Discussion Post: The Magistrate and the Mob
Learning Goal: I’m working on a philosophy discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.
Here is a relatively famous philosophical moral dilemma:
The magistrate and the threatening mob
“A magistrate is faced with a very real threat from a large and uncontrollable mob of rioters demanding a culprit for a crime. Unless the criminal is produced, promptly tried, and executed, they will take their own bloody revenge on a much smaller and quite vulnerable section of the community. The judge knows that the real culprit is unknown and that the authorities do not even have a good clue as to who he might be. But he also knows that there is within easy reach a disreputable, thoroughly disliked, and useless man, who, though innocent, could easily be framed so that the mob would be quite convinced that he was guilty and would be pacified if he were promptly executed. Recognizing that he can prevent the occurrence of extensive carnage only by framing some innocent person, the magistrate has him framed, goes through the mockery of a trial, and has him executed.” Nielsen, in Sterba, p.145.
How might a utilitarian respond to this situation (be sure to define that view in your post)? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
This post should be at least 650 words and there’s no need for a formal format like MLA/APA.