Before a few days ago I’ve came across accidentally on materials concerning philosophical enter’s test of university of Oxford (2008). Here is the following question ,which place so much emphasis on my mind , that I felt a strong compulsion to write something about it . “ The night before Camper is to set off into the desert where a bottle of water will be his only available drink, Poisoner puts a fatal poison into Camper’s bottle. Early the next morning, Spiller maliciously empties the bottle, in complete ignorance of what Poisoner had done the night before. Camper then sets off into the desert, in all innocence, and dies of thirst. Who caused Camper’s death? Explain your answer.”. Great one ,doesn’t it? I find that task not as perplexing as controversial and paradoxical. Let me explain my point. First of all, in desert ,practically the most driest place on the Earth,with only one bottle.Well, here the conscious mind speaks for itself. But there is much more beneath that reckless attitude to Camper’s own existence,he was not aware of the situation in which he put himself.Therefore , it’s his fault,his irresponsibility and probably lack of knowledge regarding the situation. There is no ample justification which could prove him to be a victim, even if his lack of knowledge was influenced by other factors such as stupidity or ignorance (well,if he was with mental disability we could justify his action ,but we do not know). Consequently , he didn’t appreciate the gravity of the situation. Poor fellow! Secondly, the Poisoner had played the role of helper than an enemy. Knowing that Camper’s death is inevitable,we could easily appreciate the action of the poison. If Camper had drunk the bottle ,he could have been spared the agony of his death much more easily. Who wants a slow and painful death after all? The answer of this question is clear as crystal and does not require further observations or explanations.The Poisoner could have helped Camper by giving him a chance of death without so much agony,he could have spared him days of thronging around the sand ,imagining some oasis.He could spare him so much cruelty. Thirdly , we have the last “hero” in the story –the Spiller who diminished the chance of dying without agony and pain.He ,for the reasons pointed above , made Camper’s sorrow greater and miserably painful. Finally, the answer to the question is consisted in the very first action of Camper. He made one reckless choice regarding his own life and existence ,then he bore the consequence of it.The following two actions were above his grasp, he was a victim regarding the fact of how he died ,but not a victim of death itself- he chose to die by himself. That’s my answer.What do you think,then?



  1. My answer 🙂

    He died due to his own negligence/ stupidity.
    However, both Spiller and Poisoner are still guilty of attempted murder.

    Whoever invented the imaginary scenario is guilty of philosophical masturbation at a time when philosophy is desperately needed to tackle more important real life issues in the world, not absurd hypothetical situations that will never happen.

      1. Why? 🙂

        In what way does being able to ‘solve’ this imaginary scenario help us to make sense of all the real life scenarios currently playing out in the world involving death and murder?

        Here’s an example of a scenario which DOES have applicability.

        A man feels worried that his safety is threatened by people living in Iraq who he *theorises* have *conspired* to manufacture and hide WMD’s which they intend to use them against him and his neighbours. He remortgages his house and uses the money to buy weapons and fly to Iraq and start blowing the arms and legs of hundreds of Iraqi families.

        1. Does he have the right to do this?

        2. Does he have the right to pay for a third party to blow the arms and legs off those Iraqis *on his behalf*?

        Even after remortgaging his house he soon realises he does not have enough money to kill as many Iraqis as we would like.

        3. Does he have the right to threaten his neighbours with being put inside a cage at gunpoint unless they give him money to help pay for his killing spree?

        4. Does he have the right to hire a third party to threaten his neighbours *on his behalf* with being put inside a cage at gunpoint unless they give him money to pay for his killing spree?

        5. What if this third party agency of violence acting on this man’s behalf calls itself a ‘government’?

        IMHO that is a nice ‘fun’ philosophical brain teaser, which has relevance to real life. The bottle of water scenario will never happen. My scenario is happening right now.

  2. Do not get me wrong , I believe that every question/situation require answer and observation. In my opinion ,the main role of the so called ‘hyphotethical’ situation is to question people’s perceptions of right and wrong and to make clear discremination between their opinions regradless their political,religious or even ethic beliefs.You may say that this is rubish or even complete waste of time ,but it gives insights into the way we think… too.
    Answering your situation you gave me,I might say that this man has no right to take the life of anyone , even if his assumptions of rightful he has to find a better way to tackle the situation. But unfortunately , in reality , things don’t happen in that way…we live in unjust society ! That’s the truth …

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