Sunday, 27 December 2015

Regarding Robert's Pardon.

I noted from the BBC World News pages that the actor Robert Downey Jr has been granted a pardon for a 20-year-old drug conviction. The news item contained the following lines:

A proclamation from Mr Brown's office says Downey Jr has "lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character, and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen".

I suppose that being concerned as to whether a person has ‘lived an honest and upright life’ might be considered reasonable in the circumstances, although the definition of ‘upright’ is questionable; and ‘conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen’ is merely a statement of fact. What concerns me is ‘exhibited good moral character.’

Which version of morality is being considered here? I assume it’s the American 21st century moderate and mainstream Christian variety, because there’s a problem with morality. Unlike ethics, which are more or less universal, concepts of morality vary from time to time to time, culture to culture, and even community to community. Things which are considered immoral in one culture can be considered perfectly acceptable in another, and that even applies to the use of drugs. Morality is, therefore, little more than conditioned cultural prejudice.

So is that any basis on which to establish and assess criminality, or is it just another case of confusing justice with judgementalism?

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