Imposing Moral Values

Now, some time ago I put up a thread asking for some feedback and discussion about a position paper I wrote with regards to imposing liberal ideologies on people. This is the paper in question, should you feel like reading it. Note, you don't have to read it to understand the discussion it's just 1500 words to give some added context and a similar situation.

When I posted this I didn't see a lot of response to the actual topic of the paper, which called the morality and viability of imposing an ideology (liberalism, in this case) on a people into question. I think this was due to an at best vague understanding of liberal principle in the context of a particular quote by Neitzsche and in part to a general disinterest in the topic of liberalism. This time, I think I'll try with a more relevant issue, ie morality.

In the US in particular, the upcoming election has spurred what seems like a large amount of debate around social morality based issues, particularly from the Republican primaries. Issues such as abortion, secularism, and gay marriage and foreign policy have been thrown around and morality is increasingly becoming tied into issues such as economics, health care and resource management. My question to the escapist is this: To what extent should government excersize moral authority over its constituancy and to what extent is it acceptable to impose a moral ideology over other people? In what cases is excersising moral authority appropriate?

I'm sorry but the best I can come up with is "depends on the situation". This stuff is extremely subjective and there is no decisive answer that can be given without outright lying or not understanding the question.

Any and every law written is an imposition of a moral value. So the extent a government is or is not allowed to further 'impose' laws is wholly dependent on the moral values of that society.

The American Constitution, for instance, details laws strictly limiting what the government can do. This is borne of the moral values that state that a government of absolute authority is detrimental to the people which it governs.

senordesol:
Any and every law written is an imposition of a moral value.

I strongly disagree. Jaywalking is a crime. The fact that it is a crime does not make it immoral. The law exists not to impose morality, but to impose order, structure, and stability to society.

Katatori-kun:

senordesol:
Any and every law written is an imposition of a moral value.

I strongly disagree. Jaywalking is a crime. The fact that it is a crime does not make it immoral. The law exists not to impose morality, but to impose order, structure, and stability to society.

And the social values and morals of those who hold power decide the laws. This is not an issue that can be simply viewed.

Katatori-kun:

senordesol:
Any and every law written is an imposition of a moral value.

I strongly disagree. Jaywalking is a crime. The fact that it is a crime does not make it immoral. The law exists not to impose morality, but to impose order, structure, and stability to society.

The requirement for order, structure, and stability is itself a moral value. That it is a prevalent value does not make it any less so.

senordesol:

Katatori-kun:

senordesol:
Any and every law written is an imposition of a moral value.

I strongly disagree. Jaywalking is a crime. The fact that it is a crime does not make it immoral. The law exists not to impose morality, but to impose order, structure, and stability to society.

The requirement for order, structure, and stability is itself a moral value. That it is a prevalent value does not make it any less so.

No, that's not what moral are. Are moral is a lesson derived from life experience that teaches you right from wrong.

Structure, stability and order are not things life has taught me, but I recognize the need for them regardless.

Tree man:

senordesol:

Katatori-kun:

I strongly disagree. Jaywalking is a crime. The fact that it is a crime does not make it immoral. The law exists not to impose morality, but to impose order, structure, and stability to society.

The requirement for order, structure, and stability is itself a moral value. That it is a prevalent value does not make it any less so.

No, that's not what moral are. Are moral is a lesson derived from life experience that teaches you right from wrong.

Structure, stability and order are not things life has taught me, but I recognize the need for them regardless.

The need for Structure, stability, and order have not been things life has taught you? Sounds like you've had it pretty easy.

I would argue that morals stem from a desire to service something apart from your own self interests. You may wish to kill someone who has angered you, but your hand is stayed because you recognize that as 'wrong'. So why is it wrong? Animals kill and attack each other for minor slights all the time, after all.

Well, if you thought about it, you'd likely realize that such actions cause undue pain and suffering -particularly since the disagreements can be resolved much more easily. So, in order to serve the collective good of society; a law against murder is a moral imposition.

