Intention and Morality (SPOILERS)
Before I begin this post, I want to suggest those who have not finished the book hit the back button immediately. This topic will cover several issues that essentially give away the entire story and ending. You have been warned.
This topic is in reference to an article written by John Kessel in the International Review of Science Fiction
. I noticed this article while reviewing the Wikipedia entry
for Ender's Game (which actually plays devil's advocate to Kessel's arguement in many ways). You can read the article online here: Creating the Innocent Killer
After reading Kessel's article, I decided to refrain from a point by point, nearly paragraph by paragraph, dissection of Kessel's arguements and opinions. Most specifically, some interpretation Kessel inadvertently suggests that I believe is completely opposite the point of what Orson Scott Card was going for. Rather, I would like to devote this topic to our own discussion of Kessel's major issue which seems to be the question of the relation of Intention and Morality.
Criminal Law requires two aspects of intention for a guilty conviction on most charges: the guilty mind and the guilty act (Mes Rea & Actus Reus). Kessel would have done well in his well research article to include some readings into Criminal Justice Theory. A person on trial must be proven to have both artibutes of the crime in order to be proven guilty for many crimes, including murder in the first degree. Though involuntary manslaughter is avaialble for a charge without a guilty mind. However, the death must be "due to recklessness or criminal negligence" for this charge, neither of which is applicable to Ender, in my opinion, most especially in the genocide case.
Kessel could make a point that Ender could have been held responsible for Voluntary Manslaughter in the cases of the two boys he accidentally killed. However, I think the case of self defence is applicable and holds merit. The extra kick to the crotch was the only purely violent intent based on preventing future attacks (this is not a valid defense for self defense as those attacks were no imminent). However, both kids were already apparently dead before the over the top use of violence.
The Genocide issue is amazing in that Card skillfully eliminates any possible issue of intent. In a matter of fact, ironically, Ender decides the suicide run will surely end the games and make him a failure. His intent was to purposefully loose a game. In this case, the only people who could be held responsible for genocide are those that watched him do it!
Kessel might also have tried researching some psychological experiments about intention and guilt. In many infamous cases utilizing research techniques long since bared from practice, participants experienced severe guilt for taking part in research experiments in which they inadvertently inflicted pain on others because of the situations of the experiment, situations in which they never would have performed such actions of their own accord. So we should look at Ender's Game, in a way, as a cruel experiment and see Ender's actions in that context. If you are told if you push a button, you will win a game, but instead someone dies, are you guilty of murder? Heck no. But the person who told you to push the button sure is.
Ender's Game is wonderful in that all these various moral issues are constantly clashing with emotions and duty. Actions produce unintended consequences and in the end, Ender destroys an entire race because he was used as a tool, a weapon, not of is own will nor intention. Even if Ender knew it was real (and there is no evidence to suggest that he would have gone through with war once he graduated), he was brain washed from day one that everything was in defence of Earth.
In summary, I completely at odds with Kessel's article and criticism of Card. I wouldn't call Ender a hero but rather a character utilized to bring about interesting moral and social issues and situations. Intent is important when discussing morality. I have a favorite saying that I am VERY fond of:
"It is not the what, it's the why." Edited by: Chris OConnor at: 4/10/06 4:55 pm