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Zombie Sammael
11-04-2011, 05:05 PM
(because I am King of Broad and Controversial Thread Titles)

Reposted from the "It was nice while it lasted..." thread:

Which is why this then becomes a moral issue instead of a "rights" issue and should be left alone and up to every individual. Laws shouldn't be regulating morality, IMO.

I'm pretty much in agreement with what you're saying about this specific issue; your arguments are reasonable, logical, and practical, which the other side can't claim at all.

But I do question this assertion. Surely the whole point of having law is that it does nothing but regulate morality? Both criminal and civil law govern acts which we consider so outside the realms of morality as to require restitution. They're wrongs, and that's morality. The whole basis of law is, surely, morality? All the things we think of as crimes, we think of as such because we (or our elected representatives) consider them morally wrong. Ditto for torts.

Rights =/= morality.

I think that the source of rights and law is morality, though. I'll try to illustrate by way of example: property rights. When you own something, you have the right to exclude others from it. Anything else is stealing. Now, this seems to me to be based on a moral position, that moral being that it is not right to deprive people of things that are rightly theirs. The whole of our law of Land, of ownership, and of theft, comes from this position, which is also based in the notion of the right of ownership. The law against theft, for instance, is based on preventing violation of this right. The purpose of doing that, to my mind, is to enforce a moral.

If morals have no place in law, then what is the point of prison sentences to punish those that violate them? Surely the very act of imposing a penalty for committing a crime requires a moral judgement, particularly where leeway is allowed to judges in sentencing people. In that circumstance, the judge surely has to make a moral judgement about the severity of the crime?

To whit, the law exists to protect rights, and those rights are derived from morality. I think the three are inseparable, rather than mutually exclusive.

Tomp
11-04-2011, 07:55 PM
There's the difference between morals and ethics as well.

An unethical society may live by its morals. Would we then call them moral or not. For instance take a culture that has cannibalism as an integral part of their society. If a person of that society refused to eat another human would he then be an immoral person.

I think the laws must be ethical, but that was probably what you meant. Sorry for being a smartass.

As Oscar Wilde said: Morality, like art, means drawing a line somewhere.

Terez
11-04-2011, 08:16 PM
Yeah, ethics are essentially universal moral standards. I think Gil meant that one shouldn't try to legislate personal or religious morals.

Tomp
11-04-2011, 08:38 PM
Agree, as I wrote. I was just being a smartass.

Crispin's Crispian
11-04-2011, 10:37 PM
Yeah, ethics are essentially universal moral standards. I think Gil meant that one shouldn't try to legislate personal or religious morals.

But if not everyone agrees on a moral standard, it's not universal. It sounds nice to say there are universal moral standards, and to some extent you can demonstrate that. But most controversial legal topics are controversial precisely because the ethics are not universal.

If everyone agreed when it was and was not ok to take a life, abortion, war, and the death penalty would never be debated.

Terez
11-04-2011, 10:59 PM
But if not everyone agrees on a moral standard, it's not universal. It sounds nice to say there are universal moral standards, and to some extent you can demonstrate that. But most controversial legal topics are controversial precisely because the ethics are not universal.

If everyone agreed when it was and was not ok to take a life, abortion, war, and the death penalty would never be debated.
Yeah, I know. The matter of 'universal ethics' in law is always a compromise of some sort, but if not for that assumption there wouldn't be laws at all. And of course, there are many levels of law, overlapping, sometimes contradicting (as the Initiative 26 amendment in MS would be if it were passed). They might not be universal ethics, but the assumption is implicit in their enforcement. And so, theoretically in a 'democratic' system laws have a higher standard of universalism than personal or religious morals, because if a large enough number of people disagree with the laws then you start getting accused of being a dictatorship or a police state, and no one wants that. The concept of universalism itself is a bit illusory, but I think not as illusory as some pretend (and therefore it's something I think we should strive for).

Gilshalos Sedai
11-07-2011, 12:45 PM
Yeah, ethics are essentially universal moral standards. I think Gil meant that one shouldn't try to legislate personal or religious morals.

Thank you, Terez. That's exactly what I was saying.

Now, I think we can both be sufficiently disturbed by you reading my mind. ;)

Terez
11-07-2011, 01:06 PM
Thank you, Terez. That's exactly what I was saying.

