Tuesday, June 27, 2006

 

Intentions

I know I have covered this before, but I was just thinking..

If I were planning to rob a liquor store and was only detered of this because of a cop standing at the entrance, is that a criminal act? Is my intention to commit sufficient? Should I be punished with the same severity as some that actually robbed the liquor store? Should intent only come into play when a crime has been committed, or is it a stand-alone offense?

Travis' previous statement prompted this response:

I thought about this post when I saw the "To Catch a Predator" show on MSNBC about older guys who try to solicit sex from 13 year olds online, then go to the house where they think the 13 year old is, and run into the reporter. Turns out the 13 year old was more like 30 and works for a sexual predator prevention organization.

On the way out, after having been lectured by the reporter, they are arrested on the spot.

I just thought this fit right in with the whole "criminal intent" argument. Should they be arrested or not, according to your different philosophies?


My problem with the criminal intent approach is that is makes thoughts, feelings, and potential action criminal. I am not a fan of that slight of hand. Possible future action is made guilty today and actual crime is no longer needed to justify coercive action by a court of policing unit. Action is seperate from intent and I think that should be true in the court system

Although I have never seen the movie, Minority Report appears to take this 'intention' approach to its logical conclusion.

Comments:
I have seen the movie Minority Report, and it does a fair job of showing where we'd end up if intention were treated as crime itself. However, the movie has too many different issues it's tackling to really address that one thoroughly. On its face, I'd say it comes down against the intention-as-crime system.

I saw the same report on sexual predators and I wondered the same thing - is intention to commit a crime the same thing as the crime itself? I think it's safe to say that some people who consider committing crimes change their minds at some point and for many reasons.

I think law enforcement should be acting to prevent sexual predators from preying on children, but that doesn't necessarily extend to punishing intentions.
 
We're back to the "ambient level of encroachment" distinction. Can I shoot you if I see you have a gun? What if you are pointing it at me?
These are probably property rights problems, the question is where do you end and I begin?
I don't think we should punish for criminal intent.
Another way to look at this is as a balance of liberty and security. I prefer greater liberty and less security, more risk.
Rather, I prefer to manage more of my risk myself, believing that I can do a better job of managing it than the state can.
Nathan
 
I don't think anyone has ever been "allowed" to shoot only at the sight of a gun. Even at the sight of a gun, all we have is a perception of the intent of the other individual -- not the known intentions and known future actions.

And if shooting breaks out, who is "guilty"? The one that acted first (A), but misperceived the other's (B) intentions or the other (B) that reacted according to the actions of the first (A). Do intentions even matter now? What about perceived intentions, since that is all we can really know?

I think intentions should only come into play, when a crime is committed, not prior to it.
 
Maybe this makes me a utilitarian at some level, but again, you're basically saying that it's not a crime to walk a nuclear bomb into NYC and arm it. Detonating it, though, that's the crime.

And how would you truly, legally prevent someone from doing so unless you made some step prior to detonation illegal?

You would have to, for example, make it illegal to acquire nuclear arms in the first place, which isn't a crime according to my interpretation of Natural Rights philosophy. That's why I think the scenario Jenna proposes is impossible.

I don't have an airtight solution for this either...
 
We have to be willing to die for liberty. We must forsake security. Any compromise of liberty and we lose both.
What enables us to adopt such a mindset? What attitude must we have about our own mortality in order to live according to this creed? Is it a creed?
Nathan
 
I don't like that argument Travis. Is the crime holding or owning something that could potentially harm others or is the crime the actual harm done?

You could use that argument to outlaw anything that could harm others -- guns, knives, forks, aerosol cans, cars, matches and cigarettes.

Causing harm is still a crime, should owning something that is potentially harmful also be one?
 
I don't like the logical conclusions of either line of thinking. Are you truly saying (this goes for Nathan too) that you think people should be allowed to carry nuclear bombs around?

I know this seems ridiculous, but I think it is the logical conclusion of your ideas about what is criminal.
 
Chris, since this post is so far down, I think you should make a new post on this topic and add some new questions.
 
It's not ridiculous at all. Should people be allowed to carry nuclear bombs around? Sure.
Let's go back to property rights with this one, though. Should I be allowed to carry a gun around? Yes. Where? Wherever I want. What about inside your house? Well, no, of course not. Where can I shoot my gun? Wherever I want. What about at your house? Again, no.
Can I shoot a bullet over your house, if I own the land on both sides, and it does not touch your property? I guess that might be okay.
Should I be allowed to shoot a gun straight up into the air on my property? Only if I can prove that the bullet won't land on anyone else's property.
Should I be allowed to carry an atomic bomb, or even to detonate one? Sure, as long as the damage does not extend to anyone else's person or property. Since the fallout of radiation from such a blast would be difficult to isolate to my own property it would not be wise of me to carry one around. But this takes us back to the questions surrounding criminal intent. Should intent be punished or just actual crime?
The question was, Should I be allowed to carry one around? Where? On the roads. Who owns the roads? No one. Then no one can say. If its on the state's roads, then I guess the state gets to say.

All of these questions can fall under a category of "risk management." The best approach to solving them is to ask who should manage the risk? I say everyone ought to manage their own, and the state should not manage any.
Nathan
 
So you'd be fine with all of your next-door neighbors having nuclear weapons on their own property?

My point is that once your rights are violated by something that disasterous, it's too late. Your rights and your life are vaporized.

For sake of argument, let's say even further that there was never any criminal intent--that your mad scientist neighbor had an accident and blew up the greater Raleigh area.

How does Natural Rights philosophy say we should prevent this problem? Does it even say we should try?

This answer will not suffice: "We have to be willing to die for liberty. We must forsake security."
 
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