Law & Morals

Law and morals have a strong relationship. Some argue that our law is built on moral positions; some argue that many morals are now built on law. There is some truth to both views. It might be said that in more primitive society’s morals and law are more closely bound together. As societies become more diverse, a rift opens up between the two in many areas different individuals and groups hold different views on what is and what is not morally right.

Law are rules and standards of behaviour which are prescribed by authorities who enforce them with various sanctions. If a law is to be successful, it must be backed by a reasonable section of the community or it falls into disrepute and becomes meaningless. Law is about the control and directing of human social conduct and behaviour. In our system we have a number of areas of law dealing with different issues. Some laws deal with anti-social behaviour known as criminal, some deal with disputes between individuals and businesses known as civil, some deal with commercial transactions which is contract and some deal with tort, which includes issues of negligence and nuisance.

Law represents codes of social conduct, which society has decided should be compulsory. This might be described as the only common ‘moral framework’ there is. The law is a way of formally stating behaviour that is to be regarded as acceptable and behaviour that is regarded as unacceptable. There is no choice about which laws are to be obeyed.

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Morals are beliefs about the way human beings living in communities should behave. These morals change over time and there are also clear differences between age groups, ethnic groups, religious groups and other communities who hold common attitudes.

Morals are to do with ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Issues that have seen major changes over the past 50 years are attitudes towards single parents, sexual orientation such as homosexuality, living together before marriage, and even with obscenity as now there are acts such as the Obscene Publications Act 1959. For most of us, the attitude is less harsh and condemnatory. ‘Live and ...

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