Speluncean Explorers

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Warning: graphic language follows.

The Speluncean Explorers is a hypothetical thought experiment, consisting of an invented series of facts, and a series of judicial opinions from invented justices of the "Newgarth" Supreme Court.

In the hypothetical fact set, a group of explorers is caught in a subterranean cave-in. Rescue is on its way, but the explorers will run out of food and all die, unless they are able to eat. Upon evacuation, it is found that one of the explorers was killed and eaten in an act of cannibalism. The remaining explorers are charged with murder, and convicted.

Upon appeal, the Supreme Court considers whether extreme circumstances justify criminal acts, whether politics matters to law, and other important legal philosophies.[1]

The case is often taught in political philosophy classes at a university, to ask students to consider the intersection of law and morality. It is also often used as a sample case at the start of law school to introduce students to legal reasoning.


  1. http://www.nullapoena.de/stud/explorers.html