An empirical approach to morality

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An empirical approach to morality

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Morality and Law Rick Garlikov There are a number of issues about the relationship between morality and law in a pluralistic, secular democracy like the United States. Among them are whether legislation should reflect moral principles, whether judges should interpret laws in light of moral values and principles, whether laws should enforce morality, whether laws are binding if they do not reflect moral principles, whether it is moral or not to disobey bad laws, and what gives law its authority.

Sometimes morality is confused with religion and I have written about that elsewhere. The important traits will be the soundness, and perceived soundness, of any moral principles, not their genesis. I am also not trying here to write a definitive work about all the issues involving the relationship between law and morality, nor to restate all the points others have already made about the issues I do address.

Instead I hope to simply shed some additional light on aspects of the relationship between law and morality in a pluralistic democratic country with a secular government. Aspects of Law Not Based on Morality First, as has been said by many people, some laws are managerial or administrative in that they institute behavior for procedural purposes that could equally well, from a moral or socially useful point of view, have been written in a different, or even opposite way.

The common example is traffic rules about the side of the road on which one is to drive. Apart from consistency with bordering neighbors especially for safety purposes of driving across borders and in neighboring countriesit does not matter from a moral standpoint which side a country or a set of neighboring countries adopts, as long as the choice is made among equally right e.

These laws are not based on morality, in terms of their specifics. They are moral because they are a way of promoting social benefits of a certain kind in an optimal way.

Second, some laws are immoral, usually because they are unfair but sometimes because they are counterproductive or harmful; in some cases, egregious and reprehensible. Many laws about Jews in Nazi Germany and many laws concerning women and blacks in early U.

Many apartheid laws in South Africa were morally wrong. But there have also been government programs set up by law that simply mistakenly harmed the people they were intended to help, such as aspects of the welfare rules that ended up trapping people in poverty rather than assisting them to escape it.

Laws, or a legal system with a lack of adequate laws, can also have wrong or immoral consequences even if the contents of particular laws are not unjust. For example, laws concerning evidence and procedure in courtrooms often lead to acquittals of obviously guilty defendants, and sometimes to convictions or continuing sentences and punishment of known or likely innocent ones.

Thought Experiments and the Methods of Ethics

There is no reason to believe that just because a law passes, it is for the best or that it is right or moral, even if the people passing it think it is.

If one were to be charitable about legislators, one might perhaps be able to argue that they pass those laws they believe to be right, whether those laws actually are right or not, but I think there is sufficient evidence legislators will often pass laws for political reasons -- to win or keep political support from those whom the law favors or to whom it panders -- even though they know the laws are bad or wrong.

Either way, however, sometimes bad or immoral laws get passed which are perfectly legal. Third, not all morality is enshrined in law because law is in a sense "incomplete".

An empirical approach to morality

Many unfair and wrong business practices are not anticipated and therefore not made illegal until someone invents and uses them in a way that clearly mistreats others. These practices are wrong and immoral from inception, but not illegal until law "catches up" to them. In a sense morality is "complete" and applies to all acts, but the law typically is "incomplete" and only applies to behaviors legislation has already addressed, or that the courts can interpret to have been addressed by implication in existing law.

Law has to be "invented" or manufactured; morality only has to be recognized. And in the creating of specific laws with specific wording, loopholes creep in because it is difficult to predetermine and specify those and only those acts intended to be covered.

Morality does not have loopholes. It is probably impossible to make a complete set of laws that anticipate, enumerate, fully describe, and forbid every possible specific wrong behavior. It might be possible to have general legal principles that distinguish all behaviors that should be legal from those which should not, in the same, or similar, way that correct general moral principles might distinguish between all morally right and all morally wrong acts, but it is not likely that either moral principles or legal principles can lead to a complete and specific predetermined enumeration of each and every right act in every circumstance.

Fourth, not all morality should be enshrined in law, because enforcing some morality would be far worse than not enforcing it. For example, even if it might be wrong for someone to lie in bed an extra half hour rather than having a good breakfast or getting to work on time, or even if is wrong for a child or husband to leave dirty clothes on the bed or floor, or even if it is wrong to break a prom date at the last minute for no good reason, those transgressions are not grounds for sending in the police.

Liberty and autonomy are important values and they sometimes require letting someone make a mistake or do the wrong thing -- as long as the wrong that is done is not so bad or so costly that civil society has a legitimate interest to prevent it. There are sometimes disagreements about where the line should be drawn, but there are clearly some actions where autonomy is more important than being forced to do what is right by law, and there are clearly some actions where prevention of harm overrides autonomy and liberty.

While society has a legitimate right to enforce morality in preventing great harm or costit need not, and should not, make everyone do the right thing all the time.As a pragmatic, empirical physicalist, I try to take an evidence-based and reasoned approach to morality.

In the first part of this series, I claimed that objective morality is a principle that operates exclusively at the level of species survival. Twilight of the Idols by Friedrich Nietzsche. A synthesis of many of his late themes on ethics, religion, culture, and race. An empirical approach to morality explicitly recognizes that moral rules should change with time as societies evolve.

In section 3, for an imperfect democratic society such as our own, we will suggest how an empirical moralist would approach some of our present moral controversies. Morality and Law Rick Garlikov.

There are a number of issues about the relationship between morality and law in a (pluralistic, secular) democracy like the United pfmlures.com them are whether legislation should reflect moral principles, whether judges should interpret laws in light of moral values and principles, whether laws should enforce morality.

Morality and Cognitive Science. What do we know about how people make moral judgments? And what should moral philosophers do with this knowledge? Empiricism: Empiricism, in philosophy, the view that all concepts originate in experience, that all concepts are about or applicable to things that can be experienced, or that all rationally acceptable beliefs or propositions are justifiable or knowable only through experience.

This broad definition accords.

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