sfp 6 112 for web

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  • Aile D’Ciel

    If nothing else, the money are still well spent on the spectacle. This is a two-cents-one-actor-show and Alison’s only regret should be that she didn’t have any popcorn with that.

    Then again, Alison looks pretty confused at the moment, so maybe the popcorn is the last thing on her mind.

    • Ganurath

      She looks more angry to me, as though she might feel that her feelings that the issue is serious are being mocked.

      • Weatherheight

        I can see that. Interesting.
        Could be that she’s both a bit confused by the material and the way in which it’s being presented and that can result in her feeling mocked and thus leading to anger…


    • Kid Chaos

      Entertaining, but not really helpful. I think she should knock him unconscious and get her 2 cents back! 😜

  • AshlaBoga

    So, basically Kant vs Mill?

    • Darkoneko Hellsing

      Kent vs Batman ? wrong univerrrse

      • AshlaBoga

        I can’t tell if you’re trolling or not.

        Kant and Benthem are major deontological and utilitarian philosophers respectively.

        • Darkoneko Hellsing


      • Zac Caslar

        Terrible, terrible movie.
        It’s never *that* time.

        • palmvos

          ::Zigfred von shrink offers his services.::

      • Kid Chaos

        In any “X vs Batman” scenario, just remember; Batman always wins. Why? Because he’s the Goddamn Batman, that’s why! 😎

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        How did you manage to add so many “r” to universe

        • Darkoneko Hellsing

          By pushing the key a few times.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            this is amazing

  • Daniel

    This is wonderful 😀

  • AbacusWizard

    This is the most fun I’ve had with philosophy since college!

  • Shjade

    Allison’s face: “Am I sleeping? Have I slept?”

    • Walter

      Is sleep even a thing? Am I Prof G? What’s up with the duck?

    • BGB

      Is Al even affected by sleep deprivation in the same way other humans are?

      • Walter

        I…’think’ so. She vomited earlier, which seems to indicate that her emotional state can affect he body. From there I’m making the intellectual leap (and it is admittedly a big one) to the idea that her protection is mostly a telekinetic shield, which wouldn’t stop her body from wearing out.

      • UnsettlingIdeologies

        I think we can say pretty definitively yes. There’s no reason to believe that her telekinetic powers would impact her resistance to sleep deprivation… at least not with some pretty huge comicbook-science style logical leaps.

        • Ian Nithmask

          you sleep to avoid loss of energy, if she was able to control her body to the point of wasting next to no energy all the time, basically being constantly asleep, she could avoid it, but on the other hand, using her powes wasts energy, so it depends, maybe if she becomes even stronger

          • UnsettlingIdeologies

            My understanding was that we still don’t know the entirety of why we need sleep and what exact functions it serves. But regardless, I can see the argument that her TK could be subtly manipulating internal processes (potentially even down to the atomic level). If that’s the case, she may already be much more powerful than we believe. For instance, she may be immune to intoxication, immune to poison, immune to the deleterious affects of aging, etc.

    • Lostman

      Gurwara turns to flame, and has his eyes flight out of his head like birds: “You may have passed out at this moment”

      • Happyroach

        “Or we’ve crossed over with Kill Six Billion Demons. You decide.”

    • Izo
  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    The duck, meanwhile, is having a few dozen epiphanies at once.

    • Darkoneko Hellsing

      And all for free !

    • Lepidolite Mica

      “Oh man I can see like everything right now!”

    • zellgato

      The duck. the next supervillian.
      The duck isn’t the duck.. its being controlled by an alien tapeworm that, up until this point, has been happy to live as various small animals watching thew orld go by.
      but now..

      Now… after having seen hundreds of years of human evolution through the eyes of various creatures, it now deigns to take over Max and save the world through force.

      • Oren Leifer

        That seems rather backwards. After all, the result of alien tapeworms being able to be ducks is what they decide they would rather not be alien tapeworms. And in truth, by learning that there are alternative philosophies their eyes are opened and they learn that they can transcend their current forms, becoming more, different, and fully alive beyond parasitism: emerging as complete individuals rather than those who profit and experience life only at the cost of freedom to others, a realization that Max seems to have missed due to the fact that he blindly ignores the control of and cost to others inherent in his lifestyle.

        When is a duck not a duck? When it is a Yeerk who has achieved the freedom of transformation. Sorry, no idea why that just popped up.

        • RainWall

          Animorphs philosophy is best philosophy

        • zellgato

          Haha it works out. I was basing it off a lot of the animorph yeerk and some of the weirder books in taht series anyway.

          Though in thee above its a semi immortal thing.. so being a duck is a vacation from using his brain. Just coasting.

      • Izo

        I’m pretty sure that if the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has taught us anything, it’s that mice, not ducks, are the real enemy.

        • OTOH B5 taught us to fear being nibbled to death by ducks.

          • Izo

            I must have missed that episode. Now I want to see it.

          • S1 Ep 22 Chrysalis

            Londo: But this…this, this, this is like… being nibbled to death by, uh…Pah! What are those Earth creatures called? Feathers, long bill, webbed feet…go “quack”.
            Vir: Cats.
            Londo: Cats! I’m being nibbled to death by cats.

          • Izo

            Londo is a well known drunk and habitual liar, blaming the noble duck for the evils of mice.

            But now I need to watch B5 again 🙂

        • palmvos

          those mice have done little to harm us. its the blanking vogons and their inability to handle the fact that that hyper-spacial bypass was canceled before they finally destroyed earth. or are you offended by the idea that mice are involved in the creation of yourself?

          • Izo

            Those mice could have filed a protest with the galactic council at any time to prevent the hyperspacial bypass, or to prevent the vogons by just filling out the forms to protest their continuation of a cancelled bypass. I am offended by their laziness.

          • palmvos

            ok, wait a minute….. you condemn the mice for doing nothing….. has the cyborg virus infected you or something?

          • Izo

            They have been manipulating and violating our DNA for millions of years, and it is a violation of our intrinsic Golgafrincham rights, and I will not stand for it, you mouse apologist!

          • palmvos

            I think we can agree that the sperm whale was the most massive single violation of rights. and the bowl of petunias is part of the greatest rights violation in the whole series.

          • Izo

            But Arthur was not directly at fault for that, while the mice were at fault for us.

          • palmvos

            the sequence that the petunias was part of Arthur was largely liable for. its been too long since i read the first one but i suspect a good lawyer can get Arthur blamed for the sperm whale too. after all Arthur could have filed a petition too!

          • Izo

            How can Arthur be largely liable for something that is infinitely improbable?

          • palmvos

            you have not read the 5 book trilogy. if you recall the petunias thought ‘oh, no, not again’ or something like that. and if Arthur had filed a petition to prevent the destruction of his house like he was supposed to…. he wouldn’t have been in the bar with ford and thus would not have been involved. (given other things the petunias would still have been killed by some action related to Arthur.)

          • Izo

            I have, in fact, read all SIX books (you forgot Young Zaphod Learns to Fly, the actual 5th book, since Mostly Harmless is the sixth one) And Agrajag was unfairly blaming Arthur just because Arthur happened to be involved in every other past death that he had suffered through reincarnation, although often indirectly. You can just quit the act though. It’s painfully obvious that you’re trying to shift blame to Arthur because you’re carrying water for your mouse masters.

          • palmvos

            it has become increasingly clear that the clemens cyborg virus has infected you. you still have not dealt with my original question. nice distraction.. you are applying your lessons well. we shall have to work on that too.. so how is it you blame the mice for doing nothing again?

          • Izo

            It is you who have been making the distraction, in order to bring forth your dreaded mustocracy! (that’s mus- is latin for mice, right?) The duck is a noble and wise creature, allied with the dolphins who are our friends, because of all the fish we provide for them.

          • shink

            This whole exchange just made my day, kudos to both of you.

          • Tylikcat

            “How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks….”

          • saysomethingclever

            add it to the list of charges!

      • Mishyana

        The duck is the current host body for the Lich from Adventure Time.

      • Eric Schissel

        “The duck. the next supervillain.” — i.e. Blofeld, or his cat?… – are we going there? and where is the Jennifer Morgue anyway?

    • Weatherheight

      “What the quack have I been doing with my life?! Swimming in circles, begging for bread crumbs… what’s it all mean?!”

      • Weatherheight

        I suddenly realize I missed a clear opportunity to bring up “smoking duckweed” in that last post.

        I accept summary judgement.

        • Izo

          Get on the firing line.

    • Weatherheight

      I also have to wonder what the duck’s gonna do if his species gets thrown out as an insult…
      Pulling out a Bazooka and opening fire would be awesome…

  • Lorcan Nagle

    That duck has no idea what’s going on

  • Edward L. Howell

    It’s Gurwara warfare!

    • Shweta Narayan


      • Zac Caslar

        “Call of Deontology 2: Gurwarfare!”
        “Enroll now and get the season pass!”

  • AshlaBoga

    Kant would say “act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” And obviously if placing people in joint locks to demand they lend aid to others was common practice, many of us would assaulted at our computers since rather than spending our time posting comments on a webcomic site, we could be helping humanity!

    Yet, we do have methods of exacting aid for the common good in society. One of these methods is much maligned and often inefficiently used. I speak of course, of taxes. The difference between taxes and what our Super Strong Female Protagonist did, is that taxes are (usually) legal. Even with checks and balances, many “free and progressive” governments break their own laws and succumb to corruption. One cannot have a government not affected by human nature after all. Allison has acted as a vigilante numerous times, regardless of the morality of her actions, the criminality and illegality cannot be denied. I believe that Allison did the right thing, but were the axiom she’d spouted in class to become universally applied, she would now be right a doctor or scientist, informing them that their vacation was over and it was now time to save more lives.

    The ends may very well justify the means, but not categorically. The means and ends must be considered and weighed against each other in each individual situation. Hence, any axiom is usually that of a tyrant. It’s not the axiom that matters, it’s all the myriad of factors involved.

    • Lostman

      However I would reply with is one should beware of the myriad of factors that could come of what she done. As much we want it, Max isn’t going to this lying down; if there a way to strike a Alison. Who says that he shouldn’t take it?

      • Micah Matheson

        I wonder, when and if Max does retaliate, will the people who defend Alison’s tyranny applaud Max’s actions as they have so fervently defended Alison’s? Or will they label him an evil person and declare his actions abhorrent, no matter the extenuating circumstances?

        • juleslt

          “She started it”, he thought, as he aligned the scope of his rifle with the flying form of the girl who had bent his arm.

          • “She’ll keep finding reasons to come back and force me to boost someone. I’ll be nothing but her personal supercharger slave. And eventually someone worse will figure out what she knows.”

          • juleslt

            He thought, rationalising his anger over wounded pride.

            Meanwhile, she didn’t even think to get herself boosted and problably won’t come by in the time it would take Max to plan a revenge.

          • Micah Matheson

            She twisted his arm with super-strength, enough for it to hurt. She then threatened to mutilate and kill him in a torturous way. All because *he* said “no”. Because she didn’t get her way.

            As much as I dislike bringing sexual assault into this, if we follow the allegory through to a real-world scenario – a strong person using their strength and the threat of mutilation, torture, and death to sexually assault someone – your straw-Max’s urge to kill the person who assaulted them would be considered by no small number of people as a just act.

