Video: The Morality of Vigilantism

 Posted by on 18 April 2012 at 2:00 pm  Activism, Ethics, Law, Politics
Apr 182012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed the morality of vigilantism. The question was:

Where is the line between justice and vigilantism? When is it moral to take the law into your own hands – meaning pursuing, detaining, and/or punishing criminals as a private citizen? Suppose that you know – without a shadow of a doubt – that some person committed a serious crime against you or a loved one. If the justice system cannot punish the person due to some technicality, is it wrong for you to do so? If you’re caught, should a judge or jury punish you, as if you’d committed a crime against an innocent person?
My answer, in brief:
The vigilante is not an agent of justice, but a threat to innocents and to the foundations of civilized society.
Here’s the video of my full answer:
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  • Eriamjh2003

    Every individual lives by the conclusions of his logical mind.  Every individual is capable of rational, objective thought.  This is the basis of Objectivst ethics – that every individual must use his mind logically to live his life, and that the mind if perfectly capable of doing this.  So how is it not objective if just one person “takes the law into his own hands” and make a judgment of another person’s innocence/guilt using nothing but logical, rational thought and all the evidence he can obtain?  You seem to imply that, at least in this one scenario of dealing out justice, that more people acting together (a jury, judge, court, etc.) are somehow innately more logical than a single mind?  How is that so?  I don’t understand how you reach this conclusion.

    • Andrew Dalton

      You ought to listen to the podcast.

  • Eriamjh2003

    Also, your argument for why we need courts and legal system is all fine and good, but I think you’re missing a step.  Why does a legal system need to be controlled by a government?  Where is the logical step in your argument that leads you to “government” versus a private legal institution?  Many private arbiters already exist, in fact, and they mediate disputes between corporations because the government legal system is so terribly slow and costly, and often wrong.

  • Eriamjh2003

    Why would someone deserve 15 to 20 years in prison (which is how much a rapist or murderer can get) for defending himself?  

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