But the problem is that even "critical" morality can be wrong. The historyof moral philosophy is filled with quite analytical/critical theories anddiscussions that nevertheless turned out to be in need of amendment orabandonment as new insights were gained and in some cases as new distinctionswere invented or discovered. The issue is not whether moral ideas are critical,surface, conventional, socially accepted, religious, traditional or howeverinitiated; the issue is whether they are good principles or not. But discerningthat takes ongoing dialogue and judgment, not some replacement for thosethings, such as mere voting or appeal to formal or supposedly objectiverules, or even acceptance by prestigious law professors or publicationin influential law journals. Moral philosophy is difficult and it is anongoing precess as new ideas and distinctions come to light. Substitutingsomething easy for it is abandoning morality, not simplifying it. And itis important to keep that in mind, so that we do not have the mindset thatparticular laws, just because they have been promulgated and even upheldin court, or accepted by academia, are therefore deserving to be permanent,revered, authoritative (in a moral sense), deserving of obedience, or arein some sense always right.
Also, social unrest is often prevented because the system is patchedin some piecemeal way when (and sometimes only when) some aspect of itis persuasively and dramatically demonstrated, to a society of fair-mindedand reasonable people, to have a particularly egregious or widespread badresult. Thus a system of law based on equating morality with psychologywill often mistakenly seem to function satisfactorily even when it doesnot, because the system will be changed if it sufficiently troublesthe conscience or psychology of sufficient people. The problem is thatit will be changed only if it does that, and thus it has the potentialto be very bad until enough people are rightfully troubled enough and canconvince people in power to make needed changes. In other words, serioussocial unrest will usually be averted by the system, when pressure becomestoo great, but below that threshold, government sanctioned or induced harmand injustice can still befall people. In some cases civil disobedienceis meant to demonstrate that the threshold needs to be seen to have beenreached -- that certain laws and practices are too unjust or harmful tobe continued to be tolerated. But civil disobedience only works when governmentsand those in power or positions of influence have sufficient moral understandingand sensitivity to recognize protesters are in the right and the legalsystem is not. It is impossible to imagine that Jews would have effectedany change in Nazi behavior through civil disobedience, or that Kurds wouldhave softened Saddam Hussein's treatment of them.
I am also not trying here to write a definitive work about all the issuesinvolving the relationship between law and morality, nor to restate allthe points others have already made about the issues I do address. InsteadI hope to simply shed some additional light on aspects of the relationshipbetween law and morality in a pluralistic democratic country with a seculargovernment.
Morality can be defined as a system of criteria that determine whether a specific act under defined conditions is right (moral), wrong (immoral), or neutral (without moral implications).
Needless to say, with such different sources from which moral systems can be derived, we can expect to be deluged for the foreseeable future with conflicting sets of moral codes concerning:
For other examples of formal procedures that do not yield morally reasonableresults, see also .It is extremely difficult, and I suspect impossible, to develop merelyformal procedures that can totally take the judgment out of morality orof deciding which acts are (morally) right. And trying to do that by equatingmorality with psychology, so that people determine what is right merelyby what they, or a majority of them, individually want, is particularlyprone to mistakes about what is moral or not.
It may be possible, though it seems unlikely, to develop formal processesor procedures that turn out always and automatically to be fair and togive the right or best results. But it cannot be counted on that one hassuch a procedure, particularly when people seek loopholes to exploit. Thefact that a procedure may give the same results that moral reasoning wouldrequire in a particular case, or in past or known cases (for which it wasdesigned), or in a hundred particular cases, does not mean it will in thenext case or that it should be a substitute for moral judgment. For example,voluntary trade and bargaining, typically involving some sort of cooperationfor mutual interest, are often used to exemplify fair practices and formalprocedures that need to be upheld in court. But even in such proceduresinvolving some sort of trading for mutual interest, one side can sometimestake advantage of the other side to give the disadvantaged side what itwill voluntarily (under the circumstances) accept, rather than what itreally wants, needs or deserves or would have been able to negotiate ifit were not at a disadvantage, particularly an unfair one, in the firstplace. Not all trades from unequal bargaining positions are unfair, butthose that are should demonstrate that even a mutual, voluntary trade isnot necessarily a morally fair or right trade.
I believe that law could be morality-based rather than formal, and theonly problem with that is not that it would make law less objective, butthat it would make it appear more subjective or unreasonable becausetoo many people do not know how to resolve problems and (moral) disagreementsreasonably. Law only appears to be more objective when made by formal proceduresand majority votes because judges can hide behind legislatures when theymake rulings, and legislatures can hide behind majority votes and formalprocedures. Making law formal only hides its problems and subjectivity;it does not solve or eliminate them.
In contrast to the believer is the artist. (I am referring here, of course, to ideal types, in the manner of the great German social scientist, Max Weber.) The artist is an exemplar of courage. Creativity requires a boldness and fortitude that can be fruitfully applied to everyday living. The artist must have a scientific rationalityin the sense of using experimentation to discoverotherwise, his work will be insipid or trite. This rationality brings one, also, to a new manner of living in the moment. It engenders a skepticism that reduces the shrill hysteria of these henchmen of the Spectacle to background hiss. Thus, one can concentrate on the humanizing qualities of beauty and pleasure. In this way, true morality is possible.
It is difficult enough to determine what an individual's morals are, but going further to determine how we came to possess those morals is even more ambitious.
Also included are free studies on related topics thatshow why we should accept Bible answers as the standard ofmorality, how we can be forgiven of moral failures, and how tochange immoral habits. Note carefully: No teaching anywhere on this web site isintended or should ever be construed to justify or to in any way incite orencourage personal vengeance or physical violence against any person. Scripture quotations are generally from the New King JamesVersion (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.