Perhaps I am simply reiterating what has already been said when I write on the nature of necessity. I am not nearly well-read enough, worldly enough, nor arrogant enough to claim that my thoughts on the matter are wholly original. It may also be that I am simply wrong when I claim that there has been anof necessity and the justifiable, but it is something that I’ve noticed and wish to speak against.
To me, necessity is a feature of cause and effect: “This” is necessary for “that” to happen. Necessity itself has nodimension. For example: It is necessary that the radio contain batteries for it to work. This is a statement of necessity and, as you can see, it contains no moral aspect. Unless you consider radios to either be the intrinsically good or intrinsically evil, then the statement is morally neutral. It is when necessity overlaps with moral judgements that I believe is the area where the confusion occurs.
Note: While I will be mentioning moral justification and discussing its relationship with necessity I will not attempt to define moral justification and exactly what and what isn’t morally justified. While I will be using examples of morally justified and morally unjustifiable acts, I will attempt to draw them from broadly agreed upon terms. I do this, not to avoid tackling the issue, but because I do not fully understand it.
I propose that there exists a continuum containing the overlap of necessity and moral judgements. This continuum consists of four main aspects:
1.) Necessary, morally justified acts.
2.) Unnecessary, morally justified acts.
3.) Necessary, morally unjustified acts.
4.) Unnecessary, morally unjustified acts.
I shall draw examples of each of the above from what I believe are two generally agreed upon grounds:
A.) Helping people is good.
B.) Killing people is bad.
From “A” I draw these two examples:
i) Calling an ambulance for someone who is bleeding heavily. This is an example of “1”.
ii) Helping someone to pick up some papers that they have dropped. This is and example of “2”.
From “B” I draw these two examples:
i) Killing someone to prevent them from killing you. For me, this falls under “3”.
ii) Killing someone because you don’t like them. This is obviously an example of “4”.
I would hazard a guess that most people would agree with me on the two examples from “A” and the second example from “B”. I would also guess that the first example from “B” might be a sticking point for some people. I hope that the following explanation is enough to lay out my view on the matter.
I think that the equating of necessity and the morally justifiable has developed as a way to absolve oneself of, especially with regard to killing. I my opinion, you should feel guilty after killing someone, even if they were trying to harm you. You shouldn’t wallow in guilt, of course, but you shouldn’t deny it either. To do so is to deprive yourself of part of your own humanity.
Furthermore, this principle can be applied on a grander scale. Take civilian deaths in war, or collateral damage as it is now euphemised. If we accept – as many argue – that these deaths are an unfortunate but necessary part of war, then it becomes all to easy to dismiss them entirely. Towash your hands of blood. Not acknowledging the moral of these deaths, even if you consider them necessary, is weak, immature and, again, denies your own humanity.