Can you think of situations in which murder, rape, or cannibalism would be acceptable?

Crimes Mala in se and Mala Prohibita

Based on your readings for this week write a response in at least 250-300 words to the following prompt:

In discussions of criminal law, wrongful acts are sometimes classified as mala in se (wrong in themselves) or mala prohibita (wrong because they are prohibited).

Crimes that are wrong-in-themselves are objectively and universally wrong – they have always, everywhere, been wrong and will continue to be that way. Behaviors such as murder, rape, cannibalism, and incest are common examples of crimes mala in se.

In contrast, other behaviors are considered wrong only because a given society has defined them that way.  Crimes mala prohibita are those that are not objectively or universally recognized as wrong; rather, their wrongfulness varies by time, place, and culture. Common examples of behaviors that are wrong only because we have defined them that way include gambling, prostitution, underage drinking, and other “victimless” crime. The idea that there is nothing inherently or objectively wrong about these types of behaviors implies that they be acceptable for some people in some places.

  • Do you agree that there are some behaviors that are objectively and universally wrong or evil? Explain why or why not? Other than those suggested above, name two other possible examples of crimes mala in se and why they would be considered to be in this category.
  • Can you think of situations in which murder, rape, or cannibalism would be acceptable? What would these situations be? Are there any ways in which culture, time period, or even specific situations might make them objectively wrong? Explain your answer.

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