Plato, a famous Greek philosopher once addressed by a group of curious students asking Why people need to Obey the laws? To which Plato answered that, it can clearly be seen the fact that those who do not obey the laws are seems to be comparatively well off than those who obey the laws, but one should know that if everyone begins to follow the same direction, the benefit of being an outlaw would be perished ,quickly and leaving society in a state of chaos. This doctrine even in modern era continues to exist but not limited to the laws imposed by the state, but also in the form of various moral principles taught to us, through formal education system as well as through the elder generation of society.
Analogy between Morals and Laws.
It is quite surprising to note that despite laws and moral principles being two completely distinguished concepts, yet share significant resemblance in their formation, operation as well as in their purpose. These differences and similarities can easily be seen in the following examples:
- Clarification and Objective : Both Morals and Laws vary when it comes to degree of clarification. While Laws are well written set of rules that must to be followed by the people under its regime, Morals on the other hand, are unwritten guidelines which lacks clarification and unlike laws most of the morals are universally acceptable. Despite this difference, they both serves a common purpose i.e, to maintain peace, harmony and ensure proper functioning of society.
- Fabrication and Imposition : Laws are fabricated through a legal institution which could be democratic or authoritarian in nature, whereas morals are constructed by an informal institution of people (intellectuals mainly) who have greater credibility in the society. Irrespective differences both are imposed by an unquestionable figures such as kings or wise men of society, made out of collective societal acceptance. In simple words individuals follow both morals and laws as everybody around us seems to be following them or may be out of fear.
- Enforcement and Punishment : While laws are enforced by a brutal force such as police or military whereas morals are not legally bounded to follow. Both however punishes those who violates them, laws using its legal rights through violent measures and for morals, society by disassociating itself from those who seems not to be following them.
In the above example it can clearly be seen that morals and laws may differ in its approach but their philosophical ground are quite similar. Therefore in order to understand morals and laws better, one must address their common philosophical ground and association between them.
Relation between Morals and Laws.
Morals are widely accepted guidelines that society expects its individuals to follow. It impose numerous constraints over the behavior of individuals in a society. It is mostly seeded into our mind by someone of unquestionable character such as parents or even GOD. When these morals seems to be threatened by a fraction of society, the authorities tries to formally impose these morals and making it a boundation for all to follow. These formal boundations by the authorities are the laws that individuals must obey.
From the above argument it can be concluded that morals provide a base for the construction of law, morals govern the society while laws are mostly focused on individuals or fraction of society, society tends to ignore those who do not follow the morals but when these individuals conceived as a threat to the morals society takes up action against them by imposing the complete or a fraction of moral as a legal boundation.
Plato’s argument mentioned in the beginning of this article, can also be applied on the idea of morals as we have already learned that both morals and laws may differ in the approach but there are similar in their philosophical ground.
From a different perspective we can also conclude the Plato’s argument, that individuals who follow morals are actually paying for the benefit of those who do not follow. It is based on the idea that if society is benefited then the individuals will also be benefited. Also there seems to be a predetermined belief that society would largely remain unaffected from these immoral elements as such they may not possess significant power. All these conditions may not be hold true in every society, for instance we can clearly see from the fact that GDP of a country may be growing but the per capita income may be decreasing which shows collective growth may not result in individual growth. Further the terror groups like ISIS has taken over the Syria and involvement of USA in internal matters of various countries, shows that the ones who do not follow the morals may also have the capability to take over the society as a whole.
Another important feature of morals is that is inflexible in nature and some of them remains same through a long period of time. Note that when something remains unchanged for a significant amount of time, it becomes redundant. This can be seen through numerous example such as, exploitation and intolerance in the name of religion. domestic abuse including both men and women, restriction on women’s sexuality all these more or less takes place in the same of some moral principles.
From above example it has been clear that morals may often promote social interest at the cost of individuals. This may lead to a situation where morals may reduce the individual capabilities or at a worst scenario morals may even go against survival of an individual. This however is not a call of state of complete immoralness as it would be more devastating. What is required is, a state where morals are based on questions and rationality rather than in the form imposition from unquestionable figures, a state where morals are based on circumstances and where it goes under constant improvisation.