The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Jan 26, 2017 5:27 pm

Man Jailed for Manslaughter due to doing nothing to help a drowning woman.

Judge Jeremy Carey said:
"You did not try in any way to help a drowning girl - not by throwing her a life buoy, not by going to her aid as some would have done, not by calling for help, not by contacting the rescue or emergency services.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:20 am

Greetings,

That's a terrible verdict IMO.

(Possibly the reason he pleaded guilty to manslaughter was because he was actually guilty of something worse?)

Metta,
Paul. :)
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"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:20 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

That's a terrible verdict IMO.

(Possibly the reason he pleaded guilty to manslaughter was because he was actually guilty of something worse?)

Metta,
Paul. :)
I don't know why you think it's a terrible verdict. It seems about right given the lack of any evidence for murder. One might have suspicions that she jumped to escape unwanted sexual advances, or that he pushed her, but suspicions are not evidence, so a charge of manslaughter is probably the best that the CPS could hope to substantiate, which they did.
"It is the failure to take any steps to prevent Miss Morgan's death after she fell into the sea which forms the basis of his culpability for manslaughter."
If you do want to rescue a drowning person, and are not trained in life-saving, nor a strong swimmer, you should not attempt to rescue them, except by using techniques like that above: extend a robe or a board, etc., in their direction. If you try to rescue them, they will probably drown you too.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Mkoll » Fri Jan 27, 2017 5:30 am

The guy went off partying and hitting on women before calling the police to say that he witnessed her dying hours before. Speaks volumes about his character. I don't know of the punishment for manslaughter over there, but he should definitely experience some serious consequences.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Jan 27, 2017 6:58 am

He got five and a half years, possibly reduced due to pleading guilty.

To get back on topic. What guilt is there in inaction if one watches someone drown because one is unable to help (not a competent swimmer), and there is no way of getting help?
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Buddha Vacana » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:53 am

I would tend to think that inaction is not unwholesome with the exception of legal cases where silence is assumed by default to be either a "yes" or a "no". That happens in the Vinaya for Patimokkha recitation for example. Other examples might be cases where one is pressed to tell what they know but they won't.

That said, probably in many cases, as in the drowning case highlighted by Bhante above, it is not morally clear that it would be unwholesome.

Another approach would be to consider how rebirth works. We get basically acquainted with like-minded people. If we are the kind of person to rescue others when in danger, we will get reborn in the company of such people, so we increase the likelihood of not being let down in situations of danger in the future.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:52 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:To get back on topic. What guilt is there in inaction if one watches someone drown because one is unable to help (not a competent swimmer), and there is no way of getting help?
It's not clear that there is guilt in such cases; however, such cases also seem to be very rare.

- - -
retrofuturist wrote:That's a terrible verdict IMO.
Do explain why you think so.


Also, in some cases, a person is automatically considered guilty and being an accomplice if they fail to take steps to prevent a crime that they witness and don't report it; this goes at least for police officers and lawyers.
On principle, medical doctors also face an investigation by an ethics committee if it is discovered that in their off-duty time, they have witnessed a person facing a medical emergency and have not acted in line with their duties as a medical doctor.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:59 am

Buddha Vacana wrote:That said, probably in many cases, as in the drowning case highlighted by Bhante above, it is not morally clear that it would be unwholesome.
Some of the core ideas by which the our legal system works is that human life in and of itself is valuable and that humans owe eachother a measure of goodwill and solidarity.

In some cases, inaction is a betrayal of humanity.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Buddha Vacana » Fri Jan 27, 2017 4:43 pm

binocular wrote:
Buddha Vacana wrote:That said, probably in many cases, as in the drowning case highlighted by Bhante above, it is not morally clear that it would be unwholesome.
Some of the core ideas by which the our legal system works is that human life in and of itself is valuable and that humans owe eachother a measure of goodwill and solidarity.

In some cases, inaction is a betrayal of humanity.
Yes here non assistance to person in danger is an offense, and I agree.

