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Thu, 05 Jun 2003
I really have issues with the word
No. Pirates were people who forcibly boarded other ships, killed men, raped women, and other horrendous acts. To equate people who copy music—an action which causes no physical harm to any other being in the universe—with murderers and rapists is, in my opinion, to engage in a very henious act of language engineering.
Unfortunately this usage seems to have been around for quite a while. At least since 1913.
One idea that's been slowly emerging in my mind over the last few years is the concept of flexibility in law. I'm talking specifically about the judicial aspect of things: what you are responsible for when you take on the role of judging another human.
I used to believe that the letter of the law was what was important; you as judge or jury member had the duty of interpreting the law to the best of your ability and determining whether or not the defendant had violated it. That was the whole and the extent of your duty.
Nowadays, I don't think it's quite that cut and dry. I have come to believe that we as human beings have a responsibility to society to create and maintain human society, and this means taking into account what we intuitively feel is right and wrong—our a priori beliefs in the degree of wrongness of an act. This means that the our judgment should not be based solely on the letter, or even the spirit, of the law.
The fundamental idea that provides this belief is that we are humans and not machines. It can be convenient to think of the universe as clockwork around us, and at some deep physical level it may be, but at the level of social interactions, we live in a human world. A world where there are always shades of gray, there are always situations which the creators of the law simply didn't take into account or couldn't forsee (through fault or no fault of their own), and things are rarely black and white.
This doesn't mean, I don't think, that the idea of declaring things legal or illegal has to change. (Though certainly it is related to my hatred of so-called
The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not. -- Mark Twain