Law and Morals Essay

1205 Words5 Pages
Law and morality Discuss the relationship between law and morals and consider whether the debate on the relationship is still relevant. (30 marks) Law is best described as rules made by authority. John Austin defined law as a command from a sovereign power. Law needs to be obeyed and is enforced through various sanctions. Morality is really values and principles rather than rules. Phil Harris defines a society’s ‘code of morality’ as a set of ‘beliefs, values, principles and standards of behaviour.’ Compliance is voluntary, though society can enforce moral codes informally, for example through disapproval and social rejection. There are a number of clear distinctions between law and morality. For example, law can always be proved by referring to the written record of it, whereas morality is opinion and open to dispute. Second, law can change instantly, for example homosexuality was legalised when the Sexual Offences Act 1967 came into effect and the ban on smoking in public places came into force on 1 July 2007. Morality on the other hand changes gradually. Finally, the sanctions for breaking the law are severe and could involve financial penalties or loss of liberty, while sanctions for breaking moral rules are usually social. But law and morality can also overlap. Sir John Salmond illustrated this by referring to overlapping circles. For example, there are many long-established legal rules that have a moral connection. These include the laws of murder and theft, which can be traced back to the Ten Commandments. For example, the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah state ‘You shall not steal’ and clearly the Theft Act reflects this moral assertion. Also, changing moral views can lead to changes in the law. The legislation of homosexuality and the banning of corporal punishment in schools are good examples of issues where general public attitudes had gradually changes

More about Law and Morals Essay

Open Document