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Defining Laws by their Moral Permissibility

phantom
Posts: 6,774
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2/7/2013 1:10:43 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think a lot of people assume that if an act is morally permissible, it should have legal status. So when they argue for the moral permissibility of something, they also assume it should be legal, and when someone else advocates the moral permissibility of an act, they view it as also an endorsement of its legal approval.

I think this is obviously incorrect, though people still often hold that view. For example, let's take torture. I think torture can be morally permissible and have little reason to find it as not so, but I'm undecided on whether certain uses of torture should be legal in any way. There are many things that are illegal that people would still view as moral under certain circumstances even if they agree on it being illegal. For example, it is illegal to drive on the wrong side of the road. I agree with that law. But is it immoral to drive on that side of the road when a tidal wave is roaring down behind you? Obviously not. But even if all law-makers agree with that thought, none of the law books are going to state that driving on the wrong side of the road is illegal and then a whole list of exceptions below ranging from, "unless there's a tidal wave behind", "an earthquakes opening up the road around you", "you're being chased by dinosaurs" etc...They just state it as illegal and leave out exceptions.

I think it's clear that laws should not be defined by their moral permissibility. That part's rather obvious. I guess the main point of this thread is to discuss how morality should play into law making and how much it does right now.
"Music is a zen-like ecstatic state where you become the new man of the future, the Nietzschean merger of Apollo and Dionysus." Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
bossyburrito
Posts: 14,075
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2/7/2013 1:15:11 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Most laws are open to interpretation though.
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Nidhogg
Posts: 503
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2/7/2013 2:19:34 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/7/2013 1:15:11 PM, bossyburrito wrote:
Most laws are open to interpretation though.
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malcolmxy
Posts: 2,855
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2/7/2013 2:44:18 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/7/2013 1:10:43 PM, phantom wrote:
I think a lot of people assume that if an act is morally permissible, it should have legal status. So when they argue for the moral permissibility of something, they also assume it should be legal, and when someone else advocates the moral permissibility of an act, they view it as also an endorsement of its legal approval.

I think this is obviously incorrect, though people still often hold that view. For example, let's take torture. I think torture can be morally permissible and have little reason to find it as not so, but I'm undecided on whether certain uses of torture should be legal in any way. There are many things that are illegal that people would still view as moral under certain circumstances even if they agree on it being illegal. For example, it is illegal to drive on the wrong side of the road. I agree with that law. But is it immoral to drive on that side of the road when a tidal wave is roaring down behind you? Obviously not. But even if all law-makers agree with that thought, none of the law books are going to state that driving on the wrong side of the road is illegal and then a whole list of exceptions below ranging from, "unless there's a tidal wave behind", "an earthquakes opening up the road around you", "you're being chased by dinosaurs" etc...They just state it as illegal and leave out exceptions.

I think it's clear that laws should not be defined by their moral permissibility. That part's rather obvious. I guess the main point of this thread is to discuss how morality should play into law making and how much it does right now.

If you rape my sister, it is immoral of me to not attempt to punish you, but it is immoral (possibly unethical) for the government to allow me to do this given the societal repercussions.

Morality depends on perspective, and a government has a wider perspective, though torture is immoral from any perspective.
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Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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2/7/2013 2:54:45 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
ut is it immoral to drive on that side of the road when a tidal wave is roaring down behind you? Obviously not.
And it's a legal defense to the charge of driving on the wrong side of the road-- i.e. in that circumstance it's not illegal to drive on the wrong side of the road. Bad argument.

What you are arguing for is applying the law-- the threat of a gun-- to people innocent of doing anything wrong.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
phantom
Posts: 6,774
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2/7/2013 10:21:59 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/7/2013 2:54:45 PM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
ut is it immoral to drive on that side of the road when a tidal wave is roaring down behind you? Obviously not.
And it's a legal defense to the charge of driving on the wrong side of the road-- i.e. in that circumstance it's not illegal to drive on the wrong side of the road. Bad argument.

I wasn't making an argument, just an observation. Obviously no justice system is going to condemn a person for violating the law in such circumstances, but it still remains that the laws imply it is illegal.

What you are arguing for is applying the law-- the threat of a gun-- to people innocent of doing anything wrong.

No....I'm not arguing anything of the sort. I'm saying the legal system isn't entirely based upon moral permissibility and advancing the moral permissibility of something (such as torture) is not to advocate it's legality. As stated at the end of the post, this thread is mainly to discuss the application of moral permissibility to laws.
"Music is a zen-like ecstatic state where you become the new man of the future, the Nietzschean merger of Apollo and Dionysus." Ray Manzarek (The Doors)
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,483
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2/7/2013 10:31:20 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I have to wear gloves where I work. Every time I move to a different position on the food prep line, I'm supposed to change gloves. I'm also not supposed to use the scoop for one tin to grab something from another tin--I have to go all the way to the kitchen to get another one. It is quite tempting, and quite easy, both to use the same gloves and to use the same scoop when no one is watching; still, though it may require effort and mindfulness, there is much to be gained from avoiding cross-contamination.
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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2/8/2013 3:13:12 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 2/7/2013 10:21:59 PM, phantom wrote:
At 2/7/2013 2:54:45 PM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
ut is it immoral to drive on that side of the road when a tidal wave is roaring down behind you? Obviously not.
And it's a legal defense to the charge of driving on the wrong side of the road-- i.e. in that circumstance it's not illegal to drive on the wrong side of the road. Bad argument.

I wasn't making an argument, just an observation. Obviously no justice system is going to condemn a person for violating the law in such circumstances, but it still remains that the laws imply it is illegal.
No, it's an actual legal defense-- it's an exception written into the penal code. I'm not talking pardons or whatever.


What you are arguing for is applying the law-- the threat of a gun-- to people innocent of doing anything wrong.

No....I'm not arguing anything of the sort. I'm saying the legal system isn't entirely based upon moral permissibility
You're saying that morally permissible things can rightly be outlawed, which means you're saying what I just said you're saying, not just that bit of fluffy vaguery I quote here.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.