Sunday 26 June 2011

Sin and Law


I believe Law has become so dominant a model for conceptualizing morality, that now our culture cannot escape its domination.

In particular, immoral behaviour, sin, is nowadays defined in terms of 'breaking a Law'.

Hence virtue is conceptualized in terms of following Laws, the possible nature of these Laws; and moral debate degenerates into speculating about the possible consequences of applying specific Laws.


So - somebody does something immoral, or habitually behaves in an immoral way - a way that 'strikes people' as immoral.

The first thing that people ask is whether the behavior breaks 'the Law' (as it exists).

When a behavior does not break the Law, then the feeling is that the behavior is probably virtuous!


But even if the immoral behaviour does break the Law, then we have all been trained to ask whether breaking the Law necessarily and always in every circumstance means that the behavior is immoral; and of course the answer is no.

Some circumstance can always be imagined (even if they actually never existed) where breaking any particular Law is justified - Laws are, after all, merely abstract, selective and summary.

So, any Law always has exceptions and flaws; yet Law is regarded as the only valid conceptualization of morality.  


This is crucial - we are trained to believe that morality is Laws (including law-like rules and regulations); only Laws can be moral - that morality can properly be conceptualized only in abstract and formal terms.


So we are confronted by the inadequacy of any existing specific Laws, but the conviction that behaviour ought to be regulated by Laws - based on the conviction that morality is a matter of Laws.

Therefore we need constantly to change the Law: to increase the number of Laws (to fill in the gaps and close the loopholes) and to increase the generality of Laws (to cover all possible contingencies).

Now we have truly vast numbers of specific Laws, such that nobody knows them all and nobody understands their interaction; and anyways these Laws continually change, such that nobody can keep-up; and we have Laws of such generality that everyone is in breach of them at all times for instance politically correct laws based on subjective tendencies - such as those relating to discrimination or Hate Crimes.


This situation is subversive of morality itself - indeed not just subversive but actively destructive.

Because when the definition of sin depends on breaking a specific Law; and when such Laws are abundant, incompatible and continually in flux - then it is rational to abolish any inconvenient sin by changing the Law.

New sins are thus continually being created (by the expansion of Law/s) while traditional sins are abolished by change of Laws.

Both trends lead to temporary and contingent laws without any underlying moral rationale; which means that any specific sins are considered as contingent as the Laws which define them.


So now we have a self-refuting paradox: We believe that sin ought properly to be defined in terms of Laws, yet we also believe that Laws are arbitrary and we know that Laws are always changing.

The name for this situation of incoherence is nihilism - the denial of reality, the denial that reality is real.

Nihilism is not the dominant mode of modern social discourse merely because lots of people happen to have chosen it; rather it is that social conditions, including the legal system, actually imposes nihilism on our culture.

Imposing nihilism actively destroys human meaning and purpose, and creates a state of alienation; and that it what Law is doing to us.


The error is fundamental, the situation vastly entrenched; the only answer is radical.

Start again.


Daniel said...

Yes, I see. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

To liberals legal = moral. To traditional conservatives what is legal and what is moral is different (there is a distinction).