Morals, Ethics and the Law

This is the main board for discussing philosophy - formal, informal and in between.

Moderator: Only_Humean

Forum rules
Forum Philosophy

Morals, Ethics and the Law

Postby Magius the Gadfly » Wed Nov 21, 2018 6:37 am

I always believe that prior to a good discussion, one's definitions should be set out, providing the ground work for which to refer to and debate on. So here they are:

mor·al
/ˈmôrəl/Submit
noun
plural noun: morals
2.
a person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.


eth·ics
/ˈeTHiks/Submit
noun
1.
moral principles that govern a person's behavior or the conducting of an activity.


law
/lô/Submit
noun
1.
the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.
"they were taken to court for breaking the law"


The Criminal Code[1] (French: Code criminel[2]) is a law that codifies most criminal offences and procedures in Canada. Its official long title is "An Act respecting the criminal al law" (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended). Section 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867 establishes the sole jurisdiction of Parliament over criminal law in Canada.

The Criminal Code contains some defences, but most are part of the common law rather than statute. Important Canadian criminal laws not forming part of the code include the Firearms Act, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Canada Evidence Act, the Food and Drugs Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Contraventions Act.

One of the conveniences of the criminal code was that it constituted the principle that no person would be able to be convicted of a crime unless otherwise specifically outlined and stated in a statute. This legal document has played a major part in Canada's history and has also helped form other legal acts and laws, for example the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.[3]al law" (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, as amended). Section 91(27) of the Constitution Act, 1867 establishes the sole jurisdiction of Parliament over criminal law in Canada.


I would like to use the above definitions to elucidate some points that I believe are of philosophical and even practical every life knowledge and value. Please apply or replace the last paragraph to whatever specific region or country you live in but the first three definitions [morals, ethics, law] should remain the same or similar.

If we agree upon the above definitions I believe we can begin a conversation on the following:

(1) Do you believe that morals and ethics are REAL, as in, they EXIST outside of the human beings understanding, application, and usage of them. Another way to put this is, especially for those of religious inclination, that there is a "Right and Wrong" given to us from God, a higher power, part of the universal laws? OR are morals and ethics creations of our minds?

(2) Do you believe that the law, as in, criminal law or the laws set out to dictate what is right/wrong, punishable, etc are connected or even derived from morals/ethics?

~Magius
Magius the Gadfly
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:09 am

Re: Morals, Ethics and the Law

Postby Guide » Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:58 pm

You need a third thing, beside from the word and the definition. The subject matter itself. That is, a direct and accessible example equivalent to pointing.

The other thing is, if you make a cardinal distinction between morals and ethics, you already decide the issue in advance. Someone thinks something is right, for example: owning two houses while others are homeless. Does their theoretical statement elaborate this, or is it to be measured by the statement? Someone really thinks it is right that they own two houses, then they come up with a principle that gives expression to that: earning money is the title to property. On the other hand, does one start with a principle, such as: It's wrong that one should be glutted on superfluities while another goes without, and (go on to) lay down the concrete examples in keeping with the principle?

I think the question of "God" is infelicitously put. "Only in the human mind" is an empty formulation. It's obvious that beliefs about behavior correspond to behavior. There's no difference in asking whether mores or the ethos (the character) of a people is merely "in the mind" and in asking whether thirst or hunger is. Of course they correspond to physical realities. The question is, rather, is there one truly right way to behave? Behavior is obviously "real". But, one right way to behave is not obviously "real".
Guide
 
Posts: 198
Joined: Tue Jul 24, 2018 2:20 am

Re: Morals, Ethics and the Law

Postby Magius the Gadfly » Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:24 am

Hello Guide,

Thank you for your post. Allow me to respond point for point, you said:

You need a third thing, beside from the word and the definition. The subject matter itself. That is, a direct and accessible example equivalent to pointing.


I agree. The third thing, though, does come third in sequence. As we need words and definitions before we can connect them to subject matters. I believe the subject matter, in the case of my previous post, was illustrated to be personal to the reader in reference to their understanding of morals and ethics in connection to the established law in whatever country they live. As the definition of morals indicates that the word connects to the persons own standards of behavior or beliefs on whether one or another thing is acceptable for them to do.

The other thing is, if you make a cardinal distinction between morals and ethics, you already decide the issue in advance. Someone thinks something is right, for example: owning two houses while others are homeless. Does their theoretical statement elaborate this, or is it to be measured by the statement? Someone really thinks it is right that they own two houses, then they come up with a principle that gives expression to that: earning money is the title to property. On the other hand, does one start with a principle, such as: It's wrong that one should be glutted on superfluities while another goes without, and (go on to) lay down the concrete examples in keeping with the principle?


