|I wrote,: "Well, according to Rand, morality depends on the choice to live. If one doesn't choose to live, then morality no longer applies."|
But in the example of A forcing B to kill C to stop A from killing B, you seem to be implying with your response that B's decision to not kill C is somehow tantamount to choosing not to live. No, no, no! I am saying that if B chooses to continue living, then he is morally required to do what is necessary to preserve his life, which in this case means killing C in order to avoid being killed by A. But he is not morally culpable for the murder of C, because he didn't choose to kill C voluntarily; A forced him to do it. The murderer (i.e., the person who is morally culpable) is A, not B.
One may see the possibility of death without embracing death. People risk their lives all the time in service of all sorts of things like, for example, the simple pleasure of free-falling from an airplane, or as part of one's job - say a fireman running into a burning building to rescue someone - and I hear no argument that activities such as these are done as a death wish. So why is it that if an individual (B) decides that it is important to stand up to a bad person (A) and stop the chain of evil he is perpetrating, and refuses to participate in the taking of another innocent person's life, this somehow rises to the level of an embrace of death? This entire line of reasoning has never made any sense to me. As I understand the example, it's clear to B that A will kill him, if he refuses to cooperate. There's no reason why B should assume otherwise, simply on the remote chance that A will not follow through. B has every right to take him at his word.
I wrote, "I'm just speculating, but I think she would say that a natural calamity cannot be held morally responsible for sacrificing another human being, whereas a villain can. In other words, the responsibility for a crime that a villain forces you to commit devolves upon the villain, whereas the responsibility for a crime that a calamity forces you to commit devolves upon you."
I do not agree with this. Even in the case of A/B/C above, A cannot compel B to do his bidding. B is still a free agent and can choose to either kill C and possibly be spared by A or not kill C and maybe then be killed by A. B decides how to act based upon his value hierarchy. Are you seriously suggesting that there is no compulsion involved in a threat of force -- that, for example, one is not compelled by the government to pay taxes, or by a mugger to surrender one's wallet, simply because one can refuse and suffer the consequences? If so, then you're saying that taxes and armed robbery do not constitute the initiation of force. Do you really want to say that?
Yes, one's life is the root of all other values, but that doesn't mean that should one's life be threatened, all other values somehow no longer matter. I agree that legally, all responsibility for any action that a person takes while under the threat of death transfers back to the person or people making the threats. But I do not agree that morally there is any such transfer. A moral code instructs us how to act in service of our values. Right, and if one's life is one's ultimate value, then an egoistic, pro-life moral code would instruct one to take those actions that promote one's own survival. What's not to understand?
Whatever choice B makes, it stems from his own moral code and not that of A. Now, in and of itself, this is not an argument that B shouldn't kill C in the situation described. It is simply a recognition that the concept of a moral transfer from one person to another makes no sense. Legal responsibility, yes. Moral responsibility, no. The point is that B is not morally responsible for murdering C (i.e., for killing him unjustly); A is the murderer, not B.
I wrote, "I thought the principle was clear. If one's life is on the line, the virtue of selfishness gives one a moral justification for initiating force in order to save one's life, but one should, to whatever extent possible, repay the debt."
And here you have identified the bright line that morally separates the cases into two classes. In the case of initiating force to steel another's property, etc., there is the possibility of recompense. In the case of A/B/C above, the act of taking of another's life cannot be compensated in any manner. This is what makes this type of choice morally wrong. Recall that I said "to whatever extent possible." It's not possible if the person is dead.
Regardless of whatever circumstances one may face, there can be no moral justification for the killing of another innocent person, depriving them of the very thing you say is your own ultimate value and which you say you are seeking to preserve. Why not? If there is a conflict of interest, as there is in this case, then your own life takes moral precedence.