A few days ago, before a massive terrorist attack reminded people what real danger and tragedy were there was a really stupid question going around the internet and it was this, “If you could travel back thru time to kill Adolf Hitler when he was a child, long before his influence as a Nazi leader, would you kill this baby Hitler?” Presidential candidate Governor Jeb Bush said THIS.
Now, how did a question like this come to be part of popular parlance enough to actually prompt a response from rival presidential candidate Doctor Ben Carson? (Seen Here) It is important to understand the nature of these questions, this is a word problem that illustrates the conflict between Utilitarian and Deontological ethics.
Utilitarian ethics are focused on the outcome of an action, or the total utility. They would say that killing Hitler serves such a greater good (preventing the Holocaust) that the "wrongness" of killing a baby is completely offset.
Deontological is focused on individual actions, and that doing something wrong, even for a good reason is still wrong. They would say that committing the wrong of killing an innocent person (or at least killing someone before they have done the wrong they would become most famous for) is so unethical that doing so is evil regardless of what it is stopping.
Technically speaking Stephen Colbert gave the "right" answer. (Seen Here) The “correct” unstated third option is that with the power of time travel you can set things right that do not involve killing, but instead require the more difficult task of helping. Hitler was not always evil, he was an art student that grew up in a difficult family, he liked dogs, he was funny, and suffered a host of maladies. He was a person both before and after being a monster. Given time and patience you could turn his life toward something positive, help him become the artist he wanted to be instead of beast he became.
Generally speaking, I feel that not taking a second to consider the implications or the inability to consider that there might be a third option, is indicative of uncreative thinking. I feel that lack of creativity means that such an individual would be a poor negotiator, and would be a poor leader. Or maybe he just thought it was a stupid question and gave a flippant response because it is a really stupid question.
|Though the image of Adolf Hitler as a 60 year old man having retired to the United States to teach painting on PBS, talking about happy little lamp posts, that is a timeline hard to envision.|
Unfortunately all of these arguments still ignore the deeper problem of the situation, that fascism, eugenics, and a policy of murdering various minorities in systemic ways (Native Americans, Africans, and Armenians) already existed. And that the need for food and living space to be taken from “minorities” was already happening, the world was already running out of people that were different colors to abuse and eventually different gradients of white were going to be used as justification for mass murder, which is just how you forecast a pattern. A Holocaust in Europe was inevitable.
While Hitler is the biggest advocate of the process and was undeniably evil he is kind of being scapegoated for the whole thing. Millions of people participated in the endeavor, and since not all of them were prosecuted, and none of them want to confront the fact that they shepherded people out of homes and into ovens. People want to blame Hitler, so they can feel better about themselves having been "tricked" into being monsters.
So I guess there is a fourth answer: It doesn’t matter if you could kill Hitler, because he was not the only one murdering.
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