Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.
Bro, what's the relationship between morals and laws? It seems like the law reflects some moral code sometimes, but we don't all agree about a moral code. And some people's moral code is religious. Is that kosher (heh)? Are they related intentionally, or just coincidentally?Andy. Bro. Great question. If our laws aren't designed around a moral code, we've got one fucking incredible coincidence to explain. Maybe the major ethical systems disagree on tons of fringe shit, but pretty much any system worth its salt agrees that cold-blooded murder and rape are not okay, bro. And, surprise! those things are illegal, along with a host of other things generally frowned upon by society.
In fact, there's a legal principle called defeasibility, which just means that exceptions are allowed to any definition of a crime if there are circumstances which we think should excuse someone. For example, second-degree murder is usually described as murder that isn't premeditated, a "crime of passion". But what if some dude threatens you, and you're passionate about not getting stabbed? "Your honor, I was defending myself from getting the fuck stabbed" is a pretty good defense to accusations of murder, and for good reason - it seems ridiculous to punish someone for protecting himself. He's not morally responsible for that! What choice did he have, Earl? None!