Can You Involuntarily Give Up Your Rights?


A thief doesn’t have the right to defend himself.

Q1 Analysis

This is not a Q1 violation unless you think the right to self-defense is immutable or you think that theft is not sufficient justification for taking away the right to self-defense.

Q2 Analysis

This is a Q2 violation if you would blame someone who mistook you for a thief for concluding that you have given up your right to defend yourself.


People generally believe that everyone has the moral right to defend themselves. Most people also believe that you lose the right to self-defense under certain circumstances.

For example, let’s look at a crime more heinous than theft and see if it results in the loss of rights. Imagine that Sylvester is standing on a bridge and Fred attacks him with a knife. Sylvester takes out a gun and shoots Fred. Because Sylvester was defending himself, the district attorney does not prosecute him for murder. Most people would say that this is fair.

Now imagine that the situation is slightly different. Sylvester is standing on the bridge as before, but this time he’s holding a little girl that he’s about to drop over the side to her death. Fred takes out a knife and attacks Sylvester to try to save the little girl, but Sylvester has a gun and shoots Fred. The district attorney charges Sylvester with two counts of attempted murder and with using a firearm during the commission of a crime. Sylvester goes to prison for twenty years, and most people would not feel that he had been wronged.

In both cases, Sylvester is being attacked by a man with a knife, but in one case he is (both legally and morally) allowed to defend himself and in the other case he is not. What would you say that the difference in the second example is? Is it that:

Now consider the following situations:

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at and See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on October 1, 2010 at 9:35 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

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