Your morality as a Super

Let’s say that one day you develop superpowers. Super strength, healing ability, one or more other typical super powers.

One of the things of Superheroes in comics is their aversion to killing people. Would you, or could you maintain the same moral compulsion? Or would you just slaughter the bad guys indiscriminately?

For my own part, I have answered that question in my own self. It would be a very very good idea for me NOT to have superpowers, or I’d probably end up being labeled as a horrific killing machine.

It depends on the bad guys and what they do and what they do to me.

I say this because if I am just trolling around the city and busting muggers and robbers and carjackers and whatnot I doubt I’ll just kill em. I would even hesitate to straight up kill a murderer even, but if my supervillian nemesis does stuff to me personally then I would have a hard time controlling myself.

To a small and related point this is always something that bugged me about Harry Potter. I understand he was written to be almost all good and stuff…but from a personal standpoint if people are actually trying to kill me and have abused/tortured me and my friends for that long? I am killing whomever I can as quickly as I can.

How bad are you? I’d have my own, “Did you see the sun rise?” Magnum moment if I’m tracking down some mass murdering villain.

Bank robbery/theft? No. Kills under 3 people? Prison.

I voted for “I would kill when I had to, but avoid it if I could” but really it’s probably a bad idea :slight_smile:

Right now I would take the risk just to get the super healing powers though.

When I say Death Incarnate, I don’t mean to imply that I would indiscriminately slaughter muggers and other petty crooks.

Abstractly, I’m all about the rule of law, would apprehend but not kill, blah, blah.

In practice, if a supervillain messed with anyone I care about, it would take a lot of self control to not light everything he might possibly care about on fire. It would take additional self-control to not salt the earth around his compound, especially assuming the baddie hurt my family or friends because I have superpowers. I’m not sure I’d have that much self-control.

Thus, I’m glad that I don’t have superpowers and that objective strangers generally in the position of enforcing the law.

Didn’t Supes and Lois kill the depowered evil Kryptonians in Superman II?

I’d probably go out and start killing. Not street criminals though; we already have cops and a legal system to deal with those and flawed as it is, it does a better job than vigilantes. I’d go after dictators and such; people who have enough power as to be beyond the law. It just makes more sense to do the jobs that normal people or organizations can’t or won’t do, instead of doing something that normal people are already doing for themselves.

And if some supervillain shows up and comes after me, he fries.

I chose the first option because it amused me. But obviously the sentece is not entirely applicable.

More seriously, it would depend on the powerset. If I had Kryptonian powers I’d use them to make the world better in mostly non-violent ways; I’d have been Johnny-on-the-spot after Japan’s earthquake, for instance, but I’d need to hear a very, very, very good argument to compel me to intervene in Libya. I’d also try to be as discreet as possible,with THOSE powers.

With certain other powersets – and I’m thinking Storm & Firestorm – I’d feel even more compelled to do good.

But Spider-Man’s powers? Wolverine’s? I’m not getting involved unless there’s a threat happening right in front of me, or unless someone’s doing harm to me and mine.

I’d go by the same guidelines as a cop. If I was invulnerable, it would be only when it was absolutely necessary to save lives.

Amigo, if you do as you describe, you’re the supervillain. Or will be before long.

Yes; in actuality a lot would depend on the kind of powers I get. The classic super strong indestructible flying guy powerset while cool is of limited use for much beyond smashing stuff. While on the other hand if you are the only guy on Earth who can cure AIDS but aren’t bulletproof, then playing vigilante will get you killed while at the same time you have an opportunity to do good that no one else has.

If someone were to swoop down and vaporize Gaddafi, do you think the typical Libyan would consider him a villain? There are people out there who are as blatantly evil as any villain out of a comic book.

Who fills the power vacuum after you vaporize Gaddafi? Do the loyalist troops just put down their arms and surrender to the opposition, or do they keep fighting under someone else’s command? What if the loyalist troops splinter? What if the opposition can’t reach agreement on how to respect to your suddent “resolution”, and they splinter?

There are very, very few cases in which assassination of political leaders, even horrible ones, is likely to ammeliorate a bad situation. It would take some doing to convince me this is one of them.