I don't necessarily agree with your point. It can be valuable to extract a persons belief in morals and hash them out in specific examples. One example I always present to people, who, for example, believe without exception or restriction that "killing is wrong", is to imagine that it is 1938 and we are in Germany and Adolf Hitler himself is walking towards us in the street. Do we kill him? Surprisingly, many religious people who stand firmly that killing is always wrong, admit, that in that specific example, it is right to kill Hitler because of what he is about to do. We could ofcourse get into where this moral comes from for those people, likely, the King James Bible and then we can go on to say "Well, it doesn't say WHAT or WHO we are not to kill" and we can even go on to ask whether we should take the idea as far as the Jainists who take "Thou shall not kill" to the extreme and believe it applies to all living things including plants and animals. It then gets more complicated if we push to ask well how can you live life not killing a single animal or plant for food, by accident simply by walking and say stepping on a worm, fly, or ant, etc. The Jainists then often find a scapegoat by saying we can only kill for the necessity of survival and must live a life where we are cautious of killing anything accidentally and as long as we are cautious, we are forgiven for killing any plants or insects accidentally. But all that is a whole other issue.

What I am trying to get at is whether the readers/members of ILP believe that MORALS/ETHICS are inherent in the legal system/LAW.

I think your example draws out an element of life that represents a grey area of morals/ethics. People don't normally associate having a house or two with having a moral or ethical right to do so. However, it may be worthwhile exploring that idea, perhaps in another topic as I sense value in that debate.

Connected closer to this post, would be examples like is it morally ethical to steal, kill, break traffic laws, cheat on your taxes, with regards to THE LAW.

Allow me to clarify, the definition of MORALS or ETHICS can be whatever every reader believes them to be to themselves. However, the law, is a legal code set out in writing that is less of a personal thing and more of a code often elaborated in extremes of black and white. My question to the reader, you, is, whether you believe that your understanding of morals/ethics or any definition of morals/ethics is inherent in or built upon by the LAW.

Put another way, in any country in the world, is there a legal precedent, principle, or statement that clearly states that it is WRONG (ethically/morally) to do X or Y crime. To put an easy example, according to the Criminal Code of Canada, under part 11 - Wilful and Forbidden Acts, section 434. Arson - damage to property - Every person who intentionally or recklessly causes damage by fire or explosion to property that is not wholly owned by that person is guilty of an indivtable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

My question to you the reader is, do you believe that the above is saying that arson is morally and ethically wrong?


What's your take?
~Magius
Magius the Gadfly
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:09 am

Re: Morals, Ethics and the Law

Postby Arcturus Descending » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:26 pm

Magius the Gadfly


If we agree upon the above definitions I believe we can begin a conversation on the following:

(1) Do you believe that morals and ethics are REAL, as in, they EXIST outside of the human beings understanding, application, and usage of them. Another way to put this is, especially for those of religious inclination, that there is a "Right and Wrong" given to us from God, a higher power, part of the universal laws? OR are morals and ethics creations of our minds?


The one way in which I can express it is to say that I think that they are an evolved human construct which have their origin based on a raised conscious awareness and human experience. So, for me, in that sense, they are created within our minds. They have become REAL but I would not necessarily use that word to describe something outside of the human beings understanding, application, and usage of them.. I may be wrong here but the word[s] I might use for that would be potential or hidden potential.

As an agnostic, I cannot say if morals and ethics were a design of God for sometime in the future just as I cannot say that human evolution is meant to have evolved as it has and hopefully shall continue to. That would make for a designing god if not necessarily a personal one.

(2) Do you believe that the law, as in, criminal law or the laws set out to dictate what is right/wrong, punishable, etc are connected or even derived from morals/ethics?


I seem to have a problem with the phrase to dictate what is right/wrong, punishable, etc . I suppose that is just me - that word "dictate". Anyway, this is what the law does. My answer would have to be that it would depend on what law. If it is a law that protects human rights and provides protection against crime and criminals, than in my book it is derived from an intelligent/reasonable/ conscious upholding of what many of us have come to think of as morals and ethics.

If it is a law set up by cruel despots to deny people their personal freedoms, destroy and tortue them, then I find no morality or "true" ethics within it.

By personal freedoms, I do not mean righteous laws which have been set up to protect society. Some people believe that they are being denied personal freedom by the law having to do with wearing seat belts. Seat belts protect lives, those of others and ourselves. It is a righteous and intelligent law - just as is the ban on talking and texting while driving. Some people are just too plain stupid to realize it.

Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.
Albert Schweitzer



What I am trying to get at is whether the readers/members of ILP believe that MORALS/ETHICS are inherent in the legal system/LAW.


That would necessarily depend on the legal system and the law, right? There are many gray areas I think such as in the abortion laws, capital punishment, euthanasia, et cetera.
“How can a bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?”
― William Blake


“Little Fly
Thy summers play,
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing:
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath:
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die”
― William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience


“No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.”
― William Blake
User avatar
Arcturus Descending
Consciousness Seeker
 
Posts: 15303
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 5:15 pm
Location: A state of unknowing

Re: Morals, Ethics and the Law

Postby Magius the Gadfly » Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:10 am

Greetings Arcturus,

Trust this response finds you in high spirits. Appreciate the response. If I understand what you are saying, morality and ethics are not things that exist in reality outside of our mental constructs. We could say that it is an evolution of our coming together into groups/tribes/cities/etc. But if so, I wonder if you would agree, that we could put the statement another way. If morality and ethics are not real, then they are a lie. A lie we tell ourselves. However, society has us believe that lies are bad/unethical/moral (and some might want to stop here for a pit stop and enunciation of the circular argument). We could also have fun by saying "A lie is immoral because immorality is a lie". But to bring this idea to the ground level, I would like to suggest that morality and ethics are in fact lies, an imagination of our mind, but nevertheless a useful one and if I may go so far as to say, it is a lie that brought out something in human beings that is REAL. The things we do, act toward, build, sing, represent, design, explore have connections to our mental lie of morality and ethics. Hundreds of thousands of books are written on morality and ethics, though a fiction, the books, words, and developments on human minds, ideas, thoughts, and emotions and even physical things are all REAL.

Another nail biter could be said to be that from lies can come great things. Yet another, a lie can bring about a hidden truth never before known and would not be extracted from the filament of reality without the lie.

If we agree that morality and ethics are a lie though incredibly important to our construction of society, dealings between people and animals (animal ethics is a huge field) it brings about into reality something, prima facie, great!


(2) Do you believe that the law, as in, criminal law or the laws set out to dictate what is right/wrong, punishable, etc are connected or even derived from morals/ethics?

You said:
If it is a law set up by cruel despots to deny people their personal freedoms, destroy and tortue them, then I find no morality or "true" ethics within it.


Your statement is more in relation to the intent of the law writer. I simply wish to ask the readers of ILP members, of the laws you know in your own country, any country, is there inherent within the legal system, morality and ethics?

Allow me to answer my own rhetorical question. The fantastical answer is that there is absolutely, and I am only going to speak of my own country's legal system (though it does also apply to USA and Scotland/England/Wales), NO presence of morality or ethics ANYWHERE in the Canadian legal system. Nowhere, in any statute, bill, act, legislation any sentiment that one or another action is WRONG or RIGHT. That is, to me, an amazing point worth dissecting and writing volumes on. But I digress and now pass to what I believe is an even more important point.

If the above argument is correct and there is no morality and ethics within the law, then what is the law? How can we define and understand it except to say that it is a list of rules? Upon closer inspection of legal texts and precedents there is one recurrent theme, one common denominator, and that is this...that everything considered legal or criminal can be summed up by this statement "If you do X action, with these characteristics, you will be punished by Y reaction from us unto you"

Let's use a previous example I used in a previous post to help connect the idea to a real law. See below...

Criminal Code of Canada, under part 11 - Wilful and Forbidden Acts, section 434. Arson - damage to property - Every person who intentionally or recklessly causes damage by fire or explosion to property that is not wholly owned by that person is guilty of an indivtable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.


What the above is basically saying is IF YOU DO "A" (in this case Arson by fire or explosion causing damage to property not owned by the person doing Arson) under the conditions "intentionally or recklessly" B punishment will result.

Let's ask ourselves at what other times in our lives do we meet with the above formula? If I do A you will give me B (doing away with positive and negative belief systems of punishment). Do we not see that in all types of exchanges and economic affairs in life?

