Ethics and morality: a broad range of topics

Some Typical Confusions About the Relationship Between Law and Morality

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The difference between revenge and justice consists of the nature of the punishment, which it is difficult for a victim to estimate, or whether there has been a wrong at all, which is why posits that the state of nature is best replaced by a judicial system of dispassionate judgment, to avoid "those Evils, which necessarily follow from Mens being Judges in their own Cases." But the principle that harm and injustice be balanced by a proportional harm of retribution is essential to the moral meaning of punishment.

3. J. von Neumann and O. Morgenstern,  (Princeton University Press,Princeton, N.J., 1947), p. 11.

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Such dependency, however, essentially means abject and demoralizing peonage.

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If we suppose that all interests affected by our action are those of a single person, if we suppose, in other words, that the interests of the person affected by our action are ours as well, we would favor the preponderating interest regardless of whether it is our own or that of the other person.

a Moral Law that is an unconditioned (


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Analysis of the pollution problem as a function of populationdensity uncovers a not generally recognized principle ofmorality, namely: Using the commons as a cesspool does notharm the general public under frontier conditions, because thereis no public; the same behavior in a metropolis is unbearable. Ahundred and fifty years ago a plainsman could kill an Americanbison, cut out only the tongue for his dinner, and discard therest of the animal. He was not in any important sense beingwasteful. Today, with only a few thousand bison left, we would beappalled at such behavior.

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On a personal level, religiosity is merely annoying—like pop music or reality television. This immaturity represents a significant social problem, however, because religious adherents fail to recognize their limitations. So, in the name of their faith, these moral retards are running around pointing fingers and doing real harm to others. One only has to read the newspaper to see the results of their handiwork. They discriminate, exclude and belittle. They make a virtue of closed-mindedness and virulent ignorance. They are an ugly, violent lot.

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Rawls' "veil of ignorance" as a procedural approach for determiningwhat is right is susceptible to this problem. For example, someone formulatinglaws under the veil of ignorance might sincerely (but perhaps mistakenly)believe that in a free market system, one may rise or fall on one's ownmerit, and that anyone with initiative, normal intelligence, and a goodwork ethic will be able to be successful, no matter what one's startingpoint in the society. One wealthy U.S. Senator one time said during a hearingthat if he lost all his money today he could quickly build up a fortuneagain based on work and initiative and because of the free enterprise systemand the myriad of opportunities this country offers. But in reality hecould only do that because of his knowledge of the marketplace and becausehe had friends in high places to call for help. It is doubtful that ifhe had to start over again as a black woman or just start life in the firstplace as a child from a poor family in a ghetto, with no wealthy friendsor contacts, that he could as easily build a fortune, even though he believeshe could. The "veil of ignorance" in regard to what position you wouldbe born into in society does not help you create the best laws if you donot truly understand the limitations and barriers different positions imposeno matter what underlying qualities of character or latent talent one mightpossess.

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That morality is system-sensitive escaped the attention ofmost codifiers of ethics in the past. "Thou shaltnot " is the form of traditional ethical directiveswhich make no allowance for particular circumstances. The laws ofour society follow the pattern of ancient ethics, and thereforeare poorly suited to governing a complex, crowded, changeableworld. Our epicyclic solution is to augment statutory law withadministrative law. Since it is practically impossible to spellout all the conditions under which it is safe to burn trash inthe back yard or to run an automobile without smog­control, bylaw we delegate the details to bureaus. The result isadministrative law, which is rightly feared for an ancient reason-- --Who shall watch thewatchers themselves? John Adams said that we must have a"government of laws and not men." Bureauadministrators, trying to evaluate the morality of acts in thetotal system, are singularly liable to corruption, producing agovernment by men, not laws.