What holds more weight, Morality or legality?

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  1. kenjmo profile image60
    kenjmoposted 11 years ago

    What holds more weight, Morality or legality?

    I'll use a two people example first: Penn State which legally fulfilled their obligation but morally let kids get molested. Second: Mitt Romney legally becoming wealthy while morally didn't invest in America. This can be said for marriage, Religion, wars, arrests and so on. Can being legal and moral happen at the same time?

  2. d.william profile image72
    d.williamposted 11 years ago

    Obviously legality holds more weight.  You can't be sent to prison by simply being immoral, unless it is morality that is against the law (pedophilia for example).   There are many things that are considered immoral, but legal (greed, manipulating the system, taking bribes, kickbacks, etc..).  It can be a fine line between the two, but legality trumps all,. morality is in the minds of the beholders.

  3. SidKemp profile image85
    SidKempposted 11 years ago

    Great question: To clarify it, I suggest adding a third word: Ethics.

    I believe that, deeply within each person, we know what is right. We know that harming others or harming ourselves is harming everyone, and is not true to who we are. We know that lying and cheating is damaging to those who do it, whatever the temporary reward. That is ethics. And perhaps we are here, among other reasons, to learn to listen to and live by our inner ethical compass.

    Morality is a cultural effort to create and share ethics. But it has individual differences in different cultures. For example, all cultures have marriage, and define a wrong behavior of sex outside marriage as cheating. But the definitions differ. Some allow only one woman and one man to be together. Others allow one man to have multiple wives, or one woman to have multiple husbands. Some require that marriage be lifelong; others say that divorce and remarriage is acceptable. These are moral variations all trying to preserve the ethical sanctity of marriage.

    Civilizations build legal systems and laws, also, to try to instantiate ethics.

    When laws allow harm to go on without it being stopped and redressed, then the law is not ethical.

    When moral codes allow harm to go on without it being stopped and redressed, then that moral system is not as ethical as it could be.

    Investing in America would be a moral issue, but not an ethical, one, unless he lied about it or held an inconsistent position. But his behavior in this area would be an indicator of values that will affect his perspective and choices as President, if he is elected.

  4. AlexK2009 profile image81
    AlexK2009posted 11 years ago

    Of course it is possible to be both at the same time, but there are a lot of things which are morally OK but illegal and which are legal but not morally ok. 

    Morally OK but Illegal:
    smoking in a closed  public space in the UK,
    Smoking Cannabis in a way that harms nobody
    Drinking Alcohol when you are one day under the legal age

    As to weight, usually the law wins. Legality beats morality, but sometimes the law may be morally wrong (blacks cannot ride the same bus as whites) and then individuals may decide morality has greater weight

    So the short answer to the question is "it depends"

  5. Kari Pete profile image61
    Kari Peteposted 11 years ago

    I'd say morality.  The way I thought about this was, in thinking about someone committing a crime is the act of the crime more important or the intention behind it?  So for instance, someone kills another person.  Both are crimes, but do you judge it differently if it is someone who died in defense of their home or if it was the person who killed someone breaking into a home.

    Note: This is an extreme case - I am not actually in favor of killing people in general.

  6. profile image0
    msorenssonposted 11 years ago

    I assume by this question you meant is it possible to be ethical at all times..it is the premise by which I will answer the question...morality is dictated by the circumstance..legality is defined by those who impose the laws.

    Your only task is to find justice within yourself...rulers will change, wealth changes hands overnight, sometimes in hours, morality is defined and dictated by the times, but within yourself,  there is a "non-judge"..it is "it" who sees the totality of everything..

    One can not enforce ethics on another.

    To be Just
    Aristocracy is the rule of the Nobles. To rule, one must have wisdom for it is wisdom that dictates justice. To be just, one must be impeccable.To be impeccable, one must be ethical. To be ethical,one must first be strong.

    © 2010 by Melinda M. Sorensson

  7. whonunuwho profile image52
    whonunuwhoposted 11 years ago

    Human needs require morality and the law in the courts requires legality as the deciding factor. Human morality takes a back seat in the court systems in today's world. Morality and legality may be present together at times, but this seems to be the exception rather than the rule in most cases.

  8. junkseller profile image80
    junksellerposted 11 years ago

    If I lived on an island by myself, I'd have no need of laws, but may still have a moral code (e.g. kill animals or just eat plants). If three people lived on the island, we still may not need laws, as long as our moral codes included provisions for being respectful and working out differences. But, what if one person's moral code said that humans are more important than nature, while another's code said nature was more important than humans? Well, then we might have an insurmountable conflict--and that point is where laws come in. They are the ways we adjudicate conflicts in moral codes. Laws, then, should be morally neutral.

