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View Poll Results: What is the purpose of law?

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  • To enforce objective standards of right and wrong.

    0 0%
  • To facilitate social order.

    19 79.17%
  • I don't agree with the first two options, but I want to be included.

    5 20.83%
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  1. #1
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Default What is the purpose of Law?

    What is the purpose of law? Is it to enforce objective standards of right and wrong, or is it to facilitate social order? Sometimes these are the same things, but what about the circumstances when they are not? Should law reflect what is right, or should it implement policies that facilitate order? Let me give a couple of examples to explain what I mean.

    Let's assume for the sake of argument that all killing is immoral. Therefore abortion would be immoral. But let's say that studies have shown that outlawing abortion doesn't decrease the abortion rate. Instead the abortions are performed illegally and are dangerous to expectant mothers. Therefore if you do the moral thing and outlaw abortion, then you get a worse outcome as a result.

    (That is probably a pro-left example, so let me give a pro-right one.)

    Let's assume again that all killing is immoral. Therefore capital punishment is immoral. However let's say that studies have shown the murder rate to drop by 7 for every criminal executed under the death penalty. Therefore if you do the moral thing and outlaw capital punishment, then society suffers the effects of a worse outcome.

    In both of my examples enforcing the "right" thing would decrease social order. So what do you think the purpose of law is? Is it to enforce right and wrong, or is it to facilitate social order?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    Objective standards of right and wrong? Do those actually exist?

    As far as practical applications go, it's to create order in society. 'Right' and 'wrong' are ideals and when idealistic solutions are applied, they usually have unintended (negative) consequences.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  3. #3
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    Law should be for facilitating social order. Period. Right and wrong in black and white terms will not have the same meaning to any two people. Abortion and the death penalty is fine to me.

  4. #4
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lateralus View Post
    Objective standards of right and wrong? Do those actually exist?
    In theory no they don't exist, but in practical application you can get something fairly close. First, the law itself is an objective standard. The real question is how much (if any) should morality be applied to law? Even for morality you can get a fairly reasonable standard among the majority. In the US you could combine the populations of people with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim beliefs on morality. Their views on morality are fairly similar in a lot of ways, and that would be a large enough majority to say that the standards were "reasonably" objective. If this group wanted to legalize something on the basis of morality they certainly would have the votes.
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  5. #5
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Maybe what you aren't considering is that by insisting that law should be used to maintain social order, you are expressing a feeling that one path should be followed, and another should not. You're already laying down the basic ground work for good and bad, right and wrong.

    I personally find the first two choices inseperable.
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  6. #6
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    Maybe what you aren't considering is that by insisting that law should be used to maintain social order, you are expressing a feeling that one path should be followed, and another should not. You're already laying down the basic ground work for good and bad, right and wrong.

    I personally find the first two choices inseperable.
    It's true that in a person's head the two can end up becoming the same thing in which case you have to ask yourself which approach you chose first. A person can convince themselves that their view of morality will always bring the greatest social order. Likewise a person looking to facilitate order can convince themselves that this approach is the most moral. Let me try to elaborate the two viewpoints a little more:

    If you listen to people debate the issues, usually someone will make a moral appeal in order to persuade people to their side. Abortion is largely expressed in terms of morality regardless of the person's stance. The expressions "save a life" and "woman's right to choose" are moral appeals. The two sides represent different views on morality. The actual effects on society are an afterthought in the abortion debate.

    On other issues people focus more towards societal order. "This policy will create 20,000 jobs" or will "reduce violent crime by 11%". It is clear when various issues are discussed the two different approaches are used (morality or civil order). The question I am asking is "which is really the appropriate approach"?
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  7. #7
    Senior Member ThatsWhatHeSaid's Avatar
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    The poll's problematic because it doesn't distinguish between intended purpose and actual function. Practically, it keeps social order (among other functions) but people might think it's intended to preserve elevate good over bad.

  8. #8
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    It's true that in a person's head the two can end up becoming the same thing in which case you have to ask yourself which approach you chose first. A person can convince themselves that their view of morality will always bring the greatest social order. Likewise a person looking to facilitate order can convince themselves that this approach is the most moral. Let me try to elaborate the two viewpoints a little more:

    If you listen to people debate the issues, usually someone will make a moral appeal in order to persuade people to their side. Abortion is largely expressed in terms of morality regardless of the person's stance. The expressions "save a life" and "woman's right to choose" are moral appeals. The two sides represent different views on morality. The actual effects on society are an afterthought in the abortion debate.

    On other issues people focus more towards societal order. "This policy will create 20,000 jobs" or will "reduce violent crime by 11%". It is clear when various issues are discussed the two different approaches are used (morality or civil order). The question I am asking is "which is really the appropriate approach"?
    I still say this is a false dichotomy. You're first example and second example seem similar to the differences between deontological morals and teleological morals. The important point being that they are both a kind of morality.

    Both are obviously based on an objective idea of what is right and wrong. The real difference you're putting forward is that the first one is about an inate code that pre-empts all other factors. Some things you just you don't do, because the moral good is defined in the inent and the means.
    The second proposition is about ultimate results. Where moral good is defined in the terms of consquences of actions.

    If we re-define it that way, then I would pick the second one. But as it stands, the second choices incorrectly implies that it has no basis in objective ideas of right and wrong.
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  9. #9
    Junior Member intrepid_wanders's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    The poll's problematic because it doesn't distinguish between intended purpose and actual function. Practically, it keeps social order (among other functions) but people might think it's intended to preserve elevate good over bad.
    I agree. From my perspective, laws should only protect ME from YOU. That is it.

  10. #10
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid View Post
    The poll's problematic because it doesn't distinguish between intended purpose and actual function. Practically, it keeps social order (among other functions) but people might think it's intended to preserve elevate good over bad.
    The poll only uses the word purpose. That is ultimately the question.


    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan
    I still say this is a false dichotomy.
    It's not intended to be a dichotomy. I could ask the question, "If you only had money for one which would you buy: ice cream or a ham sandwich." There is no dicotomy between ice cream and a ham sandwich, but if you were forced to choose one then which would you choose? In my OP I'm asking to choose between two things which are sometimes not at odds and sometimes are. So if you have to pick one over the other then which would you pick?
    My wife and I made a game to teach kids about nutrition. Please try our game and vote for us to win. (Voting period: July 14 - August 14)
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