Interrelations between morality and law. Essay

Interrelations between morality and law., 499 words essay example

Essay Topic: morality, law

The word morality originated from the Latin word moralitas meaning proper behaviour. It is a body of principles concerning a distinction between what is right and wrong or good and bad. These principles may be derived from religion, philosophy, culture or shared standards and believes. Hence the set of principles a person subscribes to, defines his or her understanding of what is moral and immoral. Law on the other hand is a set of rules and regulations that are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviour. In law two theories hold different positions in regards to the relationship between morality and law. The natural law theory asserts that law and morality are connected. To them if a law is not moral then it is not a law and therefore is invalid. In contrast, the positivists argue for a separation of law and morality. They argue that the legal validity of law is determined by its source (be it a king, legislature or a sovereign) and not its merit (good or bad). A law can be valid yet unjust (immoral). Using the perspectives of these two legal theoretical positions as a guide, I will now develop my argument on the relationship between morality and law.
In every society there is a considerable overlap between legal and moral questions. The development of law has been influenced by morality. The law in most democratic societies is a reflection of the peoples shared standards, values and customs most of which are deeply rooted in the morals of the society. For instance, in most countries today a man who violates the law against murder likewise violates a moral precept against killing. In such circumstances there will be a strong reaction of disapproval by the society against such act. The law will also condemn such an act and through this the law reinforces or upholds moral values of the society. In this case I tend to agree with Lord Devlin to some extent that the ?laws function is to enforce a moral principle and nothing else. This is especially true in most Islamic states where laws are predominantly a reflection of the Islamic moral code.
However there are cases where the law is out of touch with morality and may not reflect what majority of the members of the society consider moral. This is common in nondemocratic societies and may apply to democratic societies too. Case in point is apartheid laws in South Africa, the issue of the Burmese Nationality law 1982 that denied Rohingya citizenship and some laws made in Nazist Germany.
In sum, what is moral can be law but laws are not always moral. Morality varies among cultures and groups of people and is dynamic. Hitherto, acts which were considered illegal and immoral may become legal due to circularisation of people in a state, emergence of divergent views and need for the state to use law to find a common ground. Thus the extent to which morality should influence the law remains controversial.

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