Please discuss the link between the law and morality. If you can, please mention the following: what is moral, what is immoral, is law ever immoral, who determines the moral outcome, whose...

Please discuss the link between the law and morality. If you can, please mention the following: what is moral, what is immoral, is law ever immoral, who determines the moral outcome, whose interests are more moral?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a complicated relationship between law and morality.  The two can go together at times, but they are by no means the same thing.   Morality is a matter of personal conscience and opinion.  By contrast, the law is a set of formal rules that must be obeyed regardless of whether a person agrees with them.

An action or a thought is moral or immoral if it follows or violates a code that is established by religious or cultural opinion.  This moral code may be written down, but it does not have to be.  The code only exists if people agree with it and believe in it.  People only have to obey a given moral code if they want to.  By contrast, the law exists because some person or official body of people has the right to enact laws to govern the people.  The people do not necessarily have to believe in the rightness of the law.  Instead, they are bound to obey the law or face legal punishments. 

Laws can be moral or immoral.  There are many laws that mesh very well with our view of morality.  For example, the law prohibits theft and rape and murder.  All of these things would be immoral under almost all moral codes.  But there have also been many laws over the years that have clearly been immoral.  For example, there were laws that upheld slavery in the United States.  There were laws in Nazi Germany that persecuted the Jews.  These laws were clearly immoral.

There can be disagreements over what is moral.  Some people would have found the Nazi and pro-slavery laws immoral even at those times and places.  Others would have thought they were moral.  Morality cannot be proven.  We can never know whose opinion about morality is correct.

Thus, morality can coincide with the law and can inform laws.  However, it does not necessarily do so.  Laws do not have to be moral and moral rules do not have to be given the force of law.

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