    So, even though morality comes first and, I think, is the primary determinant for our daily actions, I'd say legality has more weight, since it is the only way that people with different moral codes can co-exist.

  9. cyoung35 profile image81
    cyoung35posted 11 years ago

    Morally we should treat others as we would want to be treated. No matter where you come from in this world we should be morally responsible and throw out legality when you know in the pit of your stomach that something is morally wrong.

    1. YogaKat profile image83
      YogaKatposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      Be responsible for our own thoughts and actions toward others . . . such a simple and small act to care and love your neighbor or the driver on the freeway that accidentally cut you off.  Look inside your heart/emotions and be compassionate.

  10. molometer profile image77
    molometerposted 11 years ago

    Morals are culturally generated. What may be moral in one country may be immoral in another country.
    Legality is also culturally bound. Sharia law would be considered barbaric by most western countries legal framework but for people that follow sharia law it is fine.
    To answer your question. Both morals and legality are bound by the cultures that generated them so almost impossible to say which carries more weight.

    The World court's law is based on the declaration of human rights, not all countries have signed up to the World court. Make of these countries what you will.

    1. YogaKat profile image83
      YogaKatposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      I think morals are personal to each individual, although they may be culturally generated.  Your morality is a special part of your spirit.  I agree with you on the legality.

  11. Cyrellys profile image60
    Cyrellysposted 11 years ago

    That's a good question.  I think the answer is relative to the individual.  A principled person can be both legal AND moral at the same time.  However a growing majority are lazy and more often are opting to fulfill only legal obligations rather than the tougher road of morality.  Too many fear to stand at the front of the herd where the spotlight moves to illuminate them.  Standing up morally these days is like volunteering for the spotlighting.  Stage fright rules our culture.

  12. PDXKaraokeGuy profile image83
    PDXKaraokeGuyposted 11 years ago

    In a  perfect world,t here should be no difference.

  13. conradofontanilla profile image67
    conradofontanillaposted 11 years ago

    Morality is a refuge and a resource; a refuge of the oppressed; a resource for the good and counter against maelvolence. Legality started as morality that is defined by law makers, enforceable, with retribution from the lawbreaker. read more

  14. randslam profile image78
    randslamposted 11 years ago

    Of course, one can be legal and moral...however, morality will always outweigh legality.

    The best example I ever heard was while working as a security screener at the airport..."Use the standard of practices and protocols as a guide...not as a Bible...because someone, (who isn't trying to blow up a plane) will always have something they need on the plane...oft times--important to keep them alive.

    "Show mercy and kindness...for legality will only show that you have no soul."

    Ask Hitler...he was a "legal"-minded man...look what happened to him.  Churchill like to drink, smoke, eat and paint...an artist at heart...who understood the difference between morality and legality.

    How we treat one another should leave room for forgiveness and understanding...legality never does.

  15. Mitch Alan profile image79
    Mitch Alanposted 11 years ago

    The focus should be on whether morality affects the need for laws.  If we were to focus on morality as a source of civil and social restraint, we would need less laws in general. As we have moved toward a moral relatavistic view point in society, we have seen an increase in law breaking and ethical deviance.  When we throw out moral objectivity, we lose the base upon which laws are built.

  16. padmendra profile image47
    padmendraposted 11 years ago

    Legality is an issue which gives you a definite direction to act. Both in terms are effective and powerful at its places and can happen at the same time . But morality holds a  more weight as compared to legality as morality is such a source of power within a human being which gives him courage at difficult times.

  17. Rina Pinto profile image59
    Rina Pintoposted 11 years ago

    Just God Words - The Holy Bible .. nothing else in this world should matter. The Terms Morality or Legality belongs to satan the father of lies.. Simple ask God for anything & everything .. God will anser you in His Righteousness & Holiness.

    1. profile image0
      thegeckoposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      If there is a God, I doubt that's what he intended.

    2. profile image0
      An AYMposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      Oh, my that's a frightening answer.  I guess we can all go have a hoot of a time being prejudiced against women and the non-religious and stoning people we don't like!

    3. randslam profile image78
      randslamposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      Everything matters...the bible is a starting point, as books have followed and speak truths revealing scientific clarity...there are many words in the bible that have very little to do with god...read it sometime..lots of murder, deceit, adultery,etc

    4. Matthew Weese profile image61
      Matthew Weeseposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      That's pretty one sided. There are country's of people dying of curable diseases, where is god when those people are crying, the truly needy. I love how everything gets boiled down to "just ask God", Looks to me like God says No.

  18. kenjmo profile image60
    kenjmoposted 11 years ago

    thank all for the response's, Another big factor between morality and legality is Religion. This society often times is under a different standard sort of like the military and omish. Good posts I see the correlation in the two and ethics defintely should be an element, especially those in the financial industry.