Could we be so bold as to say the LAW is ECONOMIC? Isn't the above example interesting in that it even tells us the worst case scenario? Namely, that our imprisonment will NOT exceed fourteen years. What if a citizen really didn't like someone, and they went to a legal library and looked up the law for murder. And under murder they found that it said that if you murder someone, intentionally, you will go to prison for a term NOT to exceed a life sentence. That person could sit back and say "Hmmmm....let me look up and study what life is like in prison". They go and they study their countries prisons, where they would be imprisoned for murder related offences. Maybe they even go check out the prison to see its sanitary conditions. In certain countries, prison is actually almost a spa (check out online prisons like spas in USA and Canada if you don't believe me). Let's take it the next step and say that person made a willful choice to murder the person they don't like, walk themselves to a police station to be arrested, and ASK to be imprisoned. Would we say the LAW has done what it was intended to do by it's creators?

in Canadian elevators there are stickers showing a no smoking sign that also includes wording that says "Maximum Fine of $5,000". Well, what if I am a billionaire and I am in an elevator with 10 people, I read the sign and think to myself, Mmmmm, I could really use a cigarette right now and I think paying $5,000 to enjoy a cigarette in an elevator is worth it. So he lights a cigarette and takes out $5,000 out of his pocket and waits for anyone to approach him to pay the money. Would we say the LAW has done what it was intended to do by it's creators?

Ofcourse, now we can get into the intentions of the creators of LAW, like Blackstone's Commentaries, and other works that speak of philosophical principles that are easily undone by a 10 year old child. If the POINT/PURPOSE of a prison is to rehabilitate the prisoner and/or to keep them away from SOCIETY to keep the society safe from that individual, but the prisoner WANTS to be in the prison and to be away from Society, how can rehabilitation ever happen? What does that reduce the prison to? Is it not a hotel for those who choose it?

My personal opinion is that the LAW does NOT contain morality and ethics, but it SHOULD.

One of the underneath presumptions of law and punishment is the idea that the government or legal system KNOWS what punishes us. Did you know that some prisoners consider the world outside of prison punishment and the prison itself freedom and happiness. I am being antagonizing on purpose here not just to antagonize readers into responding but also because these are truths that many do not know.

Before this post becomes a book, I will stop and ask, what's your take?

~Magius
Magius the Gadfly
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:09 am

Re: Morals, Ethics and the Law

Postby surreptitious75 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:19 am

Law is the codification of morality through majority consent as referenced by the legisature of a nation
Morality can equally apply to the individual where consent is not required since it is not for making law
Everyone however has a legal obligation to obey the law even where their own morality is not the same
A MIND IS LIKE A PARACHUTE : IT DOES NOT WORK UNLESS IT IS OPEN
surreptitious75
Thinker
 
Posts: 542
Joined: Sun Aug 27, 2017 5:48 pm

Re: Morals, Ethics and the Law

Postby Meno_ » Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:18 am

One of the keenest examples of law is that which would illustrate the vacuous presumptions that there harbors some affinity between an excluded source of derivation between morality and ethics, (God).

The following example is fitting:


Lets say one is going on a casual walk around the neighborhood, and notices a drowning man. The law prescribes no action on the part of the stroller to interfere with an act to save the drawner's life, or more simply, prescribe to a duty to save his life.

It would appear on the surface that there is something wrong or misguided in this law, unless one were to dissect the possible reasons of it.

It is not difficult: in reasoning , to ascribe economy as the basis for the law. the law. By trying to save another, harm may come to others , especially to the one attempting it, hence working contrarily to the desired aims of the effort. At first glance it would appear that is totally inhumane in moral terms not to attempt to pull a man out of a mortal predicament , and morally , the lack of empathy would appear to possess such a person. Ethically the problem is obvious, presenting a clash between morality and ethics, of which the former seems to be as originating from outside the scope of human understanding, -God. The law appears to be unable to connect the distinction, implying a lack of participation in that higher argument, except through pragmatic , economic concerns.

Another situation , again , equally problematic, is the moral and ethical justification that men in a lifeboat , have to face in the event of justifying the eating each other, be it or dead, or killed with tacit approval. For the sake of the survival of the most fit, the ones most likely to survive a cataclysmic event, by such sacrifice, the terms of reasonableness changes. In the case of such event,the obviousness of the inescapable human sense of morality over that of an internal and higher standards become evident as the rule of law, necessitating existential concerns subordinate possible higher order presumptions as epic reversals

Ultimately, new rationalizations for changing God's intention come to mind - with the thought that it really not God's morality is what is of.concern but the putative interpretation. placed on Him.

Looked at it this way, the example of the two houses dissipates somewhat, for the house on men and the house of god need to be forged, even if by categorically changing what God wills within changing perimeters.
Meno_
Philosopher
 
Posts: 3790
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2015 2:39 am
Location: Mysterium Tremendum


Return to Philosophy



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users