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Intention more than action ?

  1. Mar 17, 2005 #1
    I recetnly saw the minority report movie. What do yo think about that system. Can intention cause you freedom, one day?

    I suppose i would have to define freedom and intention but lets assume normal everyday usage of those.

    Why would not or would be the oposite wrong than ? WHen i do something unintentionaly (even kill) i should be exempted from punishment. I assume free will as well .What would be there a judicial system for if im not owner of my choices...

    any views. ..?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2005 #2


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    I'm not too sure I get what you're asking; but suppose there existed a mindless zombie which wrenched off the heads of people with no intention of doing so.
    Would you let that zombie go about freely?
    "Intention" might be crucial when forming a MORAL judgment of a perpetrator, it is not necessarily connected to a danger assessment of that person.
  4. Mar 17, 2005 #3
    Im assuming that the "zombie" is sane. Of cause if a person has some mental illness when he cannot judge his actions than he should be busy with treatment rather than be among ppl.

    My set up is rather of lets say person driving and his tire blows up than he kills a bystander. (Assuming there was a condition on the road which he could not predict, which cause the tire to blow up). There is many other set ups but i hope you get the point.
  5. Mar 17, 2005 #4


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    That is called an accident in which the driver cannot be faulted for the situation.
    He is not responsible for the tragic outcome in a judicial sense.

    He is, however, responsible in the same way as a rock falling upon a person's head might be responsible for the person's death.
    In classical Athens, inanimate objects could be indicted for murder in a special court of law, I wouldn't propose a return to that judicial system.
  6. Mar 17, 2005 #5
    Laws differ from state to state... But in NJ there is un-intentional homicide. Meaning that you killed someone Accidently. I don't believe there is a punishment for it but it still goes on your record. :grumpy:

    On the other hand. There is attempted murder. IF you walk into a building with a gun trying to kill your boss or some such thing. Even if you didn't pull out the gun or fire it. You had "intent to kill" and would therefor be found guilty.

    So... Yes you can lose freedom for having intent.
  7. Mar 17, 2005 #6
    you see in the movie however, the supposed actor of an act did not have that intention yet ....., but some other person had an vision of the "to be" intention.
  8. Mar 17, 2005 #7
    I don't remember the name of the movie I saw BUT... There were "psycics" that read the minds of all the people and issued warnings about when they would commit a crime... Then the good guys would come and arrest you before you even knew you were going to do it... It was a silly movie :rolleyes:
  9. Mar 17, 2005 #8
    That's "Minority Report", and the movie deals with the question "do we have free will".
  10. Mar 17, 2005 #9
    I prefer to ask the question; What is free will?
  11. Mar 18, 2005 #10
    Well I think we all know intuitively what free will is, so let's assume we have a workable definition of it. The question is, if we don't have free will, how come we know what it is?
  12. Mar 18, 2005 #11
    Icebreaker what do you mean we dont have a free will? It means that i had no choice in writing this message?
  13. Mar 18, 2005 #12
    I saw that movie recently on tv on a friend's recommendation. I didnt really enjoy it much, but it was interesting/thought provoking. I really think that intention is what counts, not the action.

    This idea is accepted and incorporated by many law makers in this country and others around the world. This is why we have "2nd degree" murder, "Man slaughter", etc... Pure murder where actions are carried out (directly and) intentionally without any special circumstances are 1st degree murder and are judged more harshly for a reason, no?

    I dont mean to sound like Ive based my opinion on the legal system. (lol Please someone slap me if I ever do something of the kind.)
  14. Mar 18, 2005 #13
    The idea is that the fact that you are who you are dictated that you write this message exactly the way it is.

    Picture every single decision you make as a crossroads. When you make a choice, you go down a certain road and reject the rest. Down that road, you'll eventually end up on another crossroad, and so on.

    Whenever you reach one of those crossroads, your personality, your tastes, your beliefs and your emotions are all taken into factor. Essentially, the person you are determines which road you take - And, as I believe Icebreaker mentioned in a previous thread, everything about you and your personality is determined by your genes - directly or indirectly (not that it's particularly relevant to the argument).

    If you tell yourself "I'll cheat the system and purposely choose the OPPOSITE road instead!", well you haven't escaped it, because this means that whoever you are has determined that you would think that at that exact moment and try to cheat the system, therefore the choice you end up making was the choice you would have made anyways.

    So we say you don't have free will, because in a sense your choices are all predetermined by your personality. That's why I ask, what is free will? After all, we are ourselves, and we make our own choices.
  15. Mar 18, 2005 #14
    Well, havent we been known to act "against our personality"? Sometimes a situation is important enough to us that we are motivated to act in a certain way even if its against our typical reaction. Just brainstorming here.
  16. Mar 18, 2005 #15


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    Great little factoid, thanks.

    Anyway, the way I read icebreaker's little freewill bit was that it was a devil's advocate debunking of the idea that we don't have freewill. Ie, the fact that we understand freewill means it must exist. I'm not sure I quite buy that, but I think that was the point.

