Forrester's Paradox, By James William Forrester

1075 words - 4 pages

As learned and reiterated throughout the semester, a paradox is a statement or number or statements which consist of apparently true premises with an apparently valid argument, yet lead to an obviously false conclusion. An exploration of these types of statements often leads one to search for an error in one of the premises through various factors such as vagueness or semantic wording to rid of the false conclusion altogether. An example of this sort of situation is shown in Forrester’s Paradox, a revision of the Good Samaritan Paradox, written by James William Forrester. This paradox has several premises that appear to be true with seemingly valid reasoning. However, its premises lead to a false conclusion, making this a paradox.
In the essay “Gentle Murderer, or the Adverbial Samaritan” James William Forrester attempts to solve the contradictory statements of the Forrester’s Paradox. According to Forrester, readers ought to imagine a “... legal system which forbids all kinds of murder, but which considers murdering violently to be a worse crime than murdering gently” (Forrester, 194). This imagined legal system has two rules to which its citizens must abide. First, it is obligatory that one does not commit an act of murder. The second rules states that if one does commit an act of murder, it is obligatory that he or she does so gently. These two rules are the introduction of the contradiction in Forrester’s Paradox, and the explanation of each premise will show the contradiction in this paradox. The following is a summation of Forrester’s Paradox.
Considering the first rule of the legal system, the first premise of Forrester’s Paradox would be: “It is obligatory that Smith not murder Jones.” Although it is mandatory that Smith not murder Jones, Smith still has a chance to do so if he so desired based on the second rule of the legal system. This second rule is the second premise of this paradox, stating that: “it is obligatory that if Smith murders Jones, Smith murders Jones gently”. This second rule gives Smith the chance to murder Jones if he so wishes. This rule also allows Smith to be looked upon as acting within good character by societal standards. If Smith murders Jones gently, his behavior would be within the rules of their legal system.
The obligation of Smith not murdering Jones (Premise 1) and the obligation that if Smith is to murder Jones, he should do so gently (Premise 2) assumes an action. The third premise is this assumption, stating “Smith murders Jones”. Because Smith does in fact murder Jones, he cannot forget the second rule of his society’s legal system which justifies murder. Therefore, to escape penalization for this murder, he must murder gently, leading to the fourth premise which states: “if Smith murders Jones, it is obligatory that Smith murders Jones gently”. Although the word “gently” is supposed to aid in the belief that murdering another is acceptable in this society, human morality forces the belief...

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