I think not helping someone will not drive you to hell, just that it is a failed opportunity to increase merit, which can result in not being helped in the future when being in the same situation.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Jojola » Sat Jan 28, 2017 12:47 pm

Shouldn't it be obvious when you understand volition is kamma? The action or consequences of doesn't matter, just intention.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by befriend » Sat Jan 28, 2017 2:20 pm

Jojola wrote:Shouldn't it be obvious when you understand volition is kamma? The action or consequences of doesn't matter, just intention.
Kamma and vipaka is not based Soley on volition Hindu ascetics bury themselves in sand and people sacrifice animals with good intention but it is mixed with confusion and will produce a bad result.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Mkoll » Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:51 pm

befriend wrote:
Jojola wrote:Shouldn't it be obvious when you understand volition is kamma? The action or consequences of doesn't matter, just intention.
Kamma and vipaka is not based Soley on volition Hindu ascetics bury themselves in sand and people sacrifice animals with good intention but it is mixed with confusion and will produce a bad result.
There may be a justification for the sacrifice of animals that is a good intention, for example to give food or merit to deceased ancestors. However, in the act of carrying that out, the person must bring up the mind to take the steps to prepare for the killing, condone its being killed, actually kill the animal, etc. Those are the bad intentions there that outweigh any good intention used as justification for the killing.

Intentions must be looked at closely, at a moment-by-moment level.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Jojola » Sat Jan 28, 2017 9:42 pm

befriend wrote:
Jojola wrote:Shouldn't it be obvious when you understand volition is kamma? The action or consequences of doesn't matter, just intention.
Kamma and vipaka is not based Soley on volition Hindu ascetics bury themselves in sand and people sacrifice animals with good intention but it is mixed with confusion and will produce a bad result.
Sure I agree that example is mixed with confusion and produces harmfulness but if their intention behind is not to do so they aren't guilty of bad kamma just guilty of not being wise, like an animal.

Remember there was a blind monk doing walking meditation for a very very long time wearing sandals and he was crushing very many creatures beneath his feat so it was like a road of dead small creatures he was walking on, and his fellow monks brought it to The Buddhas attention so he can be reprimanded, however the Buddha said it wasn't necessary, he didn't know better, wasn't his intention. "I declare, volition is kamma! Having willed one acts by body speech and thought" It's not the action or the result, but the will behind it. The monks intention was to meditate and practice the path, and that's the kamma produced despite having destroyed the life of many living creatures, in fact that can be looked at as the fruition of bad kamma on the behalf of the bugs, just as in your hindu example it's probably fruition of bad kamma on the behalf of the animals.

Kamma is also something only a Buddha can analyze accurately, too much theory and elucidation about kamma is not only un-beneficial but can drive us insane trying to figure out, all we have to know as regards our practice ise to align our will and intentions skillfully for the benefit of ourselves and that of others, watch the results, investigate them, and use wisdom to adjust and improve accordingly in a steadily manner as we advance.

Anything harmful that happens unintentional of your actions will not befall back onto you. Some goes for anything beneficial that becomes of your actions, if it was unintentional it wont be good kamma, just neutral, again, like an animal.

A parent who isn't wise nor mindful leaves a baby in a car with closed windows on a hot day, if the baby dies it's not bad kamma on the parent cause the intention to kill their child was far from their hearts or mind, they're just guilty of being 'dumb', if anything I'd say it's fruition of bad kamma from the babys previous life.

Make sense?
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jan 28, 2017 10:42 pm

Greetings,

Given I've been asked why, I think it's a terrible verdict because I believe the minimum expectation of the law should merely be to not infringe upon the rights of others.

For the law to demand virtuous action in contrast to non-action, by threat of punishment... that appears to me as an over-reach of the legal system.

(How this situation is viewed against the paradigm of kamma or general appeals to humanity may well be very different... but as a legal decision, in a court of law, I'm unimpressed.)

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Jan 28, 2017 11:30 pm

retrofuturist wrote:For the law to demand virtuous action in contrast to non-action, by threat of punishment... that appears to me as an over-reach of the legal system.
He was not just a passer-by who happened to see a drowning woman. He was involved, and probably to blame for her being in that situation.
The court heard when the pair went to the harbour, Bowditch was drunk and had taken cocaine and cannabis. Miss Morgan was not drunk, toxicology reports showed.

