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I see what you're saying, but - and I mean this constructively - you can take a rather roundabout way of saying it which fogs your meaning.

Anyway...

> So when a particular society legislates a law, you don't necessarily have to take it as if that particular society has settled a universal moral question

Point taken, but laws can be plain immoral, even evil. Laws should be as moral as possible. Laws without a moral backing would seem to be meaningless.

But lets put that aside, let's take your intended point that laws are an attempt to formalise morality, and lets also assume morality is what we'd call moral (not oppressing women/minorities/certain religions/etc). You say

> but you cannot equivocate on a law

but you damn well can! In the UK the definition of theft involves intent. From wiki "[...] if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it"

It's all about intent. It's the crux of it IIRC (and I did a short course in law). A lot of law is about intent. I hit a person in the face. Deliberate? I get spanked. Genuine unavoidable accident? I get let off. Intent is central. It is very equivocable.

In our case, which of 8chan's members are in it for pure lulz, and which because they really want to start a race war. Hard to tell intent.

Still sounds like the world is a cleaner place without them lot.




> but you damn well can!

That's not equivocation, it's what I called nuance, and mentioned the judiciary's role in managing it. With ethics you can say, "this is a hard question," and leave it at that; with the law, you must decide. The judge or jury must ultimately decide whether to punish the possible thief or not, and if so, how -- say, by making a decision on intent, perhaps taking degrees into account. Either society decides to shut 8chan down or not; "it's complicated" isn't an option (I mean, it may well be, but a decision must be reached). So whatever ethics is at play, and however complicated it is, a decision on action must be and is made.

And BTW, not every offense must have criminal intent. Traffic violations, for example, do not (in the jurisdictions I know). Murder, as it is defined in many jurisdictions, requires intent, but even without it killing is often a very serious offense (e.g. you can kill through an intent to endanger, and you can kill through negligence, and you'll end up in prison for both).




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