacy is not simply the perception of privacy.

(The one with the man who buys frozen chickens is more interesting)

Say I break into your home while you’re at work and steal your favorite book from the book shelf. But you never know because you get killed in a car accident on your way home.

Am I still not a thief who did a bad thing?

Of course it’s wrong. Why is this a question?

It’s controversial if you assume that an action can only be immoral if it causes harm or at least can potentially cause harm. You might not like that someone is filming you taking a shower, but if for some reason nobody (including you) can ever know it, hence no harm can possibly result from this action, on what basis is it immoral exactly? To pick another example, let’s assume that instead of filming you under the shower, I masturbate while picturing you naked under the shower in my mind. You might not like the idea that I would do so but since it all takes place in my head and you will never know about it, is this immoral?

The OP example isn’t very good, IMO, however, because, as several people pointed out, there’s a distinct possibility that it could cause harm(the guy dies before destroying the films, someone find them, etc…). But for the sake of it, let’s assume that for some magical reason it’s an absolute certainty that nobody will ever know that it happened. Then it’s difficult to find a reason why filming you naked under the shower is immoral that wouldn’t also result in me simply picturing you naked in my mind being equally immoral.

The theft of 20 that you never notice isn't a valid example, by the way, since in this case, you'll be harmed whether or not you notice. You'll have 20 less to spend in either case. There’s an objective harm, here. While in the filming under the shower case the potential harm is entirely subjective and if you don’t notice it, you can’t be harmed.

Yeah, I don’t really see how this is a question, and I’m not sure you do, either, else why would you describe him as a pervert?

It’s absolutely a question. “Not harming others” is one of the most common basis for morality. If you state that an action can be immoral despite not having any negative consequence for others, then you need another basis to define morality. “I feel it’s wrong” isn’t exactly a valid one for obvious reasons. So which basis? It’s not exactly a trivial exercise to find one.

I agree. There’s some risk-reward but since it all worked out the peeping Tom ultimately made the right decision. At least, according to “greater overall happiness” type theories.

If you have lots of money, losing $20 is only nominally harmful - potentially negligible.

Why does this matter? Does it only become wrong if ten people see the tape? Five? Two? One person has already seen the tape who shouldn’t have, the guy who made it. If he never shares it, that’s a matter of degree, but it doesn’t make it right.