Is a law moral? Rather, does a law have a moral value? It has become vexing to me in my work in “Denial of Moral Responsibly”, and in conversations of late, that there is a notion that a right is given by law. This is, of course, completely incorrect. If a law gave rights then those rights would be of little value outside a people’s willingness to follow it. While this willingness is extremely important in a civil society, it is a miss understanding to assume the laws establish rights. Rather it is a law the enumerates a right. This notion, while unproblematic at face value, does create an issue when considering the ramifications of denying moral responsibility.
The major issue, as I see it, is the notion that because a law exists that it must be right, or moral. Yet that surely is not the case. History points to any number of laws that were neither right or moral. Yet they existsed and people followed them willingly knowing, or not knowing, that these laws were were neither right or moral. So how can we say that a law is right or moral? In the same way that a law enumerates a right, evaluation of the ‘rightness’ or ‘moralness’ of a law can only be done from looking outside the law. For the purpose of future discussion I’ll refer to this evaluation as being ‘before the law’. This may place us, as I see it, in the uncomfortable position of saying that laws themselves have no moral value, they simple are.
Many are comforted by the fact that the laws that they live by day to day are in fact ‘right’ or ‘moral’. While that is not necessarily bad, as at least people are motivated to follow a law, it is dangerous because too often individuals do not then analyze the laws they live by.
Because of this it is all the more that individuals are knowledgeable of their social roles and responsibilities in a dialectic society. At a minimum this will ensure that laws are derived pragmatically as to be a benefit to all in a society. Moralisticly, when we make that move to moral topics, we must ensure there is a generally understood and developed sense of morality within that dialectic society.
With this latter point made, I now see that prior to addressing the denial of moral responsibility it will be necessary to discuss how a dialectic society develops moral understanding, or even more simply a pragmatic understanding of dialectic responsibly, in individuals, surely no small task.