Grace's complete political philosophy, Rule 1

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So I got involved in a discussion the other day about my political philosophy and whether it is internally coherent. In an effort to discern for myself how internally coherent it is (or is not), I've decided to try to write it down. And who better than you to test it out on? Don't worry, I'll do it one rule at a time.

Rule 1: There is a difference between what morally correct and what is legally correct.

Which is to say, just because I think something should be legal does not necessarily mean I think it is morally OK, and just because I think something is morally justifiable does not mean I think it should necessarily be legal. Legal and moral are different categories and they exist for different reasons. Morality should not, as far as I'm concerned, be based on law; law should be based partially, if at all, on morality (if anything, it should be based on "shared morality," and that's a pretty tricky concept).

Morality is internally based, and does not necessitate pragmastism. Legality, however, is communal and does. No matter how morally justfied you can argue something is, there no reason to enter it into law unless and until it can be enforced. There are a million and one examples of this--things people SHOULD do, morally, that you can't force them to do legally because there is no practical way to do it. It goes beyond that, however. There is also the fact that even if you could force them to do it legally, forcing them to do it legally would impose your morals on them, and that is something that I, for one, find morally objectionable. That's the individual/community split, and it's a rough one.

Going the other way around, there are some things that I agree need to be illegal, but I don't necessarily have a moral issue with. This came up recently in a discussion about the death penalty, where someone pulled out the old, "if someone in my family were murdered, I would want to kill the murderer myself" line. I said what I always say, "I'd have a lot less problem with you doing it than I do with the state doing it." And that's true. While I don't argue that murder should be legal, there are cases where I don't find myself having much of a moral issue with it at all.

So there you have it, Grace's first rule. Do you feel enlightened?


I always love your blog. This post is just great, it's just what I would do if I would blog. In fact, I have considered to start blogging just to be able to discuss my philosophy, specially the paradoxes. BTW, I totally agree with you on the death sentence thing.

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