          • juleslt

            Coerced sex is a very special case of reprehensible, and you actually shouldn’t make light comparisons with that.
            Not all forms of coercion are equally legitimate or illegitimate.

          • Micah Matheson

            What makes you think my invocation of sexual assault was making light of it?

          • juleslt

            Your “following of the allegory to the real world” makes sense when it comes to means: normal superiority in physical strength is the real world equivalent of super-strength.

            When it comes to ends, you find that “following the allegory to the real world” from saving a bunch of lives through superpowers means sexual assault.

            I can’t say I understand the reasoning that brought you to this comparison so hard that you had to make it “as much as you dislike it”, but I can’t see how it’s respectful to compare the plight of sexual assault victim with that of a guy who was forced to use one burst of his superpower to help someone solve the world’s organ donation problems.

          • Micah Matheson

            Because I consider the violation of personal agency and physicality to be rather close in both cases. In the world of the comic, one’s superpower derives from one’s body. Being forced to use that superpower against one’s wishes – no matter the outcome – especially when done through the threat of violence and the application of pain – flags as equivalent enough to merit the comparison to sexual assault.

            That the people here are so fixated on the outcome is what bothers me the most about all of this. By your argument, and by the argument I’ve seen several other people make, you are attempting to justify the violation of personhood, personal agency, and bodily autonomy if the end result is positive enough.

            Do you realize the implications of that?

          • juleslt

            Well, it seems that I had understood you pretty well, then.

            So I’ll reformulate: not all violations of one’s will and bodily autonomy are equal.

            Roughly :
            murder > rape > … > forcing your kid to eat his greens

          • Micah Matheson

            I’m glad you have your opinion on the relative scale of inhuman actions, but that’s all it is – an opinion. I can place rape above murder, if I am so inclined to believe it is the worse act. Superpowered assault, battery, and power-violation – I’d argue – ranks rather high up on your arbitrary scale, very close to the first two items on your list. Your attempt to equate what Alison did to Max with forcing a child to eat their vegetables… does not sit well with me.

            Are you actually, honestly, saying that depending on the motivating factors the ends justify the means? That no act, no matter how heinous or evil or wicked or hurtful or damaging, is justified if its outcomes fall within a certain spectrum of “goodness”?

          • juleslt

            Superpowers do not make much difference with if Alison was only significantly stronger than Max, here.

            I’d obviously place Max’s forced superpower usage somewhere between rape and eating the greens, which is wide enough to not be saying much.

            I do believe that if the end is sufficiently disproportionately good (and assured enough), some measure of bad is allowable in order to achieve it.

            For example, are you against imprisonment of murderers, out of respect for their bodily autonomy?

          • Giacomo Bandini

            No, this is madness. NOTHING justify MURDER.
            Not even sexual assault!

          • saysomethingclever

            sometimes, depending on the circumstances, it can be ruled as self defense to kill the assailant.

          • Arkone Axon

            Doesn’t this comic have a character that believes exactly that? Oh no, wait… she believes SUSPECTED rapists deserve the death sentence. With a little sodium pentathol to elicit a nice confession, when possible…

            (I do agree with you that murder is never justified… but murder is “unlawful killing.” Killing is justified in times of self defense… and while “proactive self defense” is a VERY problematic concept, it becomes less so when dealing with an immortable and demonstrably violently dangerous individual who has openly declared their intentions to come back and repeat the assault at some indeterminate time in the future)

          • Micah Matheson

            What are your thoughts on Moonshadow’s actions, then?

          • Giacomo Bandini

            I strongly condemn them. Had she just hurt them really bad I would have find it fair. Not this way.

          • shink

            Bringing sexual assault into this isn’t justified. The point of sexual assault and rape is to overpower someone else for the sake of overpowering them. From a motivations standpoint it is such an immoral act because there is no higher purpose being served here, the only thing being served is the ego of the perpetrator. Alison didn’t overpower Max purely for the desire of feeling more powerful then Max and bending him to her will, she did it to super boost Feral, save more people’s lives, and let her live a life that wasn’t constant agony. Both the ends and the means are important. In sexual assault the means are overpowering someone and forcing them to your will, the end is the satisfaction of having done so. There is no good here. Alison did bad to do good.

            Max might not see a difference, both leave him feeling vulnerable and violated. A feeling that is going to be magnified quite a lot over the average person because of the novelty of both experiences. He probably will plan a revenge of sorts, and he very well might have access to tools that can actually hurt Alison given his connections and power.

          • Micah Matheson

            I agree that overpowering someone for the sake of the act is *a* point of sexual assault and rape, I do not see it as the *only* point. The motivations behind the actions of a rapist are manifold, and vary from person to person. Similarly, the immorality of the act stems from multiple vectors, both means *and* end. Furthermore, context is a vital part of analyzing the situation.

            And with all of that in mind, I believe it is still an applicable allegory. Alison’s *justification* for her actions may have been to spare Feral and save lives, but I interpret her *motivation* to inflict pain and terror on Max, who at the time had just rebuffed her out of both pragmatic concern for his own safety and (critically) spite.

            And I may entirely wrong in that regard – her motivations may have been pure throughout, and entirely focused on a Utilitarian greater good. I concede that point readily.

        • Giacomo Bandini

          It depends. If he just hurts her, well, that is proportionate -she hurt him first. If he tries to kill her, that would be too much. And, if he choose to enpower a supervillain to strike back at Allison, that would be criminal: he will be jeopardizing not only her life, but the lives of countless innocents, all for saving his sorry ass.

      • Andrew Rian Hansen

        That makes me wonder how he would retaliate. Go to one of Alison’s Big Bads and make them strong enough to do some damage? Maybe even try to get Daniel to do it? The extra emotional aspect of that possibility of turning Daniel back to his old ways after the progress he’s made…

        • Cyrano111

          In terms of narrative arc, much more poignant is the possibility of Max coming to harm personally because Alison has exposed his power.

          • Lostman

            It would suck if it forces the question of what we have to protect biodynamics like him?

          • Micah Matheson

            I agree, and as much as I would like to see that from a narrative point of view – such an eventuality would really hammer on Alison’s sense of morality – I doubt it will happen. If anything, this is the perfect way to change Max into the series’ primary antagonist. And given how the strip has utilized most of its male characters, my gut tells me the later is more probable than the former.

          • Dave M

            Here’s an (unpleasant) thought. What will happen when Patrick finds out about Max? Or the cabal of super hero killers Patrick claims to be tracking down (assuming they actually exist, and he hasn’t disappeared them himself)?

          • Kelvandil

            My guess is that Patrick would sit on the information until Max meets Alison, at which point he’d send her Max’s file. 😛

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            He was the one to send Alison the file about him. He does know.
            And considering the New York Postal Service knew about superpowers before they came out, it’s highly likely they know about Max but he still was categorized in the same “can’t significantly change the world” bunch like Alison and Patrick were.

          • Arkone Axon

            I don’t think he was placed in that category because of his power set – which is clearly one hell of a game changer for any biodynamic he enhances. IIRC, his parents are part of that secret cabal, which is what got him the exemption. Like a lot of Objectivist types (like Rand herself), he fails to acknowledge how he has been helped by others.

            …Then again, the whole “bird in a gilded cage” thing is probably why he turned to a philosophy that (if nothing else) promotes freedom of choice in the first place. He was basically in the same situation as Jasmine from “Aladdin,” except his “diamond in the rough” decided to mug and terrorize him instead.

    • GreatWyrmGold

      I’d argue that the main difference between taxes (and use of force by the government in general) and what Alison did is that, in a properly-functioning nation, the citizens have avenues to complain about the effects the government has on their life and to change such things in the future. (They usually don’t, partly because our government isn’t perfect but mostly because the government isn’t stupid enough to design programs that will be universally reviled.)

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Also; you can decide to opt out. This is the dumbest choice to make since you thus lose everything else but the fact that you have it matters damn it.

        • UnsettlingIdeologies

          Wait… how can you opt out of paying taxes?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Well, stop working, go lurk in a forest, commit to the idea you’ve renounced the quality of life afforded by civilization’s infrastructure, and pretty much human company altogether also. No taxes!

    • Arkone Axon

      I think the main difference between government taxation/conscription/etc and Alison’s actions is that in a decently run government the decision of when to apply force is put before a committee (whether it’s a council or a senate or whatever, you’re talking about a group of people discussing it before putting it to a vote. That’s… a committee). And for all that committees get maligned, they do have one wonderful benefit: second guessing. At least one person there to point out “this is a bad idea.” Whereas when it’s just one person with a lot of muscle to back up their edicts, you don’t get that “hey, this might not be a good idea.” You just get one person doing what they think is right and assaulting anyone who stands in the way of what’s “right.” And that doesn’t just lead to tyranny, it also leads to the side effects of tyranny – economic hardship, privation, misery, etc.

      That’s also something you see in the DCAU that I referenced in a comment on the last page. The Justice League was also a committee – which held Superman and others back from going too far. When Superman wanted to do his own “joint lock and forcible threat” moment, Green Arrow and others talked him down.

      Green Arrow: “Batman recruited me to try to keep you guys in line…”
      Superman: “Do I look like Batman to you!?”
      Flash: “Actually – yeah, when you scowl like that.”
      Superman: “…”
      Green Arrow: “Look, I’m the only guy here without powers, and… you people scare me.”

      • AshlaBoga

        Ah, so you believe that the Tyranny of the Majority is preferable to Enlightened Absolutism. Well, that is a good way to protect rule of law and ensure that the greatest number are happy, but it doesn’t make her actions any less or more moral. The issue for me is simply that if she had consulted with her confidants and they decided to “out” him that would have actually caused him more harm, but it would have been less illegal.

        Let’s see it from a different perspective, let’s say Max’s powers had a one in a million chance of killing him. Max, being selfish and cowardly, chooses not to risk helping Feral and saving hundreds of thousands of lives. A) Allison forces him to help and he lives. Allison acts much like we see here. B) Allison forces him to help and he dies. Allison is crippled by guilt and deeply regrets her actions.

        Yet in both A and B the actions were equally moral/immoral. The chance of death was the same and therefore outcome itself does not retroactively make her actions any different, it merely makes her (technically Max would no longer be feeling anything) feel terrible.

        A synthesis of means and ends is wonderful idea, but again many of the things we are trying to measure – quality of human life, happiness – are NOT quantitative values. They are qualitative values and thus utilitarianism fails when applied as mere numbers and calculations.

        Summation: There is no easy answer.

        • Arkone Axon

          I didn’t say that there was. But the advantage of a democracy, the ONE big advantage, is that it prevents the Tyranny of the Minority. Or to more specific, it helps to protect us from one person being overly emotional and insufficiently logical. The one person carrying a grudge, the one person convinced of their absolute rightness.

          It’s like that old movie about the nuclear submarine that gets a garbled transmission that tells them they MIGHT now be in the middle of WWIII, and the captain and first officer disagree over whether or not to launch their nukes. (Just looked it up, it was titled Crimson Tide) The conflict between the two stems from the captain’s unwillingness to take a moment to confirm that this is the right thing to do.

          See… Alison’s goal WAS quite laudable. But her methods were not merely criminal, they were STUPID. She killed the goose that laid the golden egg – because Max undoubtedly is taking to protect himself from the psychotic and violent supervillain that told him point blank “I’ll come back and do this again whenever I feel like it.” Again, supervillain – to him she is now the ultimate villain, the invulnerable, unkillable, remorseless abuser who says “I will violate your most deeply cherished beliefs and sneer at you about it.” ANY of her friends who try to convince him otherwise will clearly be just trying to convince him to cooperate with the supervillain that Alison has become to him.

          There were other methods. Better methods. Much, much better methods. She did not try any of those methods, and the reason is because she didn’t want to – she was in a hurry and she didn’t like him much anyway. Which is a horrible reason: “I don’t like you so I’ll ignore your rights in the interests of doing what I want.” She did not seriously attempt to convince him. She did not bring in someone else less confrontational and hostile to convince him (Given how Brad was handling the folks at the convention, he could have easily gotten Max to go along with things).

          That’s the advantage of a democracy over a dictatorship. Or, to borrow from the Evil Overlord List (because even a smart dictator ought to know this stuff):


          “61: If my advisors ask “Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?”, I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.”

      • cphoenix

        Look up “diffusion of responsibility” to see why committees making moral decisions can also be very scary/dangerous/bad.

        • AshlaBoga

          Diffusion of responsibility is partly why the wheels of justice in western society grind ever so slowly. The bystander effect is often worse in a bureaucracy than in the middle of the day.

        • Arkone Axon

          Never said a committee can’t be scary, dangerous, and bad. I’m just pointing out the one advantage a shared decision has over autocracy. Had Allison been forced to work with a group and needed their approval before doing anything to Max… she still might have done it. They still might have agreed this was for the best, none of them taking responsibility. There’s no such thing as total guarantee. But there’s a reason for all the common sense advice regarding things such as “second opinions” and having snipers work in pairs and whatnot.

          Can a committee be bad? Yes, of course it can. Because the response that satisfied the advisers could be “because screw that guy” and the advisers are just as messed up in the head. But there’s one other thing that applies to my original argument that isn’t being touched upon. With regards to the difference between government taxation versus a singular individual demanding charitable tribute… YOU’RE ON THE COMMITTEE. You get to vote on what happens. You get to help choose whether or not the taxes get levied or not. Either directly (with the assorted propositions that you’ll see on the ballot) or via elected officials you trust to make the choices on your behalf, much like shareholders appointing a CEO. So it’s up to you if you want to accept responsibility or diffuse it away.

    • Ellis Jones

      Eh, the means are a part of the ends. If you kill one thousand people to save a duck, your end is a saved duck and one thousand dead people (and depending on your psyche, a guilty conscience). If your means weren’t effectively part of your ends, they wouldn’t be affecting anything in the world, and they’d be useless as, well, a means to an end.

      Alison’s means were: Use her powers to coerce Max into empowering a super.

      Alison’s ends are: Alison bares the guilt of coercing Max, Max is traumatised, a super is empowered and able to help more people at less cost to herself.

      Is it worth it? Different people care more about different ends. This is the furthest you get with an objective consideration, and it’s better than the “means justify ends” cliche that people get hung up on for some reason. They’re the same thing.

      • Arkone Axon

        The problem is that the ends are not always best achieved by the methods chosen. For instance, say you come across a hungry homeless person. You could buy him a meal. You could also find people to help you finance his meal.

        …You could also find some guy who you already don’t like and beat him violently, shutting up his protests by stomping his face because that homeless guy needs food, dammit! Then take his wallet, kick him a few times more for good measure to teach him to be such a jerk, and then go buy the homeless guy a nice big meal.

        Simply put: nobody here minds the end goal of saving lives. Their problem is with the less than optimal means that were not merely criminal, not merely evil, but actually rather stupid. She threatened and assaulted the super powered son of extremely wealthy people who are linked to her world’s equivalent to the Illuminati. That’s going to come back and bite her in the rear, much like the cops showing up to talk to you about that guy you mugged to pay for a homeless guy’s meal.

        • Ellis Jones

          I’m not sure how that’s related to my comment?

          Rob a man to feed another and your outcome is a fed man and a robbed one. Buy a sandwich to feed a man and your outcome is you having less money and a fed man.

          Of course, Alison had a choice to look for other options. But I’m not really evaluating the decision- just ranting against the idea that there is some axiomatic conflict between means and ends.

          • Arkone Axon

            actually, we’re in agreement that there doesn’t have to be a choice between means and ends. You don’t have to choose between a horrible means and a bad end. Your list of the ends and means fail to bring up the negative consequences (assuming traumatizing a guy she didn’t like counts as a positive). Again: she threatened and assault the super powered son of some rich and powerful people. And in the process she ensured he’ll never, ever, EVER willingly help her with anything ever again. Every time she wants to enhance another super, she’ll have to threaten him again. And he’ll be 100% justified in seeking a way to escape her bullying ways, because she has become the very thing he feared he would encounter: a biodynamic who uses him for his powers without a care for his well being or happiness.

          • Ellis Jones

            Lol I didn’t think of traumatising Max as a positive. I don’t think Alison does, really. But yeah you’re right she burned several bridges by doing that.

  • Merus

    I was expecting this chapter to end in a fight, but this isn’t really what I had in mind.

    • RobNiner ♫

      It’s like being in an Obsidian game, only no-one’s glitched through the walls yet.

      • Eric Meyer

        Hey, I played Azurik for days, and never had any issues with glitches!

    • Lheticus Videre

      This really made me laugh QUITE a lot. XD

  • zellgato

    I kind of hope this is actually him splitting apart and thats what she’s semi stunned at haha. but it also somewhat bypasses her actual awareness so its at the fringes of her awareness.

    • Shweta Narayan

      into two people or six, though?

      • zellgato

        Either or.
        His speaking is empowered to craft creation.

        • Shweta Narayan

          So long as it’s not leading to exponential growth, the planet (and the philosophy department) should be ok…

          • zellgato

            Legally they’re all one entity.. and the phil dept would love to work them all for only one person’s pay due to a technicallity.
            unless of course that world already has laws for multi selves

          • Shweta Narayan

            They’re actually okay with this because they also get credit for one another’s publications, which makes them one of those publication-superstars of academia.

            Plus they’re arguing with one another’s work, which leaves readers super confused. And anything that leaves the audience confused is a win, right?

  • TyroneCashmoney


  • Dean

    Gurwara needs to hydrate, philosophy can take it out of you.

    • MisterTeatime

      So he’s just taking the piss?

  • Manuel Simone

    Both Alison and that poor random duck look so confused about the whole Gurwara self philosophy battle. I bet the duck is thinking with its simple mind: I’m lucky being what I am. Humans are scary and irrational beings.

  • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

    Okay serious comment:

    Point acknowledged but don’t you feel it is a tad manipulative to treat her situation as one of “being forced to do the wrong thing for the right reasons” when nothing was urging her to take drastic measures *right now*?
    We’ve talked about this already. Arguing with Max more, sending other people to do it for you and much better, catering to his childish whims…

    You don’t get points for pulling or leaving the lever killing one or five people is the train is only bound to come in five years and you can just freaking untie everybody at your leisure long before it arrives

    • TheZorginator1

      Well every second that passes is another second that Feral suffers. Just because it’s constant and the situation doesn’t change it doesn’t mean that there is no reason for urgency.

      • Lostman

        There a reason I’m starting to wonder if Max’s was a trap, something Alison couldn’t resist using.

        • Giacomo Bandini

          Because it is. A trap laid down from Patrick.

          • Lostman

            And that my point, Patrick set the whole up so it take out somewhere down the line. The question is what is he planning?

          • Giacomo Bandini

            IMHO, two things.

            First one, change Allison outlook on things: prove to her that without dirting her own hands, accepting the help of an evil man like himself, his money, or committing herself an act of coerction, she cannot change things for good.
            Second one: he wants to get the conspiracy in the open, and he is using Max, Allison and feral as a bait. I would not be surprised if the girls who were celebrating feral would be revealed as agent with the mission of kidnapping her.

      • Karmik

        Not just Feral, but the people that fall of the waiting list because they had to wait too long. The trolley isn’t going to hit people five years from now its steadily plowing over them even as she argued her point.

        • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

          Again, that’s just… too much. That’s blaming you for the money you’re spending on that Internet connection of yours instead of giving it to charity. Haven’t you heard that people are dying *right now* and you’re doing nothing to prevent it this very second?

          • Zac Caslar

            I own that.
            I like owning a gaming computer more than I like pitching $1000 in towards the purchase of an anti-malaria tent for a person in Africa.

            Their lives don’t mean that much to me.

            Of course I also support OXFAM and pay taxes -some small, small % of which goes to overseas relief efforts- but it’s not a choice I would otherwise consciously make.

            No mistake. A life of first world leisure is a death sentence to a developing world villager.

            Only one if you’re *lucky*, really.

            Edit: although I can also rationalize my non-intervention by my state of near-constant poverty. When I do money I give to the local homeless and give rides to hitchhikers. I have the pathetic but real excuse of being unable to move the lever at all; I’m a bystander to my version of the Trolley Problem.

            Allison isn’t.

          • Stephanie

            FYI, $1000 buys a lot more than one bednet. More like a couple hundred.

          • Zac Caslar

            The number I saw was $3500 USD. That saves a life. Guinea Worm, Malaria, Water, etc.
            Given the source (Sam Harris podcast, can’t remember the guest) I take it as a solid benchmark.

          • Stephanie

            For a single bednet? That’s not right. From Against Malaria Foundation’s website: “100% of public donations buys long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs). An LLIN costs US$2.50.” So, $1000 = 400 nets.

          • AshlaBoga

            Yes, so my $1100 gaming computer that I’m currently typing on has cost the world 440 bednets. Allison should go and start breaking my arm until I sell my computer and games and go donate the proceeds to charity. The difference between me and Max is simply a matter of magnitude.

          • Stephanie

            You talk about magnitude like it’s irrelevant. It’s not. Magnitude is a critical part of the equation.

            Max was capable of saving many times more lives than your $1100 ever could, and at less personal cost.

            “It’s justifiable to twist my arm to get me to donate $1100” does not follow from “It’s justifiable to twist Max’s arm to get him to save thousands upon thousands of lives,” any more than “It’s justifiable to murder a human” follows from “It’s justifiable to murder an ant.”

          • The personal cost may well be his life.

            You don’t seem to be according that much value.

          • Stephanie

            Honestly, no, I don’t think the value of Max’s life compares with the lives of thousands of people every year for the rest of Feral’s life. However, the actual risk to his life was slim. It wasn’t like the hand of God was going to come down and annihilate him if he ever used his powers. There was the possibility that someone might try to exploit him in some way, which might or might not involve actually hurting him, if word of his powers got out, which Alison was going out of her way to avoid. And, as Alison pointed out, that information was already out there, whether he boosted Feral or not.

          • It’s Max’s life, not Alison’s. The value he allocates to it is going to be different to the value she does. Equally it’s his value to spend, not hers.

            Ultimately this reduces to whether “people are pawns to be spent at will to further my aims” is a valid ethical position.

          • Stephanie

            In practice, Max’s intent was to “spend” the lives of thousands upon thousands of people to further his aims. Just because a choice is passive instead of active doesn’t mean we can ignore its outcome. He knew the choice he was making and what it meant.

            Alison chose thousands of lives over Max. Max chose himself over thousands of lives.

