1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Smullyan's Paradox

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Mouthwash, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2011
    Messages:
    8,764
    Location:
    Hiding
    "At a desert oasis, A and B decide independently to murder C. A poisons C's canteen, and later B punches a hole in it. C dies of thirst. Who killed him?

    A argues that C never drank the poison. B claims that he only deprived C of poisoned water. They're both right, but still C is dead. Who's guilty?"


    Now, legally, B is guilty of murder, and I think that's the correct interpretation (obviously A is still guilty of attempted murder). If B wasn't in the picture, and C tripped and fell and spilled all of his water and still died of thirst, his death would be accidental. Again, the fact that he would have died anyway is immaterial, since we're all going to die anyway, eventually. The immediate "cause" of C's death was of thirst, and that condition was directly brought about by B, ergo B is responsible for the death of C.
     
  2. Kaitzilla

    Kaitzilla Lord Croissant

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Messages:
    8,264
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    America!
    Doesn't really seem like a paradox to me :hmm:
     
  3. Souron

    Souron The Dark Lord

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2003
    Messages:
    5,947
    Location:
    (GMT-5)
    They both tried to kill A, so they're both equally at fault. The details of how B died are immaterial. :p
     
  4. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2011
    Messages:
    8,764
    Location:
    Hiding
    It's an ethical and legal paradox. Is the concept hard for you to understand?

    Under the eyes of the law, only the successful person is guilty of murder, while the other is guilty of attempted homicide. This is ultimately due to the limitations of the law -- it can't be proven beyond the shadow of doubt that person A had as much intention as person B to kill person C, and would have been successful had person B not intervened.
     
  5. Mise

    Mise isle of lucy

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2004
    Messages:
    28,596
    Location:
    London, UK
    Yeah, that is quite a pickle. However, I'm not sure what there is to discuss, as the current law seems fair and right to me. B murdered C; A attempted (but failed) to murder C.
     
  6. lovett

    lovett Chieftain

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2007
    Messages:
    2,570
    It's not a paradox. Something is a paradox if and only if there is a logical inconsistency evinced by it. It's not like every 'hard case' in ethics is paradoxical.

    As for the answer, neither are guilty of murder. They are at a desert oasis. Consequently, C can't have needed an intact canteen to acquire water. There is a pool of water right there. His death of thirst was not, therefore, caused by the hole in the canteen. And nor was it caused by the water in the canteen being emptied. So neither A nor B caused C's death. Both attempted to murder C and both failed.
     
  7. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2012
    Messages:
    26,698
    So it was a case of suicide?

    Can someone be convicted of (attempted) murder if their intended victim pre-empts them by committing suicide?

    And A's and B's attempts (especially B's) were inane really. Given that C was clearly depressed anyway (is that why they'd decided to murder him, as a mercy killing?).

    So could I be prosecuted for attempted murder if I intend to kill someone but use a useless method? Say, I try to sabotage somebody's car by placing a pencil under the wheel in the vain hope of puncturing the tyre and causing a fatal accident?
     
  8. Mise

    Mise isle of lucy

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2004
    Messages:
    28,596
    Location:
    London, UK
    :lol: nice. But I assumed that they filled their canteens at the oasis and moved on.
     
  9. GhostWriter16

    GhostWriter16 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2010
    Messages:
    22,753
    Location:
    Wherever my name is posted
    B may well have known that the water was poisoned and been trying to save his life by getting rid of the poisoned water.

    I think A should be guilty. B might also be guilty of attempted murder if his goal was to deprive C of water (Rather than to save him from poison) but I think A was most likely the real killer.

    EDIT: Actually, B would be guilty of stealing water, not murder...
     
  10. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2005
    Messages:
    25,238
    Location:
    Freedonia
    If C was deprived of poisoned water by B, then he didn't drink the poison that was in the water, now did he?
     
  11. rugbyLEAGUEfan

    rugbyLEAGUEfan Chieftain

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,290
    Location:
    sydney australia
    I find it unlikely that C would have travelled such a distance with a punctured canteen and the strong suspicion that someone wants him dead that he wouldn't have chosen to return to the desert oasis.
     
  12. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2005
    Messages:
    42,481
    Location:
    Pale Blue Dot youtube=wupToqz1e2g
    B could attempt a pro-active defense by attempting to prove that he knew that the water was poisoned. If he's lucky, (A) would then become guilty of the murder, because (A) caused the loss of water that then caused death.
     
  13. TomYo689

    TomYo689 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2011
    Messages:
    1,382
    Location:
    Connecticut
    I think A is guilty because C is dead. Citing lovetts post he did not die because there was no water, they're at an oasis. He must have been poisoned before the little hole drained it out completely.
     
  14. Leoreth

    Leoreth 心の怪盗団 Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2009
    Messages:
    32,994
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Leblanc
    I would say that this story has lots of ... holes in it.



    YEAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH
     
  15. Borachio

    Borachio Way past lunacy

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2012
    Messages:
    26,698
    I think this thread is hilarious!

    (I have nothing to add at the moment)
     
  16. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2011
    Messages:
    8,764
    Location:
    Hiding
    Sorry, my mind didn't register that they were at an oasis (why did they put that in? :dubious:). It defeats the purpose of it. Just pretend that these guys were out wandering in the Sahara away from civilization.
     
  17. Antilogic

    Antilogic --

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2006
    Messages:
    15,602
    When we say died of thirst, that definitely rules out he was poisoned even a little, right? Are we taking this as a legitimate and correct cause of death determined by an autopsy?
     
  18. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2005
    Messages:
    31,662
    Location:
    Scotland
    And if I shoot somebody, I'm not guilty of murder, I'm just guilty of unsolicited bullet-donation.
     
  19. Gori the Grey

    Gori the Grey The Poster

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    6,356
    B did know the water was poisoned. It's part of his defense, as stated in the original set-up. In fact, I think it's that detail that may be necessary for understanding the matter as a paradox.
     
  20. TomYo689

    TomYo689 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2011
    Messages:
    1,382
    Location:
    Connecticut
    If anything B is property damage, but it's not his fault that the water leaked out after that
     

Share This Page