By extension, a law against Jay-Walking is a moral imposition under the presumption that everyone deserves to get to where they need to go without undue delay or harassment, furthermore it bolsters traffic safety; and a desire to keep everyone safe stems from morality. So while Jay-walking or light-running in themselves are not immoral (after all, what's the harm if there's no one around?) the laws themselves are moral impositions.

senordesol:

Tree man:

senordesol:

The requirement for order, structure, and stability is itself a moral value. That it is a prevalent value does not make it any less so.

No, that's not what moral are. Are moral is a lesson derived from life experience that teaches you right from wrong.

Structure, stability and order are not things life has taught me, but I recognize the need for them regardless.

The need for Structure, stability, and order have not been things life has taught you? Sounds like you've had it pretty easy.

I would argue that morals stem from a desire to service something apart from your own self interests. You may wish to kill someone who has angered you, but your hand is stayed because you recognize that as 'wrong'. So why is it wrong? Animals kill and attack each other for minor slights all the time, after all.

Well, if you thought about it, you'd likely realize that such actions cause undue pain and suffering -particularly since the disagreements can be resolved much more easily. So, in order to serve the collective good of society; a law against murder is a moral imposition.

By extension, a law against Jay-Walking is a moral imposition under the presumption that everyone deserves to get to where they need to go without undue delay or harassment, furthermore it bolsters traffic safety; and a desire to keep everyone safe stems from morality. So while Jay-walking or light-running in themselves are not immoral (after all, what's the harm if there's no one around?) the laws themselves are moral impositions.

1: Not really, family life was pretty messed up what with the immigration and the divided country, structure and stability were things that I wanted but didn't have. They weren't morals so much as goals.

2: Never really thought of laws that way.

Katatori-kun:

senordesol:
Any and every law written is an imposition of a moral value.

I strongly disagree. Jaywalking is a crime. The fact that it is a crime does not make it immoral. The law exists not to impose morality, but to impose order, structure, and stability to society.

Well... to a degree I think you're both right. As I see it the law is a compromise that attempts to maximise the freedom and security of the majority while minimising the infringement of the rights of the minority - while also enshrining certain police/state privileges to be used in extraordinary circumstances. But I don't think the law is 100% pragmatism, because whenever a line has to be drawn we look to the prevailing moral values. What should the age of consent be? How late can I perform an abortion? At what point does free speech become hate speech, and when is freedom of expression a breach of the peace? It's chock-full of moralistic value judgements.

Tree man:

1: Not really, family life was pretty messed up what with the immigration and the divided country, structure and stability were things that I wanted but didn't have. They weren't morals so much as goals.

2: Never really thought of laws that way.

1. Are some goals not a byproduct of a moral code?

2. Someone on a forum entertaining an alternate viewpoint? My God! The internet's gonna collapse in on itse-

There is a line really. Some laws cant really be considered moral impositions because, as some posters have already said, these laws are fundamental for any society to even exist in the first place. Rampant murder, theft and enslavement do not allow for any kind of organised human effort on a scale as large as we work with today in the millions and billions. However some laws will be moral impositions because these laws are NOT fundamental to a society existing but rather getting such a society to function, as we see it, most "efficiently".

The definition of "efficient" or maximum happiness is going to vary from person to person, some decisions make 1 person sad and another happy depending on the outcome and yet have to be made. When no clear answer is available but a law is needed moral imposition is inevitable since one party will feel wronged no matter what. Grey areas lead to moral impositions, basic freedoms like living and collaberation with others are neccessary for a society to even stand.

BiscuitTrouser:
There is a line really. Some laws cant really be considered moral impositions because, as some posters have already said, these laws are fundamental for any society to even exist in the first place. Rampant murder, theft and enslavement do not allow for any kind of organised human effort on a scale as large as we work with today in the millions and billions. However some laws will be moral impositions because these laws are NOT fundamental to a society existing but rather getting such a society to function, as we see it, most "efficiently".

