Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Breaking the law

  1. Jan 2, 2005 #1
    If somebody (John) hurted somebody else (Mary) breaking the law and John can not be punished by any body in any way other than Mary hurting John breaking the law too, should Mary still punish John?
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2005 #2
    If the law was broken by John, wouldn't the authorities punish John?
  4. Jan 2, 2005 #3


    User Avatar

    either i'm stoned off my ass, or i simply don't understand this at all. would clarification be much to ask?
  5. Jan 3, 2005 #4
    something along the lines of: "is it resonable for someone to break the law to punish someone else who broke the law, if that was the only way to punish those responsible"
  6. Jan 3, 2005 #5


    User Avatar

    well then .. is the law just? what law is broken? that matters. for me, anyway, laws mean ****. what i find morally good or bad is a far greater force than what some abstract gov't finds good or bad.
    perhaps murder or perhaps rape or perhaps anything of that sort .. i'd be more likely to take the "law" into my hands, so to speak, if i were greatly affected. ****, i'm tired.
  7. Jan 4, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Somehow this is taking me to the overall justification for 'punishment', and what it ought to be, irrespective of who carries it out and whether it results from a law or any other code.
  8. Aug 25, 2005 #7
    What wasn't this topic popular???
  9. Aug 29, 2005 #8


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It just doesn't make sense, that's all. If you clarify, you may get more responses.
  10. Aug 29, 2005 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Well, in some type of society, we might think that to get your nose tweaked by the victim (or the victim's relatives) in public would be such an assault on the offender's sense of dignity that this public act might suffice as punishment for any crime committed.

    Suppose further, that it is a crime to unprovokedly tweak somebody's else's nose.

    Then, your problem disappears if the law is forme roughly like this:
    "It is forbidden to tweak somebody's else's nose unless yours was tweaked first or if any other type of crime has been committed against you from the one whose nose you're tweaking".

    In such a society, your problem won't appear.
  11. Sep 5, 2005 #10
    One way I could see this situation as potential is if John and Mary are the only two on an island, and they have reached an agreement (i.e, a law) not to "initiate" force against one another (the nose example by Arildno). So, let us consider the morality of the situation you ask. As you can clearly see, it is only John that is a law breaker in your example at the present time, not Mary, because Mary does not "initiate" force.

    Now, to the question, "should Mary punish John" in future time? Clearly, Mary had the moral right to "defend" herself in past time, when John was trying to hurt her, but that is not what you ask, you ask if Mary should hurt John back as a way to punish in future time. For me, the correct moral answer is no because then it would be Mary that has initiated force in future time, with the motive to "punish", as opposed to the initial motive of John in past time, which was to "hurt".

    Now, does this mean that Mary should not "punish" at all. No, Mary has a moral obligation to punish in order to teach John that laws are important if the two are to coexist on the island. But now is the question, can one punish without hurting ? I think so, consider the time-out chair for children that misbehave. It is meant to teach, not to hurt. Must one always punish without hurting ? No, there are some examples of humans hurting by initiating force against other humans that result in loss of life (which are not self-defense), in such cases it would be morally correct for "society" to take the life of the person that initiated the loss of first life, for the simple reason that the only "single" person that would have such a right is now dead.

    In conclusion, to answer your question, "should Mary punish John"--I hold that the correct moral answer is yes, but never by physically and/or mentally hurting John, only to the extent that John is taught a moral lesson. Now if John has lust after Mary, we can see a clear path for Mary to take as punishment that should also teach a lasting lesson.
  12. Sep 12, 2005 #11
    mary cant take justice into her own hands because she is going to be biased as to what justice is and justice needs to be without bias. i don't think she should hurt him back because that can just as well be spite as anything else. however, if the excuse for hurting john could be considered defence, then she could hurt him back eg. john punches mary and mary breaks johns wrist to prevent a second punch that she thinks is coming.

    the problem with justice being in the hands of the victim is the victim can be carried away. the mother of a child killed by a drunk driver might honestly think its perfectly just to kill the driver's child in return.

  13. Sep 25, 2005 #12


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That's kind of mushy. A simpler concept - kill my child and I will hunt you down and kill you.
  14. Sep 30, 2005 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In order that society does not break down into "feuds", punishment should be carried out not by individuals but by the society as a whole.
  15. Oct 4, 2005 #14
    'Revenge' is what you seem to be talking about.
    Call a spade a spade.
    Punishment = Revenge!

    There is no such word as 'hurted' in the english language. The word is 'hurt', past tense, present and future; has hurt, had hurt, hurt, hurts, will hurt...
  16. Oct 4, 2005 #15
    In order that society does not break down into "feuds", I believe that all actions be carried out by individuals while intending to preserve a whole society.

    Let it be known: actions carried out by individuals while intending to harm any individual breaks "society" down into "feuds".

    Hence, a "society" which invents laws that preserve "punishment" for individuals that break "laws" invented by individuals that invented what they "think" was a "society", never was a true society to begin with.

    A true society does not have one invented law.
  17. Nov 9, 2005 #16
    To break the law is evil, to -not- punish John is not evil.

    Mary shouldn't punish him because doing so (breaking the law) is evil (and so is causing harm).
  18. Nov 16, 2005 #17
    Breaking the law isn't always evil. And, you can harm someone even if you don't break the law. I'm all for justice in any case, which isn't always what the law dictates.
  19. Nov 16, 2005 #18
    mary broke the law and that's bad but mary is breaking the law for a GOOD CAUSE. she is teaching a lesson to john so shouldn't that be good?
  20. Dec 4, 2005 #19
    The initiation of force by an individual or group against another individual or group is always wrong and should be greeted with an equal and opposite force. Defense is the opposite of aggression and has absolute moral authority over aggression, always.

    The purpose of laws, arbitration and courts is to define when and where the initiation of force takes place and to fairly resolve disputes so that resorting to violence is not regarded as a necessary option. As long as we live in a free society we should appeal to the reason of those entrusted with law enforcement and arbitration. When this fails we than must leave this realm of unreason and find one that exists or create one. Until this can be achieved all we can do is to align as best we can with reasonable people and defend ourselves as best we can.

    A strong defense is the rational approach to dealing with those for whom violence is considered reasonable. In the case of the hit and run attacker pursuit of the attacker/s to the ends of the Earth is totally justified and anyone who willfully stands in the way of a justified pursuit should be treated the same as the attacker. Those who choose not to be involved in a justified defense forfeit their right to request assistance for their defense if and when they are attacked. There is no moral obligation to come to the defense of those unwilling to defend the rights of others.

    Those who value their freedom should be prepared to come to the aid of those who share that value and are prepared to fight for theirs.
    No society is truly free until the rights of every individual in that society are respected and defended.
  21. Dec 6, 2005 #20
    Its a chicken/egg item. Without 'law enforcement' we are in a Darwin context.
    What if John hurt Mary out of negligence, instead of criminal intent? He may have 'broken the law' but it was not intentional.
    Metaphysicians would say that whatever John did to Mary was a cosmic 'payback' for one of Mary's past transgressions... even as far back as a past life and has nothing to do with John in the here and now.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook