December 16, 2019, 10:08:18 AM

Author Topic: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.  (Read 687 times)

Offline Eli_Freysson

Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« on: July 11, 2019, 11:03:56 PM »
My new space opera setting will include as one of its main characters a warrior space mystic; one of an order of wandering peacekeepers in the wilder reaches of space.

Rather than worshipping a deity they are all about balancing themselves between fundamental forces of the universe.

I want to give them a strict ethical code, and my first thought was to make deeds a cornerstone of their ethics. That is, it is a deed that is good or evil, completely independent of circumstances or the people involved. Torture is evil by its nature, and it doesn't matter if the victim is a horrible criminal. Mercy is good, again regardless of who is receiving it.  Lying is evil, honesty is good, regardless of hurt feelings.

You get the picture.

But then I get to killing and I'm less sure of what to do.

They're definitely willing to kill in combat if absolutely necessary, but still put themselves through a ritual cleansing afterwards. I envision them preventing defeated villains from being killed by vengeful people, the same way they'll prevent any other kind of murder.

Buuut they're in large part active on backwater planets and out in the depths of space, where there is no real law to turn captures pirates or slavers over to. But letting them just walk away to continue plundering and murdering doesn't do any good.

So do they take it upon themselves to be executioners? It's certainly a very risky right to assign yourself.

What do you think? Escorting a group of vicious pirates to a faraway civilised planet is a risky endeavour when you're operating alone, and upon arrival there is the issue of evidence.

As I said, I want their code to be firm and strict, but strict in what way? Where does one draw the line? How does one design an absolute code that allows both for turning criminals over to the proper authorities, and vigilante executions?
« Last Edit: July 23, 2019, 06:16:51 PM by Eli_Freysson »
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Offline Brand J Alexander

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Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2019, 11:41:26 PM »
Perhaps the taking of a life of an evildoer is the balance of bad against the good deeds that they do. They balance their virtue by being the dispatchers of justice when it is for the common good. They take on those burdens so another doesn't have to. But only when warranted.
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2019, 12:15:50 AM »
Perhaps the taking of a life of an evildoer is the balance of bad against the good deeds that they do. They balance their virtue by being the dispatchers of justice when it is for the common good. They take on those burdens so another doesn't have to. But only when warranted.

That is an interesting outlook; viewing their own violence as a balance against the good it leads to. It would probably also make their outlook pretty spooky to outsiders, and subject to misinformation.
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Offline Brand J Alexander

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Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2019, 01:38:52 AM »
Perhaps the taking of a life of an evildoer is the balance of bad against the good deeds that they do. They balance their virtue by being the dispatchers of justice when it is for the common good. They take on those burdens so another doesn't have to. But only when warranted.

That is an interesting outlook; viewing their own violence as a balance against the good it leads to. It would probably also make their outlook pretty spooky to outsiders, and subject to misinformation.

Definitely. I have to say I like the idea. My brain chased it down a rabbit hole while in the shower. I can envision one of these space monk executioners having executed someone wrongfully convicted. Now he travels the cosmos trying to cleanse the blood of innocence from his hands but knowing he can never do so until he brings the victim justice.
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Offline Bender

Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2019, 03:09:30 AM »
As the setting is space, you can have a virtual court or tribunal through Faster Than Light Holograms or something. That way they can apprehend but not judge.

Or inject then with some nanothingys and release them. Judge later and if found guilty activate the nanothingys to kill or deactivate if innocent.

Or just capture and store them in suspended animation in their ship. That way even if it takes years, they'll be preserved.

Or just resort to current religious extremists.... killing in name of god (or whatever their orders beliefs are) are justified. Killing for pleasure or profit or even revenge is to be punished.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2019, 03:13:26 AM by Bender »
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2019, 08:30:34 AM »
As the setting is space, you can have a virtual court or tribunal through Faster Than Light Holograms or something. That way they can apprehend but not judge.

I very deliberately don't have FTL-communications in the setting. Once you're out in space, you're on your own.

Quote
Or just resort to current religious extremists.... killing in name of god (or whatever their orders beliefs are) are justified. Killing for pleasure or profit or even revenge is to be punished.

Hmm. It occurs to me that they might be okay with executions if they are done with a truly calm heart. That is, before striking the blow they look inwards and check themselves for anger. If they don't find anger, they make a cold, serene decision to execute.

Which, again, would no doubt be rather spooky to observe.

But they WILL prevent killings done in revenge or hate, because they consider those to be separate deeds from cold executions.
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Offline Magnus Hedén

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Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2019, 02:48:22 PM »
I like the potential hypocrisy in them saying "killing is bad" but then doing it themselves, perhaps because they think themselves on moral high ground as they've meditated more about the value of life and of different actions.  The step to murderous fundamentalism is tiny, which makes the order all the more interesting if you ask me.

I get the feeling you're trying to make their moral code defendable, but isn't it more interesting if it has flaws (or rather, it will have flaws, so better to be aware of them)? One of these monks realising that despite all the ritual, lack of rage, justification, etc., taking a life is still taking a life no matter who you are is a great story seed, for example.
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Offline xiagan

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Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2019, 08:17:12 PM »
I agree with the opinions raised in this thread.
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Ethics in my setting. Could use some thoughts.
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2019, 12:04:51 AM »
I get the feeling you're trying to make their moral code defendable, but isn't it more interesting if it has flaws (or rather, it will have flaws, so better to be aware of them)? One of these monks realising that despite all the ritual, lack of rage, justification, etc., taking a life is still taking a life no matter who you are is a great story seed, for example.

Well, I'm going for defensible AND flawed. Something a person can firmly believe in with a spiritual conviction, but which can cause clashes with outsiders.

Especially when they travel to a more civilised part of space, which does happen in the plot.
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