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Old 01-18-2006, 06:02 PM   #1
Neal Winkler
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I'm wondering if anyone is interested in having a philosophy question of the day (POD) segment here in the community section. I figure that we needn't have a new question EVERYday, as it make take several days before the previous question has started to settle down.

What I will do (or anyone else can do for that matter since it's not like I'm the POD dictator or anything) is post a philosophy question, and possibly a short argument in support or against the proposition in question to get the discussion started.

So, today's question is...

Is it the purpose of the law to legislate morality?

As I see it, there must be some sort of relationship between morality and the law.

While it may not be true that anything that is immoral must also be illegal, it is at least true that anything that is illegal must also be immoral. The reason is that if for any given law, if breaking that law were not also immoral, you could answer the question, "What did I do wrong?" with "Absoutely nothing," which, to me, doesn't make any sense. Furthermore, that person would incur a punishment all the while they have ever done anything wrong.

Similarly, it follows that while not necessarily everything that is legal should be moral, everything that is moral should be legal.

Finally, I would like to submit that any individual that does not believe there is morality does not have a the conceptual resources to answer the question of what should and should not be the case in this instance.
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Old 01-18-2006, 06:29 PM   #2
Lisa Sorbo
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please define your terms - immoral, moral, legal, illegal. Are you saying that, by definition, the breaking of a law, any law, is an immoral act?

You can pass a (stupid) law that says it is illegal for me to water my lawn on even-numbered days. I water my lawn on the 2nd. It is unlawful - is it also immoral by definition?

You can pass a law that I must turn over any and all members of group X that I know or know of to the proper governmental authorities.

If I fail to do so, is that immoral? Does it make a difference if Group X are known felons suspected of new crimes or undocumented workers / illegal aliens in California in 2005 (by *definition* lawbreakers themselves) or Jews in Denmark or Poland in the 1940s?
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Old 01-18-2006, 06:29 PM   #3
Lisa Sorbo
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oh, and to answer the first question. No, that is not the purpose of either criminal or civil laws.

(Message edited by LisaS on January 18, 2006)
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Old 01-18-2006, 06:44 PM   #4
Neal Winkler
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Lisa, no, I'm not saying that breaking a law is by definition immoral at all. What I'm saying is that is if some action is illegal, we should make sure that that action is immoral as well, as it wouldn't make any sense to have something illegal that is not also immoral.

Since the law is regulated by morality in this way, then there must be some sort of relationship between the law and morality.
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Old 01-18-2006, 07:01 PM   #5
Chuck Pelowski
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I wonder what Karl Marx would say... :wink:
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Old 01-18-2006, 07:35 PM   #6
Neal Winkler
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Nothing, he's dead! *ba da bing*
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Old 01-18-2006, 10:43 PM   #7
Tim Weaver
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The issue with Morality-based laws is that they are based on the morals of those who pass them.

Some might find smoking marijuana immoral. Some not.

Some might think that having sex while not married is immoral. Others not.

Gambling. Prostitution. Drinking. The list goes on and one.

Why should your belief that gambling is immoral trump my desire to take a chance of doubling or losing my money at the craps table? ("you" third-person singular usage here...)?

This gets back to the old discussion in my Criminology classes of Mala En Se versus Mala Ad Prohibitum laws....those laws which regulate things that are "bad in themselves" (murder, rape, etc.) versus "that which is bad merely because they are prohibited".

War on Alcohol, War on Drugs, War on Tobacco, etc.
We've tried to legislate morality...a LOT. It always fails.
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Old 01-19-2006, 12:31 AM   #8
Chuck Pelowski
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Hey, another Criminology guy. Good stuff. I'll be finishing my bachelor's in Criminology in May.
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Old 01-19-2006, 12:56 AM   #9
Andy Shirley
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Short answer: NO.

The purpose of law is to provide for the public safety. As far as development of a moral system, claiming something is immoral based only on its illegality is way down the heirarchy(at least by the conventional/Kohlberg stages).
short overview here: http://www.xenodochy.org/ex/lists/moraldev.html

How far down the heirarchy depends on your perspective(fear of punishment vs respect for law and order).

Of course the problem of applying any morality broadly is that not everyone follows the same rules. If everyone was at the high-end(universal ethical principle, categorical imperative, golden rule) then we wouldn't really have the problems we have.

I am not a fan of legislating morality, mainly because I am not a Christian, and if anyone's views end up legislated, it will be those.

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Old 01-19-2006, 06:55 AM   #10
Tirzah Harper
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I would say no...nor should it be.

I make 'laws' for my kids all the time: Don't eat in the living room, don't have caffeine within three hours of bedtime, put your clean clothes AWAY, etc., that have nothing to do with morality and everything to do with, for lack of a better term, the general public welfare.

And the 'laws' I hold them to that seem to have more to do with morality (don't lie to me, don't hit each other, do your work honestly and well) are still not meant for their morals (or mine) but again for the general public welfare as a whole.

Which is why I hold firm that *** marriage (not to introduce another topic for discussion) should be legalized: The only valid reasons for opposing it are religious or moral. There is no non-religious harm to the public by legalizing it. Religion--yours OR mine--has no business making public laws.
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