Wednesday, 13 November 2013

THE FARMER WHO KILLED HIS NEIGHBOUR'S HORSE ( INSTEAD OF HIS OWN )........... A follow up article by Professor Hu Chi Ku Chi

J.L. Austin was a 19th century metaphysical philosopher who was interested in the use of language and the ways that it could be utilised deliberately to influence the listener.
This type of thinking was demonstrated in The Farmer Who Killed His Neighbour's Horse I instead of his own ). There is one scenario which establishes guilt for a nasty, vindictive crime ,  in that he intended to kill his neighbour's horse. A deliberate and premeditated act.
However , there are also two other scenarios which might suggest innocence on his part.
Having marked the selected beast with indelible dye before performing the task, in the second scenario he discovers that he had indeed shot the intended animal but had marked the wrong beast. In the third one, having marked the correct horse and on taking aim, at the moment of firing the marked horse ran away and the farmer 's shot hit the other beast , which was standing several yards further away , but directly in the line of fire. Austin decided the outcome of a trial would depend a great deal on which scenario was accepted as the likely truth , and whether words to explain an unintentional mistake in the second situation , or an unfortunate accident in the third,  would achieve the desired effect of establishing some degree of innocence on his part.
Scenarios two and three would always establish the absence of intent,  but for many who sit in judgement the facts relating to taking deliberate aim , and brutal killing of his neighbour's   horse might well paint the farmer as a merciless villain , who needs to be severely punished.
So what a player who moves a heavy object across a table towards an opponent sitting to his left. Facts could be dressed up in a language that describes the act as " offensive and aggressive ", being tantamount to an assault intending to cause fear. However, as in the farmer's story, a number of other more innocent scenarios might also exist. The movement of the object was carried out to make a sarcastic point, to demonstrate a feeling of frustration and annoyance, or to attract attention through a petty act of childish petulance.   All acts of " inappropriate behaviour  " but ones which fall well short of intentional harm.
For any one who is asked to make a judgement as to the degree of misconduct and what would be a proportionate punishment , a thorough investigation is needed to ascertain what  were the intentions of the accused at the relevant time, relying only ( one hopes ) on the choice and interpretation of words submitted in evidence, which are devoid of subjective bias, gross under/over statements, and emotionally-charged prejudices. And if intention can not be established by objective and impartial analysis, then the presumption off innocence must be duly applied.  


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