Simulated Killing Study Guide
Simulated Killing Study Guide

Simulated Killing Study Guide

Source: Open Book Publishers

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A study guide on introductory concepts in philosophy.

Simulated Killing Study Guide

“Simulated killing” covers a number of different areas; it could involve playing the killer, or watching someone play the killer. In the first category it could be an actor on film or stage, or it could be someone playing a video game.

Initially we might think that because it is “simulated” this topic is outside ethics. But using Utilitarianism, Kantian and Virtue Ethical lenses we have shown that this is not the case. For Utilitarianism whether it is simulated or not is not important, the question is how much happiness each of these activities generates compared to doing something else. If it is more, then we ought to do them, if not, we ought not. For the Kantian and virtue ethicist the question is how being involved in simulated killing changes us as a person. If it makes us less able to be a moral agent — e.g. less rational or virtuous — then we ought not to be involved in simulated killing.

However, the main lesson is this. Issues surrounding simulated killing are going to be addressed via psychology. Which is thus far inconclusive. So it seems the best we can say is that “yes simulated killing is a moral issue”, but the decision of whether a particular activity is morally right or wrong will be advanced via experimentation.

​Key Terminology

  • Simulated killing
  • Paradox of Tragedy
  • Higher and lower pleasures
  • Risk-increasing Acts

Watch the 2015 film Gamechangers starring Daniel Radcliffe. This film looks at the court case between the creators of Grand Theft Auto and Jack Thompson. How do you think the film deals with the ethical issues? Do you think that a particular ethical theory comes out as more favourable?


What is “simulated killing”?


How might you consider (a) the simulated killing of animals? Should it be treated any differently from the simulated killing of humans? (b) young children playing games that involve killing, e.g. a playground game of soldiers.


Should we treat “simulated killing” differently from other “simulated” actions, such as stealing or rape?


Imagine a case in the future where one can buy ultra-life like AI robots. These robots can be “killed”. They will “bleed”, they have been programmed to beg for mercy, to whimper, etc. Once they have been “killed” they can be reset and “killed again”. Should we treat this case differently? What happens if the robots are so lifelike that people no longer know the difference between them and real humans? Does that change things?


Governments have censored video games, such as Call of Duty, and Hatred. Are they right to do so? That is, even if we find them immoral, how might this relate to laws governing “simulated killing”?


What is the “Paradox of Tragedy”? Do you think it has any relevance when discussing the morality of simulated killing?


Use Google Scholar to find the most up-to-date research on the psychological effects of “simulated killing” (any version you want). What does the current psychological research tell us about the ethical issues raised in this chapter?

​© 2017 Mark Dimmock and Andrew Fisher

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