This is something I brought up before, but I wasn't exactly satisfied with the responses.

Here's the idea: there is some law that you feel is immoral. Is it moral for you to break that law?

And if you say yes, a followup: there is some action you feel is very immoral, but which current law allows. Is it morally acceptable to use force to try to prevent this action from occuring?

Examples of laws for the first question:
- laws against homosexuality(action here would be engaging in homosexual sex
- laws against drug use(action here would be using/selling drugs)
- laws against prostitution(action here would be being or paying for the services of a prostitute)

Examples of laws for the second question:
- laws permitting abortion(action here might be shooting an abortion doctor)
- laws permitting slavery(action here might be freeing slaves(stealing the master's property) or killing the slaveowner)
- some other kind of vigilante action, taking the law into your own hands IOW

My opinion: in your own eyes, or in the eyes of a third party who holds the same views as you, any of the above examples would be moral(assuming you thought the law was wrong). To others, it wouldn't, but that's not really the point. Anyone want to explain/disagree with this somewhat disturbing conclusion?

OK, mmoin, so here's the question: you live in the north in the antebellum US. An escaped slave comes to your door asking for some food. Do you obey the law and capture him and send him back to his master?

I realize there are some huge practical problems with what I'm saying, but there are with what you're saying too. If we knew the government was always right, or that the individuals in a society were, this would an easier decision to make.

By the same token, however, is it ok to own slaves because you believe that the 13th Amendment is immoral because it restricts one's right to property? Or should sexual harassment be permissible because to enact a law against it would abridge our inalienable right to free speech? There is an enormous problem in that one's absolute morals can often differ greatly from those of a society in aggregate. Codes of laws for our society, or any society for that matter, are generally created to best reflect the moral beliefs of the largest number of people in the society. When people to disobey the moral code there is chaos, because two different people can see the same law quite differently (think of Prohibition or affirmative action, for example).

Natural law theorist Plato believed strongly in the notion that "it is just to disobey an unjust law." This attitude differs greatly from his mentor, Socrates, who believed that citizens had a duty to convince the state of injustices of the law, but ultimately had to obey the law if attempts to change it failed.

There are also some positive law theorists who believe in the ultimate obedience of the law as it is written. A citizen is permitted stay in a state provided that he/she obeys the laws of the state.

So it is a real tossup. Being a citizen of Canada, I have some form of moral contract with my country to obey her laws. However, what if I was personally involved in a situation which I felt strongly about? Should emotion be allowed in a legal decision?

Although, practically speaking, if I was in a situation in which I felt that I had been treated unjustly I would probably lose my cool and attempt to take the law into my own hands, when thinking with a clear mind, I would realize, theoretically speaking, that by doing so, I would be toying dangerously with the delicate fabric of law. What should be done about the situation is that I should take the matter through legal channels to find a solution that does not involve breaking another law at the same time.

The law has such power because it's citizens respect it. Without this respect for the law and what it serves to protect and accomplish, societies will find themselves in turmoil and disorder. To keep a semblance of order in a society, respect of the law is needed, and therefore I would say that it is not moral to break the law, and that it should not be morally acceptable to break another law in order to avenge the unjustness of another law.

I prefer to unask the question by asserting that laws have no business governing morals and morals lie outside any laws one cares to set.

Morals, after all, reflect a person’s vision of the world, his or her perspective of right and wrong, applicable and not applicable, best and worst. Everything a person does, thinks, and feels is determined by that person’s vision of the world.

If you wish to instill healthy, productive morals in a society, then give the society a healthy, productive vision of the world. If this can be done, most laws will hardly be necessary.

But while many people have what we can call a healthy, productive vision of the world, our culture as a whole doesn’t. As such, we have to start enacting laws to hopefully control their behavior after the fact. Laws are always punitive. They don’t prevent a behavior; they address what we’ll do when the behavior arises. They don’t really address the moral issues, although many of them purport to be morally based. They have little to do with morals at all, which is why so many of them have never worked.

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