To what extent do you feel that human beings need rules to be moral, and to what extent do you feel they should be free to adapt their behavior to different situations?  Can you include an example or illustration to help me completely understand your thoughts?

This is a deeply philosophical question that rests largely on personal beliefs and interpretations of theological, philosophical, and sociological ideas. Consider someone who steals bread to feed their starving family. Are they morally wrong for breaking the law, or morally right for feeding their family?

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In answering this question, the first three ideas you should resolve are about morality. The first idea to resolve is defining what morality is or, at the very least, what you understand it to be for the purpose of this answer. You could provide a personal answer or address several...

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In answering this question, the first three ideas you should resolve are about morality. The first idea to resolve is defining what morality is or, at the very least, what you understand it to be for the purpose of this answer. You could provide a personal answer or address several different definitions and choose between them. For some, morality maybe about "the good," while for others it may be about social harmony and cohesion. Determining what the nature of morality is, at least on an abstract level, necessary to determine whether rules are necessary. As a part of this determination, it is also necessary to determine morality rests with action or intention. For example, the action of giving to charity may be deemed moral because the act is moral in itself. However, if a person is only giving to charity to gain acclaim, then their intention would be corrupt. Therefore, determining whether this action is moral requires a determination as to whether morality is the act itself or the intention behind the act, or some combination of the two.

The second major issue to resolve is whether morality is objective or relative. If morality is objective, then every person in existence (and every person throughout history) should have a similar understanding of morality. This may impact the need for official rules as a similar conception of morality allows individuals to be judged based on a common metric in different environs and contexts. Relative morality may require more specific and official rules to enforce because outsiders entering a specific culture with a different understanding of morality may act in ways they consider moral but are considered immoral within another culture. Within this issue, there is a separate issue as to whether morality is constant or situational. For instance, a constant morality might say that stealing is wrong, meaning that it is always immoral to steal regardless of the motivation or the consequence. A situational morality, by contrast, would look at the specific situation and judge based on motivations, consequences, and harms. As an example, stealing a loaf of bread to feed a family would be immoral in the constant morality conception. However, in situational morality it could be considered moral, especially if the bread is being stolen from someone with abundant food and the thief has tried many legal avenues of feeding their family.

The final issue to address is whether morality is inherent to individuals or whether it is created. Essentially, are people inherently good or evil. If people are inherently good then rules would not be necessary to ensure morality because people would already be moral. If people are immoral, then rules are necessary to ensure morality, but there is the complication that immoral people may be incapable of creating moral rules, thus if people are immoral then any created rules may have the impact of making people immoral. Of course, if morality is merely a descriptor for desirable behavior and morality is relative, then people cannot be inherently moral or immoral because an individual's morality would be dependent upon the circumstances in which they live.

Finally, there is a further issue with the nature of rules. If by rules we mean formal laws and proclamations, then we would of necessity have to determine either that rules are not necessary for morality or that tribal societies without a government or written laws could not be moral. However, if by rules we mean both formal laws and proclamations and informal social conformance pressures, then we would have to conclude that rules are necessary for morality unless we can identify a moral individual who has grown up without any social conformance pressures.

As to the balancing of rules and freedom, this is in itself a moral determination. Political philosophers in particular have concerned themselves with the existence of individual rights and the extent to which these may be necessarily curtailed in creating a society. Regardless, as social creatures human are be default limited in their freedom. The ultimate balancing act depends on how one conceives morality and the nature of humans.

In the end, this question essentially asks for the answer to a question that has plagued moral philosophers, theologians, and political philosophers since the days of Socrates. There is no objective answer, and any answer you provide is "right" to the extent that it conforms to logic.

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I would argue that human beings do need rules (which can come from a variety of sources) to govern their behaviors.  By adhering to these rules, human beings can act in ways that are morally acceptable.  However, these rules cannot be excessively specific and strict.  Instead, they need to be more of general guidelines that can be adapted to fit the wide variety of circumstances that human beings can find themselves in.

To think about how this is so, let us think about the idea of sexual morality within a marriage.  When two people get married, they are generally promising that they will be sexually exclusive within that marriage.  This could be a rule by which they should live.  The rule would be that no person who is married should engage in sexual activity with anyone other than their spouse.  By following this rule, the spouses would be acting in a moral way.

But this rule might be too strict and inflexible to cover all of the situations that might arise in a marriage.  Let us say, for example, that one of the partners in the marriage were to completely lose his or her ability and desire to engage in sexual activity.  Let us imagine that this were to happen while the partners were still relatively young.  Would it be right to expect the other partner to completely forego sex for the rest of their life?  This is much more of a gray area.  In such a situation, it might be necessary for the couple to be free to adapt their behavior.  It might be better for their marriage if the spouse who still wanted to be sexually active were able to engage in sexual activity with someone else.  This might be a better solution for that couple than forcing one partner to remain involuntarily celibate and forcing the other partner to feel guilty about depriving their partner of a sexual outlet.  If the couple were able to adapt their behavior to their situation (rather than being bound by a hard-and-fast rule about fidelity), their marriage might be more likely to survive.  This would be a better outcome for them if we assume that they still love one another.

So, I would say that it is necessary to have rules.  If we have no rules whatsoever, there are no brakes on human behavior and chaos ensues.  However, if our rules are excessively inflexible, we can deny people the ability to adapt to situations that are not really consistent with those rules. 

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