This is an interesting philosophical question that I've pondered on before: When is a man, if ever, justified in breaking the law?

It depends, in part, on how one defines the function of government to begin with, and whether the state exists to serve man or man exists to serve the state, of course. One must also mind that niches such as 'defensive murder' are typically covered in law; a person is not usually punished for defending themselves against another trespassing on their property who has just killed their entire family and who has shown definite intent to kill the person in question who has therefore murdered the offender. So to say 'in defense for my life' directly is not really a valid answer to the question, unless we're also examining Christian laws, which I am also open to if Christians would like to add their two cents on whether it's ever okay to break one of the ten commandments. Interpret this question however you can best answer it.

I'll add my own two cents later on, I don't want to affect anyone's answer with examples right away.

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The simple answer is "When the law is unjust." At least, that was Martin Luther King Jr's simple answer when his movement peacefully disobeyed the law on countless occasions. They were thrown in jail each time, as they knew they would be. They were prepared to suffer the consequences for breaking the law because, even though it was unjust, it was still the law and one cannot expect to break it without being punished.

The trouble is that "unjust" is relative. Might not a pedophile feel it's "unjust" to deny him the one thing he desires most in the whole world? Mightn't he consider it horribly oppressive and unjust to ask that he suffer a life of loneliness and celibacy?

Ah, but then let's put him to the MLK test! Would he be willing to break the age-of-consent law in full view of the public, knowing he'll be "unjustly" imprisoned for it? Would he be willing to face the consequences of his actions at the hands of his "oppressors" simply to prove a point and raise awareness? Does he truly believe his "cause" to be so "just" that he would willingly face imprisonment or even death for it?

And that, is my answer. A man is justified in breaking the law when he feels the law is so unjust that he cannot obey it in good conscious *and* he is willing to accept the consequences of his illegal acts. MLK was such a man, the pedo in my example is probably not :)

I'd also add the caveat that MLK did not harm anyone when he broke the law. That's an important consideration as well.
In other words, when a man is willing to become a martyr to reveal a gaping hole of illogicity in our law. Then I ask: What if a pedophile WAS willing to, say, announce their undying love for a particular minor and admit their "consensual" sexual acts together and martyr himself to the law willingly to try and prove some point about minors being able to consent to relationships? Would it make it right for him to have done what he did to the child? Or is the martyrdom example also limited to certain instances?
An interesting question to my hypothetical pervert. If one pedophile did that, I'd say that he at least truly believes his own bullshit and, pedo or not, I'd have to give the guy props for having a huge set of balls. Or he could simply be insane (more than you'd expect for a pedo, I mean).

But then, if pedophiles all over the country started doing this en masse, I suspect that society would find itself questioning its own convictions about such people. At the very least, freethinkers and men of science would have to question whether thousands and thousands of men would martyr themselves if all that's involved are puerile sexual desires. I certainly wouldn't go to jail for a piece of ass, would you? Ah, but this is purely hypothetical and in reality I don't think we're ever going to see any such thing happen. Unless, of course, the entire world actually IS wrong about pedophiles, which is something I find to be very unlikely (and I'm sure you do as well). In the event that we're all the crazy ones and they're perfectly sane, I expect that evolution (either biological or societal) will fix that on its own, so I'm not concerned about it. Then again, look back to the 1950s and the "scientific" opinion of "homophiles" and then look at where homosexuals are today. Now there's a vision of the future to keep you awake at night, eh? LOL!

Anyway, except for religion (which twists reality and doesn't follow logical pathways), I don't think we have to worry about people breaking unjust laws that aren't actually unjust. At least, not in large enough numbers to count for anything. There's always people who break the law and then string a line of bullshit about how they were justified in doing so. Those people aren't what I'm talking about and, in fact, I used the example of pedophiles to explicitly exclude such people.
I would break any law that is unjust and if broken wont hurt anyone. A law that is designed to stop specific beliefs or, I guess that's a pretty simple explanation.
Well there are beliefs of flying planes into large buildings, I would hope the law stop those beliefs. So how do you define what is unjust?
What ever you think I'm suggesting, I'm sure you're wrong. My real question is, what measuring stick can one use to rule something just or unjust. So no, I'm not trying to bash Muslims. I'm not attempting to exalt Christianity above the rest. So no need to be hostile. Don't worry, I'm going to be taking a break from this site for a little while. So you won't have to see my name pop up for at least 3 months.
I believe that Jon's qualifier of it not hurting anyone answers this question.
that would hurt someone...that goes against the first statement.
What if nobody is in the building, and nobody but the person flying the plane into the building is in the plane, so the only person it's hurting is the perpatrator? Is it okay for them to fly the plane into the building then?
No, because they're hurting the building's owner(s) financially. That may not be what you meant by "hurt" but we do have a Constitutional protection against our life, liberty, or PROPERTY being taken from us unjustly. To lose a building is harmful.
While I am all for taking responsibility for the consequences of one's action or inaction, I'm not sure that that alone is justification for breaking the law.

Is a man justified in beating his child to death if he then goes to the police station and confesses?

If a person drinks far too much and while driving home causes an accident that kills a family of four - is their action justified if they own up to it and accept their due punishment?
It's OK, I think I can understand what you mean by consequences - being that they reach much further than just the individual involved. However, if I have judged what you mean correctly, I would still not be convinced that acceptance of such is justification.

I view justification, in this context, as the reasoning that makes an action right when it would otherwise be wrong - regardless of any legal ramifications.

I fail to see how a person's willingness to take responsibility for the consequences of beating their child to death, no matter how broad the conseqences may be or how burdensome the responsibility is, can make the action right.

Apologies in advance if I have misconstrued what you meant.


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