          • We’ve already seen, via the gardeners, that Max doesn’t really see other people as real, more as convenient props for his life. So that argument was never going to work. We can argue whether it’s a psychological flaw, an artefact of his upbringing, or something he should have worked his way past now he’s an adult, but ultimately he’s still a slave to it.

            If you argue passive choice is at fault, then where do you stop? Should every one of us drop everything and commit our lives to charitable works? There’s a lot of suffering out there that could be solved by throwing bodies at identifying and fixing the root cause. But as a society we don’t do that. So why hold Max to a higher standard than the rest of us?

            His really unforgivable choice was to raise making Feral continue suffering as part of his decision because that would hurt Alison, who had passed his threshhold of being seen as a real person. Everything else was either self-protection or passive, but that was an active decision to continue hurting a specific person.

          • Stephanie

            I hold Max to a higher standard because he was uniquely capable of reliably saving thousands upon thousands of lives with negligible effort. Higher stakes, higher standard.

            I’m confused about your argument in the last paragraph. How does his own refusal to acknowledge strangers as actual humans absolve him of their suffering? Isn’t that just another way in which he’s being an asshole?

          • WRT whether Max sees people as real or tools, and whether that absolves him, there’s a couple of things at play.

            First, that society generally absolves people for passively accepting other people are suffering and doing nothing. We don’t have to like it, but that’s the way we are. We’re more critical in cases of immediate need for aid, good samaritan stuff (so this debate has been going on for a while!), less so in cases of personal risk. So as a rule we cut people an excuse where the aid is abstract and/or there’s personal risk, and both these are at play in Max’s case.

            Secondly, and largely specific to me, because of my disability activism I’m very careful to separate causing something and culpability for it. You can be the cause of harm without being legally culpable if there are reasons that you don’t understand the harm you will cause. Sometimes you should have learnt to control that even if you don’t understand the reasons why – the sociopath or psychopath who learns to obey society’s rules even if they don’t understand them, sometimes, in some cases of schizophrenia for instance, that isn’t possible. It’s why we draw a legal distinction between jailing someone and detaining them in a secure mental health unit. I’m not saying that this applies to Max, but he clearly doesn’t see other people as entirely real/warranting his attention, and if that’s a consequence of the way he was brought up, then I’m willing to cut him a certain amount of slack and blame his parents. The issue I won’t cut him slack on is whether he can grow beyond that now that someone has pointed out he’s a self-indulgent arsehole living the life of luxury on the back of exploiting other people. Unfortunately Alison’s brutalising him is probably going to drive him into a stubborn insistence he isn’t doing anything that she isn’t also doing.

          • AshlaBoga

            “First, that society generally absolves people for passively accepting other people are suffering and doing nothing.”

            And thousands of years ago human sacrifice was condoned by many societies.
            Two hundred years ago human slavery was condoned by much of the world.

            Taken to an extreme, your first point would prohibit the use of violence to free slaves in the Confederate States of America since that went against the Southern society and could possibly harm law abiding citizens.

            In my experience, just because everyone does something, doesn’t make it right.

            You’re a Disability Activist? My mother’s a human rights lawyer who specializes in cases regarding the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. One thing I’ve learned from hearing her stories is that often the laws and justice are two very separate things. She has spent thousands of hours doing pro bono work to try and improve the lives of others. She had to sue a business for letting employees go rather than providing wheelchair access. The company and the owner suffered, but I suspect we all agree that it was the right thing to do. Obviously the difference between what she did and what Allison did is that Allison broke the law and my mother did not. But aside from legality the two incidents seem similar.

          • “Taken to an extreme, your first point would prohibit the use of violence
            to free slaves in the Confederate States of America since that went
            against the Southern society and could possibly harm law abiding citizens”

            I think you misunderstand my point. I think Max is an arsehole, but by some arguments we all are. Max is just an edge case, shying away from providing extreme benefits for (apparently) minimal effort. Even if we aren’t willing to stand by, we can’t fight every fight, so some we let pass. You raise slavery, and the truth is that the anti-slavery movement took a long time to gain momentum, it needed activists to build that momentum and make it something everyone had an opinion on. And even the ACW isn’t clearly about slavery, a lot of people saw it more as states rights (or claimed it as that).

            Getting back to SFP, what disturbs me about the debate is the willingness to discount the chance there is a genuine risk to Max, or even just that he believes there is one. In either case we should cut him slack. That’s the essential difference between this case and the typical ‘I can’t be bothered to be a good samaritan’. I’m a wheelchair user, I certainly don’t discount the problem of access, it’s one I run into every time I leave the house. The cost to put in access or meet other reasonable adjustments for disability is generally trivial, which isn’t that different from what Max was asked to do. The difference is the guy refusing to put in access doesn’t generally risk being abducted, brutalised and potentially being dragged around putting in access for the rest of his life, while Max has a not unreasonable belief that he does.

          • AshlaBoga

            “The difference is the guy refusing to put in access doesn’t generally risk being abducted, brutalised and potentially being dragged around putting in access for the rest of his life, while Max has a not unreasonable belief that he does.”

            Yeah, her comment that she might coerce him again if she wanted left a bad taste in my mouth. That’s an atmosphere of fear she’s creating there.

            It was a very Patrick thing to do.

          • I just came across a line attributed to Immanuel Kant that seems to be rather appropriate: ‘Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own
            person or that of any other, never simply as a means, but also at the
            same time as an end.’

          • Stephanie

            Weren’t we just talking about how Max regards others as means to an end rather than as actual people?

            If anything, this quote condemns Max more than Alison. Max didn’t regard those thousands of non-Max people as “ends,” whereas Alison did.

          • Where did I say Max was right? I was quite specific in pointing out he was actively condemning someone to suffer in order to get back at Alison.

            The point of ethics is we don’t get to apply it only when we want to. If it applies to all those other people, then it applies to Max. If it applies to Max, it applies to all those other people. None of them are ends, they are individually people with rights not to be coerced by others for convenience.

          • Stephanie

            It wasn’t a matter of convenience, though–it was a matter of saving thousands of lives. It would have been nice to accomplish that without coercing Max, but I’d say coercing him is worlds better than letting him decide “all these people will die whether they like it or not.”

            An ethical system can certainly account for situations where it’s “right” to do something that would otherwise be “wrong”. Ethical principles can be more nuanced than “doing X is wrong no matter what.”

          • So if you think it’s ethical and reasonable to coerce and brutalise Max, at risk of his life, then why isn’t organ donation manadatory? We’re discussing transplant waiting lists after all, people dying whose lives could be saved if an organ was available. Yet society won’t even make it mandatory post mortem (and doctors will still generally seek family permission even if you carry a donor card). Hell, even being a blood donor isn’t mandatory.

            All similar cases, so why is Max different, why don’t the ethics matter in his case? Scale doesn’t change the ethical issues, it just throws our willingness to compromise them into sharper relief.

          • Stephanie

            Organ donation isn’t mandatory because we don’t live in a perfectly utilitarian society. I believe that postmortem organ donation should be at least opt-out rather than opt-in, but ideally mandatory.

            I don’t believe that mandating blood donation (from living donors) would substantially increase utility. Not enough gain from each individual act of coercion.

          • AshlaBoga

            I agree that magnitude is critical, but I’m wary of deciding that “I” am a perfect judge of when the ends now outweigh the means.

            For example, I believe that that every CEO of Goldman Sachs for the last decade should have the majority of their assets seized and given to charity given the unethical and borderline criminal behavior they engaged in during their careers. If I took 200 million from them and left them with 4 million they would still be quite wealthy compared to most humans. Yet, if I seize and redistribute their wealth as proceeds of evil deeds, where does the line get drawn?

            Do I take the money from an author who wrote a book that was mostly hate speech and give their money to Amnesty International? Certainly I might feel good doing so, but is that a “right” course of action?

            I agree with what Allison did here, but if used as a maxim for future behavior it would justify violent action against one of my closest friends (who will remain nameless for privacy reasons). This friend is quite wealthy and donates very little money to charity. I know that they donate less than 4% of their million dollar income to charity per annum. They trust me enough for me to gain access to their computers and credits cards. Should I steal millions from one of my closest friends, betray their trust and save hundreds of lives in the process? I am confident I could physically do so, but I have never been tempted to even really consider that course of action.

            So, what’s the difference between Max and my friend? That I like them? If so that would make my person affection a key aspect of my moral conduct. Does that seem like a good policy? Or is it that Max suffered less than my friend would have? Is it that Max saved more lives? How many lives does it take to make it the appropriate course of action.

            Let’s say that Max saved between 150,000 and 175,000 people per year and my friend could comfortably save 1,000 people per year without any noticeable change in lifestyle. So is the difference merely that Max could save 150-175 times more people? What if my friend was one of the richest people in the world and could have saved the same amount as Max? Should I betray their trust and blackmail them for the charity donations now? I’m not playing Devil’s Advocate here, I honestly find it tough to define the point at which the ends outweigh the means.

          • Stephanie

            Honestly that’s a tough choice, and to evaluate it completely I think you probably will have to acknowledge your personal affection for this person as a key factor in your conduct, even if you don’t consider that to be good moral policy. It’s hard for any person not to have at least some gap between “what I think is ethical to do” and “what I can bring myself to do.” I don’t suppose there’s any hope of convincing this friend to donate voluntarily?

            “So is the difference merely that Max could save 150-175 times more people?” — Well, I wouldn’t say “merely.” That’s a tremendous difference. I think it would be just fine to draw the line somewhere between 1k and 150k a year.

          • Zac Caslar

            Oh wow.
            Well, good to know.
            I should send dosh next time I can.

          • Stephanie

            Yeah, for sure! AMF is super transparent and effective, they’re a great choice if you’re looking to maximize your impact. They’ve been Givewell’s top recommendation for a while now.

          • Cyrano111

            “can”. So you literally don’t have $2.50 right now?

          • Zac Caslar

            That’s _zero_ of your business, but feel encouraged to make that donation in my name.

          • Cyrano111

            Done: https://www.againstmalaria.com/MyNets.aspx?DonationID=235017
            and https://www.againstmalaria.com/Default.aspx

            You gave four nets.

            A bit cheeky of me to inquire about your circumstances, but the point stands: we can all do things to improve the lot of others and are entitled to choose whether to do them or not. If you have a $1000 gaming computer, I expect you have the price of a coffee.

            Your “owning” answer is the honest one: your rationalization is exactly that.

          • Zac Caslar

            Upvote for the nets. I’ll make a few happen.

          • Giacomo Bandini

            No. The couple of cent i’m spending on the internet connection are non going to save any live, on his own: they would if coupled with the cents of other millions people.. which it will make a political movement (or a religion). Not necessarly a bad one: renounce your superficial pleasure and donate everything to the poor. An ascetic lifestyle… which is not a bad idea. Maybe i will consider, in the future. Max is a different situation: four hours of his time can save thousands of lives. Quoting Gurwara, for my “base istincts” it’s pretty clear that the two situation are completly different; apparently, your basic istincts tells you differently.

          • Weatherheight

            Actually, you have no idea what effect the few cents you’re spending on the internet could do out there – you’re extrapolating from previous experience and extremely limited awareness. Your assumption is perfectly reasonable, but if our universe is a quantum universe, that possibility of extreme results from an apparently small action is there – it’s just not very likely.