The definition of "efficient" or maximum happiness is going to vary from person to person, some decisions make 1 person sad and another happy depending on the outcome and yet have to be made. When no clear answer is available but a law is needed moral imposition is inevitable since one party will feel wronged no matter what. Grey areas lead to moral impositions, basic freedoms like living and collaberation with others are neccessary for a society to even stand.

They may be fundamental to society, but a society in itself is a collection of shared values is it not? Working from that if morality is a desire to service something beyond one's own specific self-interest is not the creation of society -any society- the basis of a moral framework?

The alternative, of course, is to live like solitary animals or in small packs until a single dominant whose whim is law - cooperating with the pack only because it increases our own chances of survival.

Therefore I would argue that the same 'fundamental' laws for a society to function are themselves requisite for a moral structure.

theonewhois3:
And the social values and morals of those who hold power decide the laws. This is not an issue that can be simply viewed.

That doesn't make jaywalking a moral issue. But you're right, it's not a simple issue. Hence my original point. Not every law is an imposition of a moral value. Most are just practical issues to keep society moving in an orderly fashion.

senordesol:

Katatori-kun:

senordesol:
Any and every law written is an imposition of a moral value.

I strongly disagree. Jaywalking is a crime. The fact that it is a crime does not make it immoral. The law exists not to impose morality, but to impose order, structure, and stability to society.

The requirement for order, structure, and stability is itself a moral value. That it is a prevalent value does not make it any less so.

No, it's not, at least not as long as your aren't trying to cram a subject as complex as morality into D&D's shitty alignment system.

Morals are issues of intrinsic right and wrong judgements. No one except for the sick and twisted believes that order or anarchy are inherently right or wrong. Simply put society needs some sort of formal rules- otherwise it's not a society. That's not a moral issue, that's just the way things are.

Batou667:
But I don't think the law is 100% pragmatism, because whenever a line has to be drawn we look to the prevailing moral values.

I agree with the spirit of what you have said, but not this line. We don't look to the prevailing moral values "whenever" a line has to be drawn. We only look when moral values are particularly relevant and pragmatics aren't unambiguously helpful.

Even this doesn't make all law an automatic imposition of morality though. Growing up, my state law had an age of consent of 17. And adult violating that law and having sex with a minor of 16 and 11 months isn't automatically immoral, despite being unambiguously against the law. Yes, if the adult gets caught, arrested, and charged, people may judge them as immoral. That doesn't make what they did immoral, nor does it require the law to have been issued as an imposition of morality. The fact is a line must be drawn. So a line is drawn at where is likely the "best fit" for society. This doesn't have to be moral. It can be simple pragmatics.

Furthermore, having laws align with the majority morality in a society can be a way of achieving order. It is not always the case that this is true (for example the prevailing morality in the US may be that Muslims should not have the same rights as the rest of us simply on the basis of their religion/culture/ethnicity. Denying rights to people on the basis of their identity is an inherently disorderly way to govern, though, so that's why we need pragmatic laws to overturn morality sometimes). Most laws however, are a better fit.

What should the age of consent be? How late can I perform an abortion? At what point does free speech become hate speech, and when is freedom of expression a breach of the peace? It's chock-full of moralistic value judgements.

I never claimed that laws never attempt to impose morality. Only that it is not true that all laws are inherently an imposition of morality.

Katatori-kun:
I never claimed that laws never attempt to impose morality. Only that it is not true that all laws are inherently an imposition of morality.

Cool, I suspected that's what you meant. Looks like I'm with you on this one.

theonewhois3:
And the social values and morals of those who hold power decide the laws. This is not an issue that can be simply viewed.

Murder is not illegal because the Bible says it's bad. It's illegal because it's a threat to the public. There are some laws which impose certain "values," intentional or otherwise (such as polygamy not being legal), but not all laws are created for that purpose, and nor do all laws have that affect.

MoNKeyYy:
My question to the escapist is this: To what extent should government excersize moral authority over its constituancy and to what extent is it acceptable to impose a moral ideology over other people? In what cases is excersising moral authority appropriate?