    I think the key issue in the movie isn't really freewill, but the moral basis for law enforcement. And action is the basis. Whether its shooting someone in the chest or a random rock falling on their head, the death is the reason the police are involved. And while attempted murder is still a crime, its not the same weight as actual murder because the outcome (action) is different. When a rock falls on someone's head, the police still investigate - until they determine a person was not responsible.

    In the movie, the intent was there, but the crime was not. Its contradictory (even though it works) to stop someone right before they commit a crime and then convict them of intent to commit the crime, with a punishment fitting the intended crime.
  17. Mar 18, 2005 #16


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    The little factoid can be found in Pausanias' traveller's guide from the 3rd century AD, if I'm not mistaken.

    I would perhaps say that the basis for societal counter-action is a perceived potential danger, rather than an action (and the moral evaluation of the agent) per se.

    Then a differentiation into special cases follows, and how to handle these separately.

    For example, a guy who planned a murder, and accidentally were caught before he could do it, poses to some extent the same (future) risk to society as a successful killer does (although the planner has not done an equal amount of damage (yet)).
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2005
  18. Mar 18, 2005 #17
    Russ watters, i agree that intention which can be proven can be acted as if carried out. However, in the movie tom cruise (dont remeber his name in the movie) did not even know the guy he was supposed to shoot. How could he have the intention?

    That would mean that they knew what that person who is to commit crime in the future did not know. Would it still be correct to arrest him?

    Icebreaker: now i understand what you mean (thanx flexor). yeah i was thinking that many times. But dont see why that would not be free will? I can still make the choice at the cross roads because i dont know which choice i will make.
  19. Mar 18, 2005 #18
    My view is simple: we do not have free will. That is, the matter that you and I are made of are subject to causational laws which determine where they go, what they do, and, subsequently, what you do. Your brain is not made up of unobtainium or anything special that can cheat causation.
  20. Mar 18, 2005 #19
    That's just a figure of speech. When you say that, what you're really trying to say is "unlike our typical behavior". But your personality is who you are. You can't go against that. Like in the example I gave earlier; if you try to cheat the system, you'll only end up doing exactly what you would have done anyways. Or suppose you could see the future, anticipate your choices, and purposely choose the other option - then you're still not cheating it, simply because you knowing the future has changed the situation, and you have new information on which to base your decision.

    That's just another way of defining a different crossroad. Some situations differ from others, but regardless, who you are will dictate how you respond to it, no matter how unusual the situation.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2005
  21. Mar 18, 2005 #20
    I absolutelly agree with you guys now. But i felt like this all this time and call it free will. Because i do not know what decission i will make hence when i make a decision based on my personality which can change with aditional experience and knowledge.

    Anyway, i guess is just matter of how we look at it.
  22. Mar 18, 2005 #21
    Precisely, that's why I question the definition of free will.
  23. Mar 19, 2005 #22
    Well, in the Western Legal system:


    This is roughly the standard mathematics of the western criminal law. This is substantially consistent with natural laws, at least at the level of 'The World as it is". From this basic formula the lawmakers deduce that a criminal act devoid of corresponding intention to commit it is no crime and vice versa. This means that even if the criminal Act is successfully proved by the prosecution, there is still the outstanding burden of proving the accused's intention to commit the criminal act in the first place. The Lawmakers think that this helps them to administer and dispense justice fairly between the accused and the defendant.

    The problem of the issue raised by the Minority Report movie is that The Premonitional Power or technology, when it does come into existence, will not necessarily fall into the hands of the state officials alone. In the real world, many people would sell their toes to get it. Scientists who invent it may be the first set of people who would want full access to it. The criminal underworld would want it. Business people would spend millions of currencies to buy it to predict their markets, people in the sports and leasure industries would want it. If the technology fell into the hands of totalitarian states, their citizens would resist any abusive use of it on them if they became aware of it. And nearly everyone would want it.

    However, it is not very clear how democratic states would use it in the context of the above criminal law formula without underminding people's liberty and without incuring miscarriage of justice in a massive scale. There is no guarantee that it would be a smooth sailing process that would not cost us dearly.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2005
  24. Mar 19, 2005 #23
    I guess this is the difference in our interpretation of the movie, then. To me, the movie is about setting up a hypothetical situation where our perceptions of free will are questioned by establishing a reverse-grandfather paradox. If we know the future, do we have the power to change it? If we do, then what we knew to be the future now isn't, and the question becomes that which was posed by Philocrat -- can crime be "intention + supposed but stopped action"? If we don't, then we don't have free will; in that case, knowing the future makes no difference, as you will be powerless to stop it -- and perhaps the process which you try to stop it is what shapes the future into what you saw, as we see in the movie when John Anderton tries to figure out why he was going to kill someone he doesn't know.
  25. Mar 20, 2005 #24
    Sure we could predict a crime based on intension, if we did everything we intended to do, in the manner that we intended to do them...
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