            Put another way – in a quantum universe, there is nothing that says that the act of releasing a pencil in mid-air will necessarily result in the pencil falling. It’s by far the most likely result, but it’s not an absolute. There is a very small chance that the pencil will remain motionless, an even smaller one that it will fly off at an angle, and a much, much smaller one that it will turn into a duck and fly off to sit in a pond and listen to a philosophy prof wax eloquent. But acting as if these infinitesimal chances are likely results in making a very bad bet.

            This is the problem at the root of this sort of discussion – how do we clearly see all the possible outcomes of our actions and then choose the best one? In one sense, we cannot – and that leads to inaction where action is warranted. In another sense, we do have a data set of our past experiences that provide us with guidelines of what we can expect from our actions – but sometimes the results of our actions depend on the reactions of others.

            Every action you make is playing the odds – the question is, how do we calculate those odds and have some degree of confidence in those calculations? Past experience. And yet, one has to acknowledge that we haven’t experienced every possible outcome.

            We hedge our bets, always. To do otherwise leads to dissipation and demise,

          • “you have no idea what effect the few cents you’re spending on the internet could do out there”

            Cost of a dose of Oral Rehydration Therapy, between 3 and 20 cents. And ORT has made a big difference in mortality rates from diarrhea in the Third World, cutting them by up to 93%.

            Don’t write off the potential value of small contributions.

          • Weatherheight

            Have I mentioned that I love the knowledge base in this community?
            I didn’t know that – thank you!

          • Karmik

            Not that your point isn’t valid, but there is such a huge difference in scope here that the two arguments don’t really relate to one another. I “donate” 25-30% of my earnings to my government which is supposed to put that money to use making the lives of my countrymen better, and yes if I budgeted and tightened my belt I certainly could put more of my income towards charitable donation which if I am generous would improve the lives of a handful of people across the globe.

            What I can’t do is wave my hand and put paid to dozens of diseases and chronic conditions. I can’t go into my backyard, dance around a bonfire and chant songs to Oonawieh Unggi and have everyone wake up cured of lung cancer. If I could and didn’t because I’m don’t like the smell of smoke I deserve to be raked over the coals. I don’t want to rehash all the debates from weeks ago, but my ability to contribute to the betterment of the world is in no way equitable to Max’s.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            That’s not my point.
            Your ability to “contribute” is different from Max’, but not Alison’s. Alison can coerce Max into doing something huge the same way she can coerce the entire world’s population to give off everything they don’t absolutely need, and it becomes equitable then.

          • Giacomo Bandini

            Well, maybe she should. I wouldn’t like it, because i ‘m an egoistical bastard who likes his privileges, and i’ll probably rebel against it. But i would not call her evil.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            How do you get about your future ascetic lifestyle while keeping your privileges?

          • Giacomo Bandini

            i don’t.

          • Karmik

            That’s whats at the core of her crisis of conscience. She is seeing the Tyrant in herself, and starting to face the gravity of her situation as a literal unstoppable force. “What’s stopping you from coming back?”…”Nothing”. That wasn’t so much a threat as a resignation to reality. She could literally impose her will on the world just as you say, and who could say with certainty that it would be worse than what we have now?

            But then what about all those “super villains” she punched to death or whatever who had the same idea. She vilified Patrick for thinking like this, and he is actually able to know what people think and need.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I know. That’s why I’m vehemently against the stuff.
            And why people saying “but seriously look at the results! Countless, countless lives saved! Trains on time!” scare me to death.

          • Karmik

            There was a Justice League story line some time ago in which some Mind Control guy had taken control of Superman and some bad stuff was happening, I don’t know what I only know this stuff second hand, and Wonder Woman threw her lasso of truth around the villain and asked how to stop him. His answer was “You have to kill me.” So she did and somehow WW gets painted as the bad guy ostracized cause she killed a guy who could literally tell no falsehood, who controlled the most dangerous being in the solar system, and who admitted the only way he would be stopped was with his death. Taking a life was the line for the JL regardless of whatever horribleness hypno-Superman was up to.

            I don’t know how I feel about stories that take a stance on the grey murky areas of good/evil/right/wrong, because I will inevitably disagree with the writer’s opinion and it will hamper my enjoyment of the story.

            I’m not at all saying I am a 100% flag waving yay Alison person for the choice she made. Those grey lines in the sand exist and should never ever be crossed lightly and perhaps her biggest crime (as I think you are advocating) is that she did so too readily. But from my reading and interpretation of the story it was a line that was going to be crossed eventually and had things happened differently I would be left sitting here wondering “Well why didn’t you just do this six weeks ago rather than try to diplomacy this guy into doing a thing he would never do just to spite you?”

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            My personal gripe isn’t necessarily what she did. The deontology vs utilitarianism debate here is irrelevant for me.
            It’s that it’s her doing it. Making her authority an unwarranted consequence of her strengh. Should Feral have done the same to get out of her nightmare, or some attempt to get the government to impose it (not that a government can’t be as tyrannical as a superperson, but at least democracy tries not to), it would have been very, very different.

          • AshlaBoga

            I’ll admit, the line between Vigilante and Superhero is a blurry one. There have certainly been incidents where she seems like a Supervillain. Throwing a giant robot into a building rather than just smash it into the ground? That’s less collateral damage and more manslaughter. The reason she broke down on the playground was probably because she realized she could have easily not thrown it into the building and disposed of it a different way. She has killed people by not thinking things through. And she will have to live with that for the rest of her life.

          • You’re second-guessing the person in combat, which is a different issue to the vigilante-superhero one. All non-official superheroes are by definition vigilantes, they have no official standing. The law recognises citizen’s arrest and self-defence, but if you go out looking for trouble, don’t be surprised to find yourself in the dock as well.

            What happens in combat is different, you take your time to minimise collateral damage when you have the time, but when someone’s trying to pound you into the ground you don’t always have the time to think about where he’s going to land, the priority is tossing him away before he kills you.

          • Roman Snow

            (That Mind Control guy was Maxwell Lord.)

          • Karmik

            Thanks, I was hoping different flavor of nerd than me would chime in and correct me if I was wrong. 🙂

          • Sendaz

            *Counts* it’s still ‘countless,countles lives™’ *coughs*
            gotta get Steph her royalties ya know 😉

          • Regret

            (This is me butting into this conversation.)
            Yes I heard about people constantly dying a long time ago and have been thinking about it every so often since then.

            My positiion depends on my mood:
            Negative mood: Good, fuck them. Humans deserve every bit of suffering they inflict on each other because they are all potential monsters.

            Positive mood: Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer!

            … I may have some issues.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        That’s the kind of all or nothing extremist attitude you find in people claiming having children to raise for yourself is unethical.

        • saysomethingclever

          wow, i thought i had heard every argument on the childless-by-choice spectrum, but this one is new to me. why do they say that “having children to raise for yourself is unethical”?

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            Well first there are the antinatalist weirdos, but then you find some people saying raising your own humans during the most critical part of their identity-shaping years is nothing short of brainwashing.
            The funny thing being that they kind of have a point.

          • Zac Caslar

            No, what they have is a ring side seat to their own permanent colonoscopy.

            And I couldn’t imagine trying to hash out what true common good could be so pure and universal as to take priority over parents getting to rear their kid.

            Soon as “brainwashing” hits the table it’s safe to disconnect. That kind of hyperbole is terrifically efficient for disqualifying it’s bearers.

          • Zac Caslar

            Actually, on the second point I can.

            Imagine setting up guidelines for a community living in constant close proximity with each other and an unmerciful environmental threat. Like on a space station or a deep sea installation. A situation where one serious screw up could mean immediate and total destruction for everyone and everything.

            Under those conditions making a checklist of “stuff every kid MUST be taught” isn’t implausible and is probably necessary for community survival. That in turn would be mean screening your first generation with a strict eye towards valuing communal good.

            Incidentally the US Navy does that with Submarine crews. Makes sense.

          • saysomethingclever

            i will only point out that schooling standards are set by the state. even if you home school your children, you have to prove that you are teaching certain minimum

          • saysomethingclever

            some parents have just as much sense of humor as these folks do. i say they can call it brainwashing, but in exchange for all the dirt my kids generate and make me clean during their formative years, the least they could do is sit still while i wash their little brains. (SPOILER: they don’t sit still. Ever.)

            the preschool years should really not count as brainwashing. preverbal kids have no sense of self-preservation, and they are basically clumsy animals. you spend a lot more time reforming and re-forming your *own* values as you desperately try to keep them alive, than teaching them at this stage. toddlers and preschoolers are a bit more coordinated and with verbal ability comes the *chance* of teaching some very rudimentary generalizations about right and wrong. it’s faster with a poodle, tho, and more likely to stick. and by school-age (when they finally have enough frontal cortex to override impulse a bit), parents are no longer the end-all and be-all of voices actively teaching morality.

            selfish? if so, it’s worst backfire of a choice ever.

      • juleslt

        Every minute that passes, a life-saving organ is not being harvested from Feral because she doesn’t regenerate fast enough.
        The situation does change: live are lost.
        It’s more like instead of having the victims all bundled at the end of the tracks, the tracks are made of people who are crushed to death as it advances.
        And at any point, you can punch an asshole in the face and save them all.

        • The Improbable Man

          * There are a lot of trains like this, and many bad people profit from the way the trains are set up. Years ago a bunch of other people that could have pulled the brake on other trains were killed once these bad people realized that they could do so, and they don’t know about the guy on this train yet, but they might if he pulls the brake.

          “Can’t really be bothered” isn’t the whole story as to why Max doesn’t want to use his powers. Max is a dick, but he does actually have some self preservation reasons (he doesn’t necessarily know about the conspiracy, but he does know that he will become a target of powerful people if word of his powers gets out).

          • Stephanie

            He didn’t bring up the secrecy concern at first, though–first he was just like “I’m not doing it because I don’t have to and you can’t make me,” then he was like “waaaaah I resent my power for not being flashy and cool enough even though it’s objectively one of the most versatile and useful powers anyone could have in this universe,” then when that didn’t impress Alison he spent like one panel addressing the secrecy/safety aspect, then he finished with “I’m not doing it because fuck you, Alison. Thousands of people can go ahead and die, because fuck you specifically.”

            I definitely didn’t get the impression that protecting his secret was more than, like, 20% of the reason for his refusal at most. It was mostly petty jealousy, spite, and his Objectivist-style opposition to the idea that he’s morally obligated to help others.

          • Weatherheight

            While I agree with your analysis, only Brennan and Molly really know how these percentages break out. Initially stated motivations are most often not actual motivations – we decide, then we justify.It’s not at all uncommon for someone to put up bravado (“I’m not doing this because it punishes you”) to cover over an unpleasant truth about oneself (“Okay, I’m scared I’m going to get killed! I’m a coward and you’re sooooo much better than me, you smug hero!”).

            As humans, we spend a lot of time deciding what others are thinking when we don’t know the whole story from where they sit. We have to in order to function, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we get it right every time.

          • Stephanie

            I think you’re right in principle that humans do that, but in Max’s case that would have meant that he was covering up a legitimate reason to hesitate (“I’m concerned for my physical safety”) with first a transparently selfish reason (“because i don’t wanna”), then a whiny and pathetic one (“I got a power but it wasn’t the BEST power :((((( “). To me it didn’t seem like he was finally admitting his real reason when he finally acknowledged the safety issue; it seemed more like he was switching to a new approach after Alison was unimpressed with the first two.

          • Weatherheight

            As I said, I agree with your analysis. 😀

            My point was that this is something humans do, and that Brennan and Molly likely did this quite deliberately to muddy the waters a bit. This makes Max a bit more “real” to me, and while I believe his excuses aren’t valid, they are “things people do”. Less a statement of support of Max and more a vote for Brennan and Molly working to create characters that aren’t mere cardboard cutouts.

          • Ellis Jones

            I don’t think it matters if his reason was originally bravado or not. Alison still refused him when he explicitly said she would be endangering him.

            And by telling Gurwara she is doing exactly that.

    • Zac Caslar


      There is no third option. Kill one, kill five, or fall to your knees and beg Jesus to intervene; it doesn’t matter. There is only acting or taking the action of passivity.

      It is possible to fail the Trolley Problem and you do that by refusing to recognize your responsibility to choose.

      • GreatWyrmGold

        In principle, yes, In practice, there are plenty of times where there is a third option, and pretending there isn’t is just stupid.

        • Elaine Lee

          There are third options for other problems, not the Trolley Problem. Sometimes you have two choices. Sometimes you have many. Sometimes you have no choice. Depends on the situation. Though I tend to be utilitarian in my outlook, I stop long before saying, “the end always justifies the means.” The end can “sometimes” or even “often” justify the means. And like Zac Caspar said, choosing to do nothing is choosing. If Alison were a different sort of person, she could’ve manipulated Max into helping Feral, but the result might’ve felt worse than a sore arm.

          • GreatWyrmGold

            The classic Trolley Problem, yes. Analogies based on the Trolley Problem, no.

      • Elaine Lee


      • Arkone Axon

        Except in this case she DID have multiple options. This was the Trolley Problem if you aren’t actually physically restrained from setting the trolley to run over the one – and then rushing out to grab the one.

        Furthermore, this was the Trolley Problem if you’re told “oh, you might be able to drag that guy off the rail… but he’s someone you don’t like. So people will defend your decision to let him get run over, such a shame, how tragic, who could blame you.”

        • Zac Caslar

          Uh, nope. You’re wrong, but repeating myself is boring so this is as far as I’m bothering to go.

          • Arkone Axon

            I would say that your example is a bad one… but it’s actually perfect. Yes, let’s talk about the Pakistani government. Cut through the reams of text about how this is a Trolley Problem and there’s two bad options and no possible third option. Let’s look at one of the statements, and how patently false it is:

            “But common wisdom is that whoever would replace them in a coup would be worse.”

            That is not “common sense.” That is “traditional policy” of the U.S. State Department. And that traditional policy has consistently made the world a worse place to live for decades now. “Support horrible people because it’s for the greater good.” Usually coupled with angry comments about patriotism, “We do it for America. Why do you hate America!?” When in fact it’s not about preventing WW3, it’s about propping up entrenched interests because who cares about the innocent people getting hurt as long as the people in power make money. It’s no different than the British Empire invading China to force the opium trade down their throats to ensure a steady supply of tea.

            What would be a better solution? Practically anything. For starters, agreeing that whoever would replace them in a coup couldn’t possibly be worse and could likely be a lot better. Supporting social reforms amongst their population. Pointing out that we spend more on our military than the next eight nations put together, and don’t make us come over there.

            Any of those would be both less morally questionable AND be more likely to elicit results. Tyrants are bullies and bullies are cowards, and nothing makes a tyrant feel more afraid than realizing the most powerful military in the world and its supporting economic juggernaut is NOT going to be propping up their regime or protecting them from angry mobs.

            So “fuck” Max? Sneer at Max? Dismiss Max’s humanity? Kick him a few times and spit on him for being nothing at all? Great idea – then he’ll feel all the more justified in supporting any biodynamic who promises to eliminate Alison for him, hiring mercenaries to target Alison’s family, or otherwise creating leverage and/or solutions to protect himself from the Doctor Doom-esque supervillain you would have Alison behave like (“The lives of others are naught but currency to spend in the purchase of a better tomorrow!”). When even a modicum of civilized behavior would have gotten her what she wanted without poisoning the well for any future usage of his powers or creating serious consequences. Y’know, much like how the same “common sense traditional policy” led to us overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected president and propping up an autocratic tyrant called the Shah… who was then deposed by Ayatollah “Support terrorism and anything that hurts the Great Satan” Komenei.

            …Or how we then propped up Saddam Hussein for a few decades because he was a buffer against the Iranian regime we helped create… need I go on?

          • Zac Caslar


            So, the Taliban. Pakistan’s government has an aggressively abysmal human rights record, but the actual Taliban would be worse. There are worse outcomes, so you’re wrong about claiming that anyone would be better. Naturally wanting to determine who might come to power would be “inexcusably arrogant.” >_>

            An invasion by America of another Islamic nation would be a catastrophe and fuel every conspiracy about the Crusader Zionist West swirling around the Islamic World with the likely result of massive destabilization. GJ falling back on “Doctor Doom-esque” at a sovereign nation, by the by. Way to take that higher moral ground by suggesting an invasion for the purposes of “regime change.”

            Yes, fuck Max. Fuck his “humanity” and his “entitlements” and his “dilemma.” He’s a rotten-hearted child screaming and blubbering at the agony of thousands.

            You know nothing of use about foreign policy and are in denial about even SFP, and you’re getting a spot on my Ignore list as #8 -congratulations.

            You are ranting. You have nothing to say and are mistaking volume for veracity. You can go on but I won’t be listening.

            I have standards, you don’t meet them.

          • Arkone Axon

            Well, let’s see…

            Garbling up recent history, like how the Taliban was in control of Afghanistan (due to U.S. foreign policy of “subsidize anti-Soviet rebels and then ignore the place instead of building schools and hospitals as was suggested by the senator who drummed up support for this policy”) until the U.S. demolished them (i.e. exactly what I suggested as a viable alternative to dealing with other oppressive regimes such as Pakistan’s? Check.

            Ignoring more dated history, such as how regime change invasions have been among the most successful military operations in world history (ask the Japanese) by turning enemies into allies? Check.

            Accusing me of using Doctor Doom as a reference on foreign policy when I was clearly referring to your opinion that Alison should be doing exactly what a supervillain does by taking what she wants while sneering at those she violates? Check.

            Reinforcing how someone you don’t like deserves to be violated, because he has what others could use and therefore a modicum of persuasion or respect for his own rights is laughable? Check.

            Wow. I’m curious as to if this goes through… if not, I’ll just copy/paste it to myself. I’ve noticed that people who rant, insult, and then block tend to continue reading obsessively. Should be interesting.

    • Giacomo Bandini

      Sending other people would means that other people will know his secrets. And to postpone choice it’s a choice itsself: she knew that ,if she did not act immediatly, she would not probably find the courage again. it was now or never.

      • Tylikcat

        Okay, Alison losing her courage does not strike me as the most probable hypothesis in the offing.

        • Giacomo Bandini

          Look cousin, i do not know what’s inside Allison’s head, but from my point of view it’s pretty clear that her choice is the consequence of the emotional rollercoaster she have been throught: dumping Max, Getting “Dumped” by Clevin, making an ass of herself to Brad, failing to find the money for valchirie, getting offered 25 millions from her villainious ex-crush. and not sleeping. I cannot see her use premeditate violence against Max: it’s breaking charachter.

          • Yet she told Cleaver she’s always tempted by the violent solution. Forcing Max was giving in to the demons she’s already admitted having.

          • Tylikcat

            David’s point stands on it own.

            But I kind of figure that if she a) got some sleep (OMG Alison, sleep why don’t you sleep?!) and then b) worked on coming up with a plan that maximizes the chances of Max agreeing…

            …then if Max is still an insufferable prig, I figure the urges to violence will take care of themselves. All she has to do is keep her on eye the goal of how this would get Feral up and around, and here’s this insufferable prig refusing. *Wham!*

            I do agree that the actions as they unfolded make sense in light of her emotional rollercoaster. Just… ack!

      • Micah Matheson

        She’s already broken her promise not to reveal Max’s powers to anyone else. It’s not clear if she told the professor Max’s name, but now there’s another person that knows about a man with power-boosting abilities.

        • Weatherheight

          That’s why I would have liked to hear to whole of Alison’s revelation to Guwara – it’s clear he knows that she forced an unknown person to do.. .something by applying force directly to the arm (see previous page), but since we didn’t hear exactly what he knows beyond that.

          Not saying she didn’t tell all, but we can’t be sure she did tell all, either.

          • Cyrano111

            “Kid sounds like a prick” suggests Gurwara got quite a lot of detail. That needn’t include name, but it seems to include a *lot* of context.

          • Weatherheight

            It does.

            Of course, she could have lied through her teeth and given a story that minimized her actions while amplifying his and was still technically “honest”. Hence, my issue – I can assume Alison was straight-forward based on her previous behavior and her nature, but, speaking from personal experience (my own and direct presence in the experience of others), shame *really* colors what people say about themselves and the way they view their own actions. I’ve seen very honest and together people fall apart and completely misrepresent their actions when they’ve done something wretched at least as often as not.

            Having more detail would make me feel better about trusting Alison.
            It would also be slowing the story down a lot. 😀

    • “nothing was urging her to take drastic measures *right now*?”

      Feral was suffering agony every second that Alison delayed. I’m not convinced her action was justified, but if she thought it was, then she was actually compelled to act immediately.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        “So pressent as to render merely refering to a second opinion a waste of time free of ethical concerns” irks me very tyranny-inducing.

        • Of course. Part of Alison’s problem is she was never really given an ethical framework for what she does, and part of that ethical framework would be people she could talk to about it and the dilemmas it creates. Alison’s realising, now, that she needs guidance, but that still doesn’t help in time critical situations where she has to rely on her own judgement.

          It’s partly the child soldier thing again, Alison is very young to be faced with the dilemmas she runs into, she doesn’t have a lifetime of wisdom to fall back on.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I’d like the text to acknowledge that. This is all I’m asking. “This is not a trolley problem Alison, it’s you making terrible choices.”

          • shink

            How is this not a trolley problem? Is this not a trolley problem because all those thousands of extra lives Feral’s newfound abilities are saving are being saved off screen? People die waiting for organ transplants, people were still dying waiting for them even given Feral’s previous level of donations. People were dying waiting for organ transplants while Alison was trying to convince Max to help her. Inaction lets people die, action less people die and someone gets hurt. That’s the trolley problem, except that nobody even has to die.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            That’s the trolley problem with an added button called “try a tad harder and you won’t have to compromise your principles”

            Also known as Not a Trolley Problem

          • shink

            Try a tad harder also takes longer, the people waiting for organ transplants still die, Feral still suffers for longer. The status quo isn’t necessarily good, it just is.

            As to your argument of “wait up go get someone else, try harder to convince him”. No guarantee of success, same as there is no guarantee of failure. What Alison has seen of him lends a lot of circumstantial evidence to the idea that trying harder would’ve been ineffective. Max doesn’t listen to people, he doesn’t do things he’d rather not, he doesn’t empathize with the plights of others. The idea that random strangers Alison could bring to his door step would convince him seems far fetched to me, nothing in his personality demonstrates a willingness to hear anything he doesn’t want to.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            And that’s why it’s a good thing the law isn’t solely based on the potentially terribly wrong opinion of the strongest person in the room.

