Section  9. Ethics and Law

Morality-  rules of right conduct concerning matters of greater importance.  Violations of such can bring disturbance to individual conscience and social sanctions. 

Law- rules which are enforced by society.  Violations may bring a loss of or reduction in freedom and possessions.

 What is the relation of law to morality?  They are not the same.  You can not equate the two.  Just because something is immoral does not make it illegal and just because something is illegal it does not make it immoral. 

Not all immoral acts are illegal.

Not all illegal acts are immoral.

You can probable think of many examples to support this view once you think about it. 


Things that are illegal but are thought to be moral (for many)! 

Drinking under age.

Driving over the speed limit.

Smoking marijuana.

Cheating on a tax return.

Splitting a cable signal to send it to more than one television.


People do not think of themselves or of others as being immoral for breaking these laws.

Can you think of other examples??


Things that are immoral (for many) but are not illegal. 

Cheating on your spouse.

Breaking a promise to a friend.

Using abortion as a birth control measure.

 People can not be arrested or punished with imprisonment or fines for doing these things.

 Can you think of other examples??


 What is the relation of morality to law?  Well, when enough people think that something is immoral they will work to have a law that will forbid it and punish those that do it.

When enough people think that something is moral,  they will work to have a law that forbids it and punishes those that do it repealed. 


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Copyright Stephen O Sullivan and Philip A. Pecorino  2002. All Rights reserved.

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