Well, that is itself a moral judgement. The only "answer" you can get really is an agreement by people who share the same morals, in which case the question doesn't need to be asked.

...

Unfortunately, there's no answers to this. From my point of view, though, it seems worse that attempts to impose morality are generally attacks on someone you don't like.

When you say "these people/that thing these people do is wrong because of X", you are holding up X as a yardstick by which things should be judged, and not just those things you don't like.

Now, you can find yourself something that genuinely can't be used to criticise you, which may or may not be a coincidence, but most of the time people won't bother because they don't need to.

It's difficult to define in simple words, but essentially:
The Law is granted supreme authority by our society as the "commonly held moral belief" is that co-surival is preferable to destruction. Preservation of life, and all that. A derivative of this belief is the fact that an ordered society has a better chance for survival than one in disarray, as we've established this early in our history.

So, way back before farming, when we were divided into nomadic tribes, each Tribe had it's own unique set of informal laws and rules. These were generally made up of an agreed "moral code" - such as not stealing another man's family, not killing members of your own tribe, etc.
These weren't formalised until the number of people in a given Tribe prevented these informal laws and rules being enforced easily. This is generally believed to have occured around the time we invented farming, as the population of a given "tribe" exploded into massive numbers very quickly. As this point, the Law was transformed from an unwritten rule, so to speak, into a concrete "Do Not Do This". The Law became a power unto itself; the Law is Law because the Law is Law - you can't "opt out".

Within that supreme authority that we've granted the Law, we as a society exist as a living, changing entity. We change the Law to better suit our current needs, wants and accepted standards. See everything from alcohol to racism.
So, any Moral Imposition upon a society that ensures the survival of the society as a whole is therefore protected by the Law itself, as the Law ensures the survival of society.

A strange by-product of this is that while the Law ensures the survival of a society, generally by fostering "togethernes", it doesn't actually Impose Morals upon an individual - only society as a whole.
You can be racist. You can be homophobic. You can hate women. You simply can't allow those moral codes to impact upon society. You can't use your hate against women to deny a woman a job, for example, but there is no law that says you can't hate women.

Tis a strange place to have arrived at, to be sure.

Lilani:

theonewhois3:
And the social values and morals of those who hold power decide the laws. This is not an issue that can be simply viewed.

Murder is not illegal because the Bible says it's bad. It's illegal because it's a threat to the public. There are some laws which impose certain "values," intentional or otherwise (such as polygamy not being legal), but not all laws are created for that purpose, and nor do all laws have that affect.

That's bit of a misconstrual of what i said. But anyway.

I think you and katori are stuck in the Anglo/christian perspective on this point. predicating those basic laws are certain basic assumptions and values. That life is of foremost value and that all humans beings are intrinsically equal.
A great example of the influence of Christianity on law is the illegality of committing suicide.
In Australia you cannot commit suicide. illegal. Why?

In other cultures, the famous example being feudal Japan, suicide and the sanctity of life were viewed from a completely different perspective and these cultures had different values. The laws were respectively different.

Of course, the equal treatment of all individuals under law is only a modern addition to law and order too. Culture and ethics do have an impact on laws. The idea of what exactly is to the "good of the public", what precisely "an orderly fashion" just is, and by what means should it be sustained all have to be decided upon by those who hold power and pass laws. What influences those decisions? Among many things, what these people consider is 'right'.

So you cannot have an objective or 'easy' standing when it comes to laws. You have to accept that laws are made subjectively. To accept laws as keeping order is lazy thinking.

senordesol:

Tree man:

1: Not really, family life was pretty messed up what with the immigration and the divided country, structure and stability were things that I wanted but didn't have. They weren't morals so much as goals.

2: Never really thought of laws that way.

1. Are some goals not a byproduct of a moral code?

2. Someone on a forum entertaining an alternate viewpoint? My God! The internet's gonna collapse in on itse-

My victory is absolute.

 

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