    • Kevin B.

      Nothing urgent but her friend being in a permanent state of torment.

      • Stephanie

        Also people dying of organ failure every day.

    • Walter

      In general, I concur with the “find a third way” approach. However, I do feel like Alison gets points for this being a comic strip. Taking the pragmatic, undramatic route is not usually allowed in comics, movies, etc.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Then my criticism goes to the set up of that scenario. They needed to make me believe it was now or never much more. Be it explained with Watsonian or Doylist reasons, Alison was sloppy.

        • Walter

          Uh, they kept you on as a reader. They didn’t need to do anything more than they did.

          Like, fundamentally, the deal is seats in boxes, or eyes on page. The fan that shows up to boo Roman Reigns is just as valuable as the one that shows up to cheer John Cena.

          In comic book terms, the pages that Alison spent arguing with Max was an eternity. It gets across the idea that argument won’t work. How many pages did they have to spend to get you on board? Turns out, the amount that they did worked fine, because you are still here.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            I mean, I find this opinion so laughably wrong it’s precious.

          • Zac Caslar

            Wow, I don’t see spite this delicate much at all. How memorable. Consider my hat tipped.

            And Walter’s right. There’s one decisive demonstration of disapproval and that’s to walk off and never look back. I haven’t checked in with Something Positive in around a decade.

            I’d miss you if you left, but you will do what you have to do -it’s axiomatic! 😀

    • Zorae42

      Right before she went to Max, she called someone to run a plan by them (I can’t remember was it Lisa?). Then she promised him no one would see him when she took him there, and that is exactly what happened…. A public clinic was completely empty and had no people there… That’s not really something you can just do on a whim/whenever you feel like it.

      Maybe she had to call in a few favors/had other people call in favors in order to make everything safe for Max before she talked to him. Firstly so she could be 100% truthful when saying he’d be in no danger. Second because who on earth would refuse to help countless people out of spite? If setting all that up wasn’t feasible a second time, then she really didn’t have time to find a better way to baby his selfish ass.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        I love this. She broke his consent and tortured him, sure…
        …but that’s just how dedicated she was to respect his privacy.

    • IE

      I don’t think the human mind is capable of considering the plight of all currently suffering people on earth, or even more than a dozen of them, at one time. When we hear of death tolls due to a disease outbreak or a bombing or a natural disaster, that’s just a number to us. If we see a face, maybe it matters a little more, but if it’s not a face we know and love and care about, then we’ll still flip the channel and go about our day without giving them a second thought. This is really necessary – if we were to constantly think and worry about all the people who need thinking and worrying about, we’d be paralyzed by misery. I don’t weep uncontrollably when YOUR family member dies, nor do I expect you to mourn deeply when one of mine passes.

      The same goes for fictional scenarios. We don’t see all the people in the comic world who are waiting on organs. We don’t get a cut-away to a person breathing their last breath as Max and Allison argue, when a lung transplant could have saved them, or the mother in the next room waiting on a heart, or the child with leukemia down the hall whose parents are spending another night in tears, praying for a bone marrow donor…

      So when you say ‘nothing was urging her to take drastic measures’ what you really mean is ‘nothing we got to see illustrated in the comic in a way that would make us care about it/them was urging her’.

      Realistically, every wasted minute is one minute more of agony, fear, pain, uncertainty, or even death for another human being. Max seemed pretty adamant about not doing anything. Perhaps Allison could have convinced him within a day. In America alone, 22 people die every day waiting for organs. Suppose Feral had already cut that down to half on her own – that’s still a dozen people who would probably feel like drastic measures were pretty damn warranted. A dozen families devastated, a dozen lives needlessly lost, by just a single day’s delay.

      But… we don’t get to witness their pain or their faces. We just see Max getting hurt. We know Max. He’s a prick, but we know him… and sympathy goes to the ones you know, not the numbers you don’t.

      • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

        Where is this urgency all the years she didn’t force the government to pass free healthcare?

        Urgency was never her concern.

        • shink

          The urgency was made real by Feral. Alison can’t empathize with the plight of thousands any better then we can. Much like us when she considers forcing free health care on the world she more clearly sees the downsides such an action would cause then the upsides of possible success. The urgency being made real by Feral doesn’t however invalidate all the suffering she ameliorated with her actions.

          • ∫Clémens×ds 🐙

            No, doesn’t work either. Feral has been there for years and Alison would have just had to forcibly take her away, which would have been the easiest thing for her.

            Again. Urgency was not an issue.

  • weedgoku

    So this is what happened to the lost multiple man copies.

  • Lostman

    I think Gurwara broke Alison.

    • Weatherheight

      Possibly the inverse, as well.
      We shall see… 😀

    • I think Alison had already broken Alison.

      Gurwara’s just sorting out the parts before putting her back together again.

  • Dave M

    And what do we take away from this performance?
    That Mr Gurwara can be bought, is reasonably priced, and strives for customer satisfaction. 🙂

    • Walter

      Mr Guwara (s). You have to pay both of them. It’s a union situation.

      • UnsettlingIdeologies

        Thus the two pennies.

    • Jovial Contrarian

      Difficult Dilemmas Discussed Dirt Cheap.

  • Yirtimd2

    Gurwara Phantasm: Unlimited Philosophical Schizophrenia Works

  • Walter

    He’s starting to sweat. So much coat taking off and putting on. Keep it up, Prof G!

    • Weatherheight

      Sweating to the Oldies, indeed…

      “Put the coat on.
      “Take it off.
      “Drop it.
      “Pick it up.
      “Put it on the peg.
      “Take it off the peg.
      “Put the coat on…”

      • Sendaz

        OMG, he better not look at her and say ‘So you see, what you have to realize is …*clasping hand to chest* ..arrrghhh’ and falls over dead from a heart attack in front of her from that workout, leaving her an even further wreck……

        • palmvos

          remember that Murphy was an optimist. if there is no law against it… it could happen. (note that law here does not mean US or any other arbitrary jurisdiction. this comment does not constitute legal advice or opinion.)
          ::gets on his horse called ‘jurisdiction’ and rides off.::

  • Mitchell Lord

    Of course, what’s most interesting…is that the Professor is offering TWO different strawman arguments. (And, interestingly, BOTH people are pretty much reduced to yelling.)

    Which, may in fact show the TRUE motive…That any absolute Axiom is, by nature, flawed. (Note that this does not, in fact, include itself, as it is not an Axiom. One cannot say that any absolute belief is flawed.)

    Yes, what she did was bad…but it was not the action of a tyrant. It was the action of a very desperate, and flawed, human being. And, morever, one who will not repeat the sin, most likely. (For a Tyrant, it is wise to look at Patrick).

    • Both are being reduced to yelling precisely because they are both strawman arguments that cannot be justified, at least not in the exclusive way that they claim.

      In a sense both positions are true. Everybody knows that people have a tendency to say things like “stealing is bad,” but then if a case comes up where it is good to take someone’s money, they say, “that time it wasn’t stealing.”

      This is actually totally reasonable. Here is why. If you set rules for your personal life, as for example what you are allowed to eat when you are trying to lose weight, it is much better for you to classify edge cases as “not quite against the rules,” rather than “a little bit against the rules,” since the second classification is much more likely to lead to “I’ve already broken my rules, so they’re broken. Goodbye to those rules.”

      In the moral case, Yudkowsky’s “ethical injunctions” are good for people because the fact that something is generally bad for you often outweighs any particular considerations you see in favor of the action. But if we invent extreme situations for the sake of moral discussion, or even if they come up in real life, we might be able to find a situation where it looks good to violate the injunction. But that’s bad, because then the injunction won’t be an injunction anymore — it’s like we just broke our weightloss rules. So it is far better to say, “The injunction only includes those cases when it is actually bad. So if you find an extreme example of stealing when it would be good, it isn’t really stealing, and if you find an extreme example of killing when it would be good, it isn’t really murder, and so on.”

      • GreatWyrmGold

        I think that was Mitchell’s point.

      • MisterTeatime

        “Look, that’s why there’s rules, understand? So that you think before you break ’em.”
        — Lu-Tze, Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

        • Weatherheight

          One of my all time favorite Pratchett quotes.
          +1 Internets AND an upvote.

        • Kifre

          Before, I kind of suspected that your username was a Hogfather reference, but now I’m sure. Sure and a little scared.

      • Or there’s the interpretation of the ‘The exception proves the rule’ as ‘the exception tests the fitness of the rule’.

      • Edward Philibin

        “Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.”
        –The Doctor

    • Andrew Rian Hansen

      I hope Alison realizes the strawman arguments for what they are and Gurwara takes her further down the rabbit hole. I really enjoyed the pages when Lisa explained her “No Glory Save Honor” mural and I’d like to see more of that here

  • GreatWyrmGold

    “I’m not sure about ‘helpful,’ but it’s certainly entertaining.”

  • RDW0409

    Love the Harold Gray-style eyes on Allison here, very effective!

  • Philip Bourque

    He’s arguing in circles around her.
    He’s just going over everything we said in the comments section, except summarised and far less vitriolic.

  • Tripper

    I knew there was a reason I liked this guy.

  • Smartgun

    Great writing. One of your best scenes ever.

  • Cyrano111

    Apparently we are going to have this whole debate over again in the comments!

    Let me stake out a non-philosophical position. Wherever I land on the theoretical argument, in practical terms I want to live in a world where there are rules which generally govern those more powerful than me as well as me, and I would dread living in a world where the most powerful people simply get to do what they decide they want to do, whether they are well-motivated or not.

    • Giacomo Bandini

      Yes, i would very like to live in such a world.

  • Matrix

    I like this. Presenting both sides of an extremist argument both for and against. Showing that both will flow into bad things. Life is not black and white. The point here is Allison can’t look toward a light-switch solution (being right or wrong, having it be Good or Bad to do something, Light-switch: only two settings both extremes). And Gwara treating the philosophical discussion as an entertainment and asking if she is enjoying and finding it entertaining–Wonderful.
    While wrong and a crime, what punishment should she have? I mean stealing and killing are very different crimes with different outcomes and different situations. THAT is what the focus should be. Many in the comments are focused on the fact that she is not going to get ANY punishment due to the fact that the crime helped others, even though it was a violation of personal rights and an act of terrorizing, possibly very traumatic to the victim (we don’t know how he is taking it yet) and on the surface to some this situation is a minor thing that is akin to jaywalking, no big deal. To others it is a very big deal due to the fact that she is super powered and should know better, be more careful. The whole “Great Responsibility” thing. Many people also don’t feel that her own guilt and how she is applying it does not sufficiently punish her for her criminal activities. Well, It might not. One thing that I feel must be said is that her actions in the future are going to be greatly affected by how this is affecting her. Someone made the comment that she wont be repeating the crime because she knows it was bad. Many attitudes are that of extremes here. Well, Life is messy. We can’t even point to a scale from black to white as a way of deciding how things should go. It is not even varying levels of good and bad. That is 2 dimensional. The WHOLE situation must be considered and often times it will be between Allison and Max on what punishment, if any, she will face. Society at large will not know of this. Who knows if Max would be open to reparations of the actions she took or even if she will approach and apologize for forcing him and attempt to make amends.
    I did say that often the Beautiful and Powerful can get away with a lot of atrocities. I did not say if it was right for them to do so. Just that they can and do. I also, unwisely, made the comment that we all have committed crimes. I meant minor things, like a fight in the school yard (Assault), Yelling at your parents (verbal abuse and verbal assault), Taking things as a child (Stealing) of a young age. Things of this nature. You see, we have all done these things, some of them were done when we were not old enough to know better BUT they are still classified as crimes and still “bad”. So we got “time out” or if you are older spanked or even smacked across the mouth for talking back. Good and Bad or a moral compass are learned behaviors and often learned from our society. Take a look at the Netflix series “Jessica Jones” the villain had a power that made it impossible to discipline him so he got no discipline and did not learn that it was wrong to do the things he did, true he was told, but he did not LEARN it as he had no consequences for his actions to judge.
    Alliison is still very young and has not learned a lot of things, she stopped truly learning when she got her powers in some respects. And that was what 14 or so. Not “all growed up” so to speak. We are, in a way, being shown her learning process. When you are freshly teen or pre-teen you do tend to think in extremes, black/white, light/dark, ect. And you judge things on a linear scale. How bad is this to do? How good is this to do? The reality is far more complicated and more..dimensional.
    I look forward to see where this is going.

  • man do I not care about this guy

  • Balthazar

    I love that man.

  • 12th

    It seems that Gurwara has spent a lot of time in the comments section of this comic.

  • Weatherheight

    Two thoughts:
    1) Guwara appears to be the master of the fauna-derived insult.
    2) So this is what Billy Preston meant when he asked “Will it go round in circles?”

    ::giggles maniacally while making chattering rat sounds::

  • Bradson Goldie

    I didn’t like this guy the first time we met him, but now I think he’s my favorite ever.

  • Psile

    I admit that I only seek a tool to rationalize my own base instincts and that I am apparently a toad.

    • Beroli

      Impressive typing abilities. Do you hop from key to key?

    • Weatherheight

      Goat, Swine, Rat, Toad, Slug… I have to admit, I’m interested in in how far down the evolutionary scale this will end up going.

      And hey, don’t sell yourself short – I’m sure you’re at least a rat.

      ::scampers off before he gets jumped::

  • StClair

    Welcome to the real world, where there are no absolutes, and every Yes or No comes with a qualifying But. No frictionless surfaces, ideal gasses, or perfect solutions here. :/

    • palmvos

      we can mimic friction-less surfaces pretty well. and we use ideal gas laws to predict the behavior of real gasses much of the time piv,nert does quite well thank you. and i’ll argue the perfect solution but that’s because i’m an engineer and we have to arrive at them.. says so right here in our contract.

  • Michael Hancock

    The professor seems to be having enough fun with this that I really think he should have paid her.

    • JohnTomato

      This is philosophy 100. You can learn this from the inside of a fortune cookie.

  • RainWall

    I would argue that Max’s problem, although she doesn’t see it, is that she feels like she has become God, and right all wrongs forever. But at the end of the day, no human, no matter how strong, is ever going to even come close. Einstein once said that “the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” And I feel that relates to society as well. One person doesn’t have to do everything. One person CAN’T do everything. So the only way that everyone will be covered is if everyone looks out for themselves and those around them. Help your neighbors, and they’ll help you, and therefore the whole world becomes saved.

    • StClair

      It’s the failure mode of the superhero paradigm. Been called out a few times in the comic already.
      Have to be the one to save the day.
      Have to strike the decisive blow.
      Has to be me, because no one else can.

      • Weatherheight

        “Why do you pilot the Eva?”
        “Because others can’t”

        • weedgoku

          I thought he did it because he wanted to bang his mom or something.

          • Weatherheight

            Well, not bang, but have a relationship with his deceased mother, yes.
            Also, to make his father approve of him.
            And Misato.
            And Asuka.
            And Rei.
            And to prove to himself that he matters…

            Motivations are complicated things.

      • Jovial Contrarian

        “Every time someone cries out in prayer and I can’t answer, I feel guilty about not being God.”
        “That doesn’t sound good.”
        “I understand that I have a problem, and I know what I need to do to solve it, all right? I’m working on it.”
        Of course [he] hadn’t said what the solution was.
        The solution, obviously, was to hurry up and become God.

        • AshlaBoga

          That sounds like me sometimes.

          Every bad thing that happens under the heavens is my fault.
          I must fix everything.

          My psychologist has suggested it might be indicative of egocentric tendencies.
          I say it’s because I have a Jewish mother who is also a human rights lawyer. Those two things should never be combined.

    • palmvos

      great. now, as can be clearly deduced some people. ‘ask me no names and ill tell no lies’ are freeloading on this system. how do we figure out who and what do we do with them. there are times when you need to let someone absorb the kindness of others for a time how do you judge? and what do you do?

  • KevlarNinja

    James Madrox: Philosopher.

  • JohnTomato

    “We’re making a better world. All of them, better worlds.” – The Operative

  • Cokely

    This must be a slower argument than it appears on the page if Gurwara is putting on or taking off the coat entirely between each line of his “dialogue.”

    One thing I find useful here, and is something I’ll remember in the future, is that he’s arguing these two points based on their principles, and is not resorting to hypothetical questions. The comment threads over this chapter have made me disgusted with the use of hypothetical arguments in ethical discussions at large, and it’ll be some time before I employ them.

    No more dead babies to save the world, please. It’s not the rhetorical tool you think it is.

    • AshlaBoga

      “No more dead babies to save the world, please.”

      I admit, I’m starting to think we need to confine our examples to historical ones rather than hypothetical.

      • weedgoku

        If it’s a matter of saving the world via baby death, I do believe I have A Modest Proposal that might be of interest.

        • Weatherheight

          Heh. You were pretty Swift to bring that up.

    • weedgoku

      He’s actually just growing and shedding a new one, the coat is actually just external layers of his skin. SEE THE SNAKE SYMBOLISM COMES FULL CIRCLE.

      • Jovial Contrarian

        Philosophers are like onions.

        (They stink and make you cry)

    • MrSing

      That would be a more valid point of the comic itself didn’t talk about a complete hypothetical situation and tried to make ethical statements about that situation.
      If the comic can talk about a situation where torturing one guy can save a billion people, we can talk about dead babies saving the world.

      • Cokely

        You are of course welcome to engage in bad ideas. There’s nothing I can do to stop you from doing so.

        My point isn’t that you can’t. My point is that it’s an ineffective rhetorical tool, and the evidence is writ large across pages and pages of comments in which readers try to shame each other with hypotheticals that are either:

        A. About doing something morally compromising for the sake of a certain greater good (Eat this baby and end the concept of cancer).
        B. About doing something that requires very little personal investment and no moral compromise for the sake of an immediate but uncertain good (Somebody is banging on a glass door claiming they’re going to be killed if you don’t open it and let them hide there, do you do so?)

        In both cases, I think all we’ve learned every time these come up is that for utilitarians, the moral cowardice of deontologists knows no bounds, and for deontologists, utilitarians won’t hesitate to debase themselves to unheard-of degrees for the sake of a perceived greater good.

        The comic, at least, is presenting a situation in its hypothetical without presuming a moral judgment in how the readership answers it. We can see it above in Gurwara’s discussion. You and your world-saving dead babies aren’t doing the same.

        • MrSing

          That doesn’t take away from the fact that the comic represented an entirely ridiculous hypothetical situation that was slanted in every way to make coercion seem like the moral thing to do.

          It is an incredibly unbelievable situation with incredibly unbelievable people involved in a situation that, quite frankly, seems to try to come up with every possible way to make it seem like Allison did the right thing.

          I’m not saying that all Utilitarians are evil, cold hearted machines. I just strongly disagree with their philosophy. I’m also not saying that Deontologists are pure hearted heroes, in fact, deontology is quite frankly nearly unusable in a lot of moral situations.

          I’m neither of them.

          The point is that “dead babies to save the world” and “twisting the arms of assholes to safe billions” are both equally unrealistic scenarios and calling out the people who use the dead babies, but praising the comic for using the coerced assholes is dishonest.

          • Cokely

            You have a strange definition of “praise” if “at least the comic isn’t being as bad as the commentators” fits the bill, and I’m not sure what your actual point is apart from a vague annoyance that I’m willing to say the commentators are using hypothetical scenarios badly. They are. The comic is doing so in a manner less odious than the commentators because it is not wearing its presumed moral judgment on its sleeve whenever it poses the question.

            Now, if this whole chapter ends with that moral judgment, with Allison pointing to the camera and saying, dead-eyed, “Who have you compromised for the sake of a better world today, coward?” or “How dare you, reader, ever even consider that this was a good idea, even in these ideal circumstances?” in one form or another, then I’m wrong. But I’m not sure why a qualitative judgment regarding the efficacy of the hypothetical scenario’s use is somehow “dishonest.”

    • palmvos

      ok, then lets talk about this… what if i told you that The Authorities are going to harass and annoy large numbers of people to potentially do a small number of people some good. (there is a potential that this could save a life but that isn’t always the goal). could you debate that?

      • Cokely

        I could. I won’t.

  • Hiram

    That’s some fine parallel multi tasking, walking both physical and philosophical circles around the central argument at the same time.

  • jandesf

    Everyone has a superpower

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    As far as I’m concerned, philosophy at school consisted of writing a dissertation putting two old fart’s view against one another and then pretend to take a side/have your own opinion at the end (but heaven forbid it’s actually your own)

  • frump-fancy

    Come on now, there are two sides to every coin! I demand 4 points of view from the 2 cents I paid!

    • palmvos

      patience. let these two exhast themselves… then Bandanna and Shirtless Guwara will argue about public decency and ugly statues among other things.

  • Amanda

    I knew i loved this man

  • Seer of Trope

    Guwara is actually a CHIM. He knows he’s in a comic and knows the audience will be confused if he kept his jacket on for the dialogue.

    • Edward L. Howell

      CHIM? Center for Healthcare Information Management? Community Hospital-Based Internal Medicine? Crazed Hirsute Intelligent Man? Certainly Heuristic Iconic Manipulator? Cheese, Ham, Iceberg lettuce, Mayonnaise? Chronically Happy Inferno Morphology?

      How I love undefined acronyms. /s

      • weedgoku

        It’s an elder scrolls reference. The easiest way to explain CHIM is that it’s a state of self-awareness where characters within the narrative realize they’re in a videogame/story and basically become god-like beings that can re-write reality at will.

      • Seer of Trope

        I’m glad you like it.

  • Jeremy Cliff Armstrong

    Yes, you justify “the means” by considering their consequences… _all_ their consequences. “The end” is only one of those consequences. And it happens to be the one you want so you’re already per-disposed to see the end in a positive light.

    But there are other consequences that have nothing to do with the desired end. Some of them are indirect results. Some of them only apply when the given means is used repeatedly. But all of them are part of the consideration of whether or not a the means is justified.

    Both the means and the end must be justifiable separate from each other. Yes, the end should be considered when justifying the means but it is only one small part of that, not the entirety of it.

  • Dawn Smashington

    This; the comic and the response together; is goddamn magical

  • Okay. I’m beginning to like him.

  • Cake

    Philosophy is great to be used as sign posts and reference markers along the road you may travel in this life but, it is not the road itself.

  • Lexkat13

    I can’t wait to read her answer. 🙂

    • weedgoku

      I assume she’s just going to punch him.

      Then bone clevin on top of his unconscious body.