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 IAmAnAtheist » Should I Obey the Law? (Part 2)

Should I Obey the Law? (Part 2)


It’s okay to break the law in extreme circumstances.

Q1 Analysis

This is not a Q1 violation unless your criteria for determining what constitutes an extreme circumstance are in conflict with other beliefs or (possibly) if you believe that some laws should be obeyed just because they are laws.

Q2 Analysis

This is not a Q2 violation if you will allow others to break laws in what they think are extreme circumstances.


There are times when it can be argued with relative ease that obeying morality overrides an obligation to obey the law. For example, it is clearly morally allowable to trespass into someone’s back yard for the purposes of saving a drowning child.

How extremely dire a circumstance must be before criminal action is allowed must be rigorously defined. For example, it can be argued that stealing to save your family from starving is allowable when there is truly no other alternative. But you would be hard-pressed to argue effectively that if you didn’t shoplift the new Metallica CD you would curl up and die.

It should be noted that being morally allowed to break the law does not free you from having to pay the legal penalty for your actions. Courts may be lenient in the face of extenuating circumstances, but they are not required to be. Of course, if your family is in such dire need that you must embezzle from your employer, then it is in such dire need that you should be willing to embezzle no matter what the consequences may be. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you are breaking the law because there is truly no other choice, not because you think you can get away with it.

In which (if any) of these situations would you feel morally justified to break the law?

You are encouraged to leave your answers to the questions posed in this post in the comments section. This post is based on an excerpt from Ask Yourself to be Moral, by D. Cancilla, available at LuLu.com and Amazon.com. See the 2Q system page for details of the philosophical system mentioned in this post.

Posted on October 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: 2Q

One Response

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  1. Written by Pratik Ray
    on November 29, 2010 at 8:46 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I’d be morally justified with:

    avoid hitting a child by swerving down a one-way street in the wrong direction, driving drunk after getting a panicked call from my babysitter (evolutionary programmed to care for my offspring..can’t help there), speeding to save my nephew, smoking marijuana.

    For the rest of them, I don’t think I’d be morraly cmfortable with.

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