Examine the relationship between law and morals. Consider the extent to which the law should promote moral values.

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Examine the relationship between law and morals. Consider the extent to which the law should promote moral values.

   Law and morals are two seemingly different concepts yet sometimes can be inextricably linked. There have been many debates, throughout history, as to whether laws are based on morals or morals derive from the law. There is obvious distinction between the two with issues such as car tax, but where is the line drawn with, for example, the sixth commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’? This was obviously a moral issue before it became law.

  Professor Hart proposed in his 1963 book ‘The Concept of Law’ that the law is divided into primary rules and secondary rules. Primary rules, are bound closely with morals and are those which the basic of societies require in order to survive. However as society becomes more complex there creates a need for secondary rules which can be wholly detached from morals.

   To understand the relationship between the issues of law and morality, first the concept of each has to be appreciated. In his book ‘The Province of Jurisprudence’ in the 17th Century, John Austin held that ‘The law is different from other rules because it was the command of a sovereign body which the state could enforce by means of punishment.’ Although this is true for criminal law, if you commit a criminal offence you could go to prison, there are large areas which fall outside of this definition for example civil law. Civil law can set out conditions for things we may wish to do but are not compelled to do such as marriage.

  Developing the idea of law, Professor Dworkin suggested that law contains not only rules but a set of legal principles on which all laws are based (yet could these ‘principles’ have moral foundations?) Rules operate on an all or nothing matter whereas the legal principles will act as guidelines, not dictating the outcome and allowing for varying circumstances. For example a boy kills his father, the rule is that he should not inherit from his crime but what if he had acted out of self defence, should this rule still apply? The resulting decision in a case can vary even when the case is relatively similar, Dwroking believed that this was the legal principles allowing for some flexibility in the law.

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   To appreciate the notion of morality, we must look first at the bases of each religion as this is where the idea of morality for different social/religious groups was originally cited e.g. the Bible, the Torah and the Quran. Morals, unlike the law, are voluntary beliefs on how people ‘ought’ to behave and what individuals think is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ behaviour. Although there is no punishment for not accepting these beliefs, there may be an informal type of enforcement by which people may try and persuade or even rebuke people that don't follow ‘the trend’, possible resulting in complete ...

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