Meaning law and morals (Morality 1)

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  • Meaning of Law
    • Law has been described by John Austin as ''a command issued from a sovereign power to an inferior, and enforced by coercion''
    • A beach of legal rules will result in state sanctions
    • It is not for the public to choose whether they comply to legal rules; compliance is compulsory and the rules will apply to everyone in society
    • An example is a ban on smoking in public places which has applied to everyone since legislation was created in 2007.
  • Meaning of Morals
    • Morality has been defined by Phil Harries as a set of beliefs, values, principle and standards of behaviour.
    • Unlike legal rules, you don't have to comply with moral rules
    • People have different morals and so what some would consider to be morally acceptable others do not
      • For example, some people think that abortion should not be allowed, such as the Roman Catholic Church who believes that each life is sacred
    • Moral rules tend to be forced informally due to social pressure whereas legal rules are enforced through sanctions which reflect how an offender should be punished.
    • An example of a moral rule is adultery which is frowned upon by society as a whole, but is not illegal.


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