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Law And Morality Essay

1497 words - 6 pages


The jurisprudential question as to whether in a modern constitutional democracy citizens have a duty to obey the law regardless of whether the content of the law is morally just or not has been central to many theorists. Natural law theorists advocate that laws should only be obeyed if they are in line with morality. Conversely, Positivists argue law has the status of law if a recognized ‘Human’ authority makes it in the accepted manner and therefore should be obeyed. Both theories if examined in their simplistic definitions are problematic. However, if one analyses individual theorists there are theorists from both schools who argue credibly. I propose Bentham’s theory is the ...view middle of the document...

Thus Natural law theories which prioritize morality when it comes to law are used as justification to protect human rights and subsequently limit government power.

Undoubtedly, there is a need for law which I believe is generally used as a tool for protection. Due to the difficulties surrounding choosing which morals to implement in a modern constitutional democratic society I agree with Aquinas and propose, some unjust laws to require obedience to avoid scandal, even if it is not ‘law in its fullest sense’ as understood by it’s definition “law is an ordination of reason for the common good” . However, the system of law should provide for values to be included which in such a case is the Constitution. The Constitution should protect the object purpose of law and a government from using the law for private profit by holding strict provisions regarding amendments and the inclusion of essential rights grounded on critical morals.

Problems with natural law and not obeying the law

Natural law draws authority from three sources; religious principles, intellectual codes (rational thought) and finally the observance of the laws of nature (order which governs the activities of the material universe) . Consequently, Natural law theories are generally problematic as deciding whose explanation of godly input or which religious text a society should adhere to is difficult in diverse societies. Additionally, a moral code’s success becomes dependent on how many people obey that moral code, which makes it arduous to evaluate which particular moral code is applicable to the majority. Lastly, it a modern society could create public policy complications as it has the potential to exposed far-reaching floodgates as evident in Antigone who used “sacred law” as justification for her actions.

During Socrates trial we are presented with Natural law inclinations, as Socrates feels obligated to express his views openly, irrespective of the consequences. Humbly, Socrates claimed: "[My teaching is] the gods' bidding: and I consider that the city has enjoyed no greater boon than my service to the gods." Contrariwise, Socrates portrays a Positivismistic attitude with regard to obeying the law as he recognizes that the system under which the jury acted was wholly fair. While the tribunal sat to deliver justice Socrates never suggested that the jurors acted illegally but rather acknowledged their decision was made according to the laws and at the outset he advocated, "I must obey the law and make my defense."

Further Socrates understood the need for law and thus explained civil law should be treated as a moral obligation, his obligation to obey the law derived from a "just agreement" he had with Athens, thus ignoring the rule of law would be to commit moral wrong. Socrates suggests lawfulness is not always equivalent to virtuousness, and describes how to remain honorable without damaging the authority of the law.

Socrates illustrates the need to obey the law and...

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