  19. Matthew Weese profile image61
    Matthew Weeseposted 11 years ago

    I would say Morality. You would to, if you ever seen a cop kick a woman in the head while she is down, or mace a little old woman.

  20. tsmog profile image85
    tsmogposted 11 years ago

    this will probably not answer the question. This is the thought of mind when I read the question. Not a critique, the spontaneous thought. It is neither. Personally for me they are both weights not vessels. At times one on one side of scale and the other the opposite, yet especially today, they are both on the same side of the scales. As stated below ethics comes into play. Ethics is the discipline of philosophy. Morality refers to moral standards or conduct while ethics refers to the formal study of standards and conduct. They are not interchangeable. Atheist and theist both abide by standards and conducts as well. From my understanding laws are created or legislated from the concepts of moral and ethical code. Legality is the child of morality in my view. I don't see them as comparitive, yet  more so as compatable or the parent - child relationship. As philosophies change, evolve, or metamorphus or differs culturally so will morality and thusly legal issues or laws of conduct governed by philosophical thought or ethics.

  21. profile image0
    CJ Sledgehammerposted 11 years ago

    Ultimately morality holds more weight because eternal life is determined by one's moral character and accompanying belief system...not by one's legalistic imperatives.

  22. profile image0
    thegeckoposted 11 years ago

    Morality & Ethics > Legality

    Some people do use 'morality' as a smoke screen to harm and discriminate against others. However, many of our laws institutionalize and protect corruption, greed, racism, caste systems, and many other practices that disembowel the general welfare of the common citizen. I would take misguided morality over a bad law any day.

    Of course morality and the law often intersect, but usually only under certain conditions. Killing someone, not okay. Killing someone breaking into your house, okay in some regions.

  23. YogaKat profile image83
    YogaKatposted 11 years ago

    I guess it depends on you priorities.  Morality holds more weight with me, because it is the difference of good versus bad behavior based on self perception.  Legality is good or bad based on the law.  The law and religion as well, are dramatically different depending on where you live and who you know.

    Your moral behavior is your measurement of your personal spirituality.  Ugh and I hate to bring it up . . . but Katie Holmes might have meshed both legality and morality in her recent divorce.   She summoned up her own personal morals and picked New York to legalize her issues.

  24. Greensleeves Hubs profile image90
    Greensleeves Hubsposted 11 years ago

    A good question kenjmo. Morality must take precedence in one's own mind, but one also has to recognise that mankind is a social species and that means living together and conforming to a set of guidelines about how that society is structured (legality). Without this acceptance of rules, there would be anarchy.
    Sometime ago I wrote a hub 'In Praise of Democracy', in which I tried to identify the difference in moral legitmacy between democratic states, which seek to represent as best as possible the views of society, and undemocratic nations where the laws have no moral legitimacy of popular support.
    In a democracy one should respect in almost all situations the legal regulations of the state and seek to change them only through the ballot box. Only on very rare, extreme issues should one allow one's own morality (conscience) to override respect for the rule of law, and even then one should respect the right of others to think differently, and accept the right of the legal authorities to uphold the law.
    In a non-democracy, no law carries the respect of having been voted upon by the people. In countries such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union in the past, or countries like - dare I say - Syria today, the Government which passes the laws does not have moral legitimacy and therefore it is reasonable to disobey what one perceives as immoral laws, and seek to change them by whatever means necessary wiith the proviso that - as far as is reasonable possible - one's actions against the law (or Government) should not harm innocent citizens.

  25. iamageniuster profile image63
    iamageniusterposted 11 years ago

    Morality for me definitely. Legality is just for pleasing the government. Laws used to derive from morals, but not anymore. Too many laws hurting society nowadays, instead of helping society.

  26. backporchstories profile image72
    backporchstoriesposted 11 years ago

    Socially, legality seems to have more weight, yet morality can make or brake a society.  Personally, morality should take the lead if you believe in the afterlife!  There are a lot of legal laws on the books that never consider morals, and yet we are suppose to be one nation under God!  Hmmmm....  Where have we gone wrong?

  27. profile image0
    An AYMposted 11 years ago

    I think we all like to believe that morality is more important than legality, but in the large scale of things (Relative to society) legality is more important.  The laws are a reflection of the morals of our society.  While our individual tastes may vary this helps us identify what we think is right and wrong as a people.  I believe it also contributes to a moral organization that helps a society run more smoothly when there is less room for conflict based on personal taste,

    1. Greensleeves Hubs profile image90
      Greensleeves Hubsposted 11 years agoin reply to this

      Very good answer. I make a distinction in my answer elsewhere, between democracies and non-democracies. Because in non-democracies, the laws only reflect the morals of the rulers. But in democracies, certainly everything you say is very true.


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