The Case of Spelunkers

Published: 2022/01/11
Number of words: 1418

In the case of the Spelunkers, “the surviving explorers need to face repercussions for their actions”. The action of these explorers that led to the killing of one of their own for food is unethical. Such actions require condemnations and actors need to face the death penalty. The case of the spelunkers brings into perspective a scenario where a group of explorers stay trapped in cave. With minimum food provisions, these groups of explorers have little to quench their starvation. With the possibility of facing starvation, some of the surviving explorers decide to kill one of their own and eat his flesh for survival. The case brings into perspective how the community should prosecute such individuals, the ethical consideration of the case and the intentions of the spelunkers’ explorers (Appiah, 2008).

According to judicial practice, the case of the Spelucean Explorers on a cave provides various reactions and perspective on the prosecution of cases as well as the exploration of court cases relating to cannibalism. This case represents a philosophical analysis on the subject of human cannibalism as brought by the hypothetical analysis of the case in which explorers are trapped in a cave without food (Suber, 2002). The case provides one with one of the most shocking legal puzzle of its time. According to information on the case as provided by Lon Fuller, it comes out clear that readers of laws, as well as enthusiast have five possible solutions to this hypothetical case.

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Moreover, one needs to interrogate his consciousness basing on judicial opinions as projected by judges sitting in a fictitious court. The case brings fourth scenario that narrates events of five explorers. According to their story, the five explorers decide to take a tour in a cave. While inside the cave the passage caves because of a landslide living making them trapped for days (Fuller 1949). These explorers face tremendous emotional as well as physical strain. To add to their injury, they further learn through a radio transmission that without food they would face starvation.

This then is the point one starts questioning their ethics as well as their human nature. Since of these individuals value they live more than that of others they decide that they would not die of starvation. Their possible solution to starvation would be killing and eating one of them. This case further provides one another opinion. One is able to make a conscious judgment that normal humans would have first resorted in finding their way out of the cave before thinking of saving their souls from starvation. However, from the case one grasps the fact that the explorers decide to throw dice in order to choose who was to die. After throwing their dice, Roger Whetmore became the victim (Suber, 2002).

The exploring team was members of the Speluncean community, a team that had interests in exploring caves. On this fateful day, they took a journey on a remote plateau. Once inside the cave boulders fell on the entrance blocking their known exit point out of then place. On realizing this, this team set out to wait for a rescue since they had wireless connections. Therefore, the failure of these individuals to return home meant that other society’s members had to notify their families of their predicament. It was now the task of rescue teams to try to save these men from their prison (Fuller 1949). However, the rescue mission had its challenges that rescue teams lost some men and heavy machinery had to be employed. However, on the thirty-second day rescue teams were able to pull them out of the prison. The rescue teams however came to learn of Whetmore death and the fact that he became a meal for his companions.

Matters related to this case are not text that would be of legal truth. The case employs the use of fictions; as would literature texts. It is only the application of fictions in the formulation of the impacts of such scenario in the legal field. This then provides an important basis for future cases and in the development of opinions regarding cases. According to judges’ response on the case, one realizes the importance of the interdependence between literature and law. Fuller, perhaps provides a different perspective to the response of judgment on such cases; providing a scenario where literature and use of fiction would be of importance in law (Kwong, 2005). In this narrative, one can state that the writer provides certain perspectives that indicate the use of literature in explaining cases.

According to the first response of a judge in relation to the case, Justice Truepenny explains that the case is unambiguous. He further states that in responding to the case one needs to consider that the case has no legal defenses meaning that its administration would be at the law courts. In relation to murder, courts would always rule whether one is guilty or not and such cases would lead to imprisonment or death. The judge further argues that in such cases, it the responsibility of the executive to grant mercy and not the judiciary (Cleveland, 2004).

The opinion of the second judge to the case provides another perspective. According to Justice Foster, these men were in a “state of nature”. He further argues that in such situations the law of nature applies. In his response, he states that the law of nature would allow one to sacrifice humans in order for the survival of the rest. On another angle, the judge argues that provided the laws of “New garth” are applicable, then judgments would have to take a functional approach (Raz, 2009). Additionally, the judge provides another perspective by stating that the main purpose of the law is to deter crimes rather, and the explorers killed their companion for survival. In providing these perspectives, the judge then provides a barrier to ‘Judicial activism’ where he argues that judicial officers must not just obey the will of the community and legislatures but do so intelligently (D’Amato, 2010).

Further analysis of the case reveals the opinions of other judges on the case. Justice Tatting contrasts the arguments on that state of nature. On the other hand, he argues that the functional approach on the case would not solve judicial dilemma. The judge states this with the preposition that cases have many functions that related to criminal law (D’Amato, 2010). The judge then raises an illustration stating that starvation would not be a justification in stealing loaves of bread. Justice Keen another important judge in the case argues that the executive’s mercy would not be an option to the case. He argues that an important step toward ruling on the case would be the application of the “Newgath” principle.

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The court has the responsibility of determining whether the defendants took the life of Whetmore willingly. In his judgment, the judge provides an argument that court case needs analysis based on morality, as well as legality of the law. Another judge to the case Justice Handy bases his arguments on the use of wisdom rather than the use of legal theories on the abstract in solving cases. He argues that judgments need to favor human realities (Raz, 2009).

The case of the Speluncean Explorers provides a basis for identification of literacy skills and qualities in the analysis of cases. The case provides a fictitious approach to the judgment of cases. In this case, the narrator takes the reader to a journey where individual would lose their morality and human nature. In this case, explorers remain trapped in a cave. If they do not eat, they would lose lives (Fuller 1949). This then means that they have to eat one of their companions for survival. On providing judgments to the case different judges, relay diverse perspectives on the case.


Appiah, A. (2008). Experiments in ethics. Harvard University Press.

Cleveland, S. J. (2004). Judicial Discretion and Statutory Interpretation. Oklahoma Law Review57(1), 31-39.

D’Amato, A. (2010). The Effects of Legal Theories on Judicial Decisions. Northwestern university school of law working papers.

Fuller, Lon L. 1949. The Case of The Speluncean Explorers. Harvard law review, 62(4)

Kwong, W. H. (2005). Lifting the legal veil in The case of the speluncean. Law and Literature17, 47-68.

Raz, J. (2009). The authority of law: essays on law and morality. Oxford University Press.

Suber, P. (2002). The Case of The spelucean Explorers: Nine New Oppinions.Routledge.

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