Bowditch told police they had been "mucking about" and he believed she ended up in the water sometime between 02:05 and 02:40 BST.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by binocular » Sun Jan 29, 2017 8:50 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:For the law to demand virtuous action in contrast to non-action, by threat of punishment... that appears to me as an over-reach of the legal system.
He was not just a passer-by who happened to see a drowning woman. He was involved, and probably to blame for her being in that situation.
Exactly. And the way he acted (calling the police hours after the fact and reporting he saw the woman hours before, as she was about to drown) is reason enough for the court to suspect foul play. He may well be innocent of the woman's death, but he incriminated himself by calling the police so much later and acknowledging that he did not act in a timely manner. An innicent person would call in a timely manner, or not at all.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by binocular » Sun Jan 29, 2017 8:58 am

Jojola wrote:A parent who isn't wise nor mindful leaves a baby in a car with closed windows on a hot day, if the baby dies it's not bad kamma on the parent cause the intention to kill their child was far from their hearts or mind, they're just guilty of being 'dumb', if anything I'd say it's fruition of bad kamma from the babys previous life.

Make sense?
Some things can and should be reasonably expected that a person should do. In the case of parents, it is reasonable to expect, and demand of them, that they should not commit acts of gross negligence, such as leaving a child in a closed car on a hot day.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:05 am

Negligence is certainly something that people should be held respoinsible.

The 2010 Pike River Mine Mine explosion [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pike_River_Mine_disaster] revealed that New Zealand's laws were such that even though the company management were clearly aware of the dangers, none could be legally implicated in the deaths of the 29 miners. The law has since been changed.

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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Jojola » Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:28 am

binocular wrote:
Jojola wrote:A parent who isn't wise nor mindful leaves a baby in a car with closed windows on a hot day, if the baby dies it's not bad kamma on the parent cause the intention to kill their child was far from their hearts or mind, they're just guilty of being 'dumb', if anything I'd say it's fruition of bad kamma from the babys previous life.

Make sense?
Some things can and should be reasonably expected that a person should do. In the case of parents, it is reasonable to expect, and demand of them, that they should not commit acts of gross negligence, such as leaving a child in a closed car on a hot day.
I do see what could be considered admirable about your expectation but is expecting people to behave certain ways dhamma?
I certainly don't think it's something the Buddha did, the reason I think so is because that is a big dukkha red flag and can lead us to act on dukkha and create more for ourselves and others. Consider the BrahmaViharas, are they and ethics not mutually exclusive?

kamma (one of the five laws/niyamas) doesn't care about the standpoint of our ethical views and opinions anymore than gravity cares about your life if you fall off of a bridge but didn't mean to. It's a fine distinction to make cause consider that someone can convince themselves they are doing something out of one intention or ethical cause, but its the true intention that kamma is based on, which as human beings in our thick ignorance we actually have the capacity to hide that from ourselves, not everyone of course but I do think a considerable amount.

And in the event they are talking about here of the guy who let the girl drown in the water..

...If the guy developed the intention to let her drown, either out of ill-will or for entertainment while watching her, than that's definitely bad kamma without question IMO. However if he was frozen in shock, or couldn't think of what to do, then his kamma is blameless and it's probably the fruition of the girls bad kamma, in my opinion anyway.

Actually the more I think about it now that I am re-reading the main topic, maybe I'm out of my element here in this thread because kamma and ethics/sila are not exactly the same thing.

Sorry if i contributed anything off topic.
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Re: The Ethics of Non Action (General Theravada version)

Post by Jojola » Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:36 am

retrofuturist wrote:...I believe the minimum expectation of the law should merely be to not infringe upon the rights of others...

...For the law to demand virtuous action in contrast to non-action, by threat of punishment... that appears to me as an over-reach of the legal system....
As faulty as sankhara and sañña are, these particular of yours I can't help but find quite refined, beautiful, and in accordance with dhamma as close as legal matters can be.
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