If I had superpowers, though, I’d try to find a way (using my super-genius-powers) to make more superpowered minions - not quite at my level, but well above human standard. My Legion of Liberation/Doom (depends on your point of view) would be equipped and trained to assist new democratic governments in taking power after removing tyrants by any means necessary. Killing + institution-building = win.

Nah. See, I have a list. :wink:

First I’d go in and take out Gaddafi and his sons. Then I tell the rebel leaders “make good on your promise of democracy… OR ELSE” They mess it up or put in another megalomaniac, I go in and kill him and his top people too. Repeat until someone gets in power who isn’t suicidally egomaniacal.

Then I go down the rest of my list. Kim Jong-Il. Mugabe. Al-Assad.

Chavez? Not evil enough. But I would let him know I’m watching.

Chimera, when will you learn that not all problems can be solved by killing? :wink:

Given the options, I’m not sure how to vote. My morality* would be the same as it is now, which is…way too long a post for a thread about super powers, so here’s the ridiculously-oversimplified version: the source of morality is interaction between sentient individuals, and the moral rights possessed by a given individual are those that they extend to others.

One upshot of this is that I don’t think it’s immoral to kill someone who doesn’t believe that people have a right not to be killed. Being certain about this for any given person, of course, would require objective omniscience that nobody has. But, in cases where one has standing to make a judgment in the first place (i.e., knowledge of that person’s future intent to harm other individuals), then the potential kill-ee having indiscriminately murdered large numbers of people in the past is as convincing evidence as any.

So, to use a hypothetical handily provided by another poster, Super Der’s behavior would likely pass moral muster with me, provided that he didn’t act until he was convinced that A) the dictator in question had no regard for the value of human life, and B) that dictator was going to put deliberate exercise to that lack of regard in the future. (That latter requires knowledge of something specific, not just “well, he’s done it before.”)

That said…morality is the bare-bones baseline for not being evil. Far more commonly, day-to-day actions are governed by ethics*, which are the subset of rules for interactions that serve as the baseline for being a worthwhile human being as opposed to, say, a steaming pile of dogshit (which substance, you’ll note, is not evil, but still quite odious and generally undesirable). While it might not be immoral to kill a given person, it’s certainly unethical as hell if you have other options to prevent them from doing harm. (To illustrate on a smaller scale, it’s in no way immoral for me to routinely tell everyone I meet that their mother was a syphilitic cum dumpster. You can see where morality does not suffice as a boundary.)

Ethically, then, it’d depend on what I thought my options were. If I’m a Kryptonian or otherwise nigh-invincible demigod, I’m going to do my damnedest to end the threat with the minimum possible violence. If I’m, I dunno, Johnny Storm…where I can’t be reasonably certain of nonviolent success against an armed opponent, but immolation is likely to be effective…then I’ll just have to take it case by case. That sounds like the second or third poll option, except that I wouldn’t necessarily be limiting myself out of morality, and I don’t think it’s a nitpicky distinction.

Dang, that was still pretty long. Oh well, if you don’t want overanalysis, don’t ask morality questions, especially on this board. Or any questions at all, for that matter. :smiley:

*ETA: I realize there are multiple accepted definitions for these terms. I’m using the ones I prefer by way of explanation. Feel free to mentally substitute as you like.

For the most part crooks would be easy enough to knock out and drag to the cops. If they were about to kill someone, and killing them was the only way to stop them, then no problem.

For dictators, there is a simple solution. Just make the dictator’s soldiers and guards very aware that if they hurt civilians and/or protesters they are going to be in a world of hurt. Without them, the dictator would either be captured and tried or will scram. Would have worked for Alabama sheriffs 50 years ago as well.

I can’t believe you’re putting me, of all people, in the position of advocating non-violent resolution to conflict.

I think I would subscribe to the moral compass as detailed by The Authority or Black Summer. God help oppressors everywhere.

A world in which Superman exists and yet has events like the Khmer Rouge and Rwanda is one in which Superman has no claim to moral authority. I would be an intervening bastard and I figure I’d probably get to enjoying it, God help me.

“With great power comes great responsibility” means more than stopping muggers. It should mean improving the lives of all mankind. That can mean using your powers to help introduce routine spaceflight (depending on what you get) and it can also mean ending the Taliban in 20 minutes in the most brutal way possible.

Supervillians are for wimps who never outgrew junior high.