Now, I think we can both be sufficiently disturbed by you reading my mind. ;)
Hey, I took Philosophy 101 too. For that matter, Crispy no doubt did as well and even tried to engage me in one of those pointless philosophical debates. I'm guessing Zombie slept in class.

Zombie Sammael
11-07-2011, 03:27 PM
Hey, I took Philosophy 101 too. For that matter, Crispy no doubt did as well and even tried to engage me in one of those pointless philosophical debates. I'm guessing Zombie slept in class.

Hey! I didn't sleep in class, I slept in my bed! While class was going on...

fdsaf3
11-07-2011, 04:59 PM
Every aspect of public policy (legislation, interpretation/jurisprudence, and enforcement) relates to some individual's perspective on how things ought to be. One police officer might give you a speeding ticket if you are driving 4 MPH over the speed limit while another might warn you not to do it again and leave it at that. Judges differ in their interpretation of the law and how they relate to the Constitution. Politicians work together to (ostensibly) draft legislation which appeals to the widest possible set of morals/beliefs/whatever that the public has about how things should be.

I'm currently almost done (one more semester) with a master's degree in public policy. While I am concentrating my education in the quantitative aspects of policy analysis (statistical modeling and so forth), I've taken quite a few theory-based courses as well. There are some really interesting areas of policy analysis that are almost completely dependent on the bias an analyst brings to the issue. Take an issue like water policy and you'll find that it's an inherent part of the system. Everyone working on that issue has strong feelings about how water should be distributed, and the discourse that stems from that analysis is entirely based on those viewpoints. Personally, I think that it's up to the analyst (or politician/judge/etc.) to make objective, data-driven decisions about how to construct, interpret, and apply policies. Such objectivity is impossible, though.

I guess I'm sort of conflating the original discussion of law/ethics/morality with public policy, but in large part they're overlapping concepts anyway.

Mort
11-08-2011, 01:46 AM
I've heard the difference between morals and ethics many times, but I still have a difficult time differentiating. Is it only me? :)

Gilshalos Sedai
11-08-2011, 12:41 PM
Hey, I took Philosophy 101 too. For that matter, Crispy no doubt did as well and even tried to engage me in one of those pointless philosophical debates. I'm guessing Zombie slept in class.

Heh, actually, I never took that class.

But, I was just teasing.

The Unreasoner
11-08-2011, 12:50 PM
I've heard the difference between morals and ethics many times, but I still have a difficult time differentiating. Is it only me? :)
Nope

Ivhon
11-08-2011, 01:02 PM
I've heard the difference between morals and ethics many times, but I still have a difficult time differentiating. Is it only me? :)

law --> ethic --> moral increasingly "higher" and more personal values driven and decreasingly binding.

Morals are more personal high standards of behavior
Ethics are more societal high standards of behavior
Laws are baseline societal standards of behavior

For example:

Morally, I think people should have the right to choose to kill themselves. My personal belief.

Ethically, I am bound to do no harm - which is interpreted by national and state boards as being bound to intervene to prevent self-harm. Ethical standard of the professional community to which I voluntarily belong

Legally, when I reasonably believe that someone is a threat to themselves or others, I have an obligation to report that belief to the appropriate authorities. That's the law.

This puts me in the somewhat uncomfortable position of having to "betray" my moral stance to protect my license (ethics) and stay out of jail (law).

EDIT: some bolding and maybe clearer nutshell differentiation

Gilshalos Sedai
11-08-2011, 01:03 PM
Those are very good examples, Ivhon.

Mort
11-08-2011, 05:06 PM
law --> ethic --> moral increasingly "higher" and more personal values driven and decreasingly binding.

Morals are more personal high standards of behavior
Ethics are more societal high standards of behavior
Laws are baseline societal standards of behavior

For example:

Morally, I think people should have the right to choose to kill themselves. My personal belief.

Ethically, I am bound to do no harm - which is interpreted by national and state boards as being bound to intervene to prevent self-harm. Ethical standard of the professional community to which I voluntarily belong

Legally, when I reasonably believe that someone is a threat to themselves or others, I have an obligation to report that belief to the appropriate authorities. That's the law.

This puts me in the somewhat uncomfortable position of having to "betray" my moral stance to protect my license (ethics) and stay out of jail (law).

EDIT: some bolding and maybe clearer nutshell differentiation

+1!

I'm gonna try and remember that example.