Thursday, June 09, 2005

Refute This

Consider that all around the globe the laws governing human behavior are different. Common practices taken for granted in one place may be illegal or disgraceful in another. Even in the same society an act that is unspeakable today may have been acceptable in the past, and those who committed it then, when it was perfectly approved, might now be subjected to retrospective condemnation. What are we to say of the laws that we are following at this moment in our own particular location? Seen from a general perspective across both space and time, human law is inconsistent and self-contradictory. The only rational conclusion we are able to reach is that individual laws are the temporary and artificial product of human invention. Other than the fear of penalty there is no reason to obey them. As natural creatures human beings are obliged to follow only nature itself, and what is natural to man is self-interest. The law of nature decrees that those who are strong will liberate themselves from conventional laws, gain control over others, and live according to the dictates of their own inclinations, their own will, and their own desires.

5 comments:

cakephatt said...

It often is society which creates the stronger character.

brainmarket said...

The law is a source of much fun. That is about all that can be said for it.

brainmarket said...

Laws tend to reflect prevailing moral standards. Obviously, these vary over time and space, hence the U.S. Supreme Court's observance of "evolving standards of decency" (see the recent change regarding execution of minors) and refusal to conform to foreign moral standards (see the Court's persistent acceptance of capital punishment in the face of almost universal rejection as morally unacceptable elsewhere). The diversity of communities requires that we do not--and should not--view the law from a general perspective across both space and time. Therefore, the law is not as inconsistent and as self-contradictory as it might otherwise appear.

One reason to obey the law is certainly the fear of punishment. Another is the desire to conform, or the desire to appear to be moral.

Nature's Rebel said...

What can morality be, however, if it is the desire to appear to be moral? Where does a prevailing moral standard come from? What would you think of the prevailing moral standard if it ordered you to drink hemlock, as it ordered Socrates to do? Do you then become the hero of a later enlightened society? And if so, were you standing up for something that transcended prevailing morality in the first place?

Richard said...

"Other than the fear of penalty there is no reason to obey them."

I don't think anything you've said is sufficient to establish this point. Our laws and understanding of morality change, just as our technologies and understanding of science changes. That doesn't mean there are no moral or scientific facts. See my post on Moral Diversity and Skepticism for more detail.