There is no distinction between law and morality.

Google law morality. The first hit is this page, and the first line on the page is:

At first there seems to be no distinction between law and morality.

The rest of the page is an argument against this naive impression. The argument fails and the naive impression holds. Here is the summary and my comments.

(1) The existence of unjust laws (such as those enforcing slavery) proves that morality and law are not identical and do not coincide.

An alternative interpretation of the same facts is that there are two distinct systems of law, one here being called "law" and the other being called "morality". We should not be surprised if two systems of law are not identical.

(2) The existence of laws that serve to defend basic values--such as laws against murder, rape, malicious defamation of character, fraud, bribery, etc. --prove that the two can work together.

This does not argue for a distinction.

(3) Laws can state what overt offenses count as wrong and therefore punishable. Although law courts do not always ignore a person's intention or state of mind, the law cannot normally govern, at least not in a direct way, what is in your heart (your desires). Because often morality passes judgment on a person's intentions and character, it has a different scope than the law.

A difference in scope may distinguish two legal systems from each other. Aside from this, it is unclear whether there is any real distinction. The author admits that law does not always ignore intention.

(4) Laws govern conduct at least partly through fear of punishment. Morality, when it is internalized, when it has become habit-like or second nature, governs conduct without compulsion. The virtuous person does the appropriate thing because it is the fine or noble thing to do.

Law can be internalized. When we drive we automatically move to the appropriate side of the road, and generally obey the rules of the road, without (direct) compulsion. On the other side, while we develop a moral conscience which then governs us, observation of children makes it hard to deny that compulsion plays a role in the development of a conscience.

(5) Morality can influence the law in the sense that it can provide the reason for making whole groups of immoral actions illegal.

This does not argue for a distinction.

(6) Law can be a public expression of morality which codifies in a public way the basic principles of conduct which a society accepts. In that way it can guide the educators of the next generation by giving them a clear outline of the values society wants taught to its children.

This does not argue for a distinction.

Morality is not enforced by the state (except insofar as it coincides with the state's laws). It is a system of law that is characterized by non-state enforcement, generally social exclusion (including, for example, being fired) but also, on occasion, violence. It fits Webster's first definition of law:

a binding custom or practice of a community

There is, however, one commonly alleged distinction which never got mentioned, and that is that laws can change, but morality is unchanging. For example, it is immoral to keep slaves now, and (so people think) it always was immoral, even though no one realized it. But it was once legal, and is now illegal. There's your difference.

There are two concepts of morality in play now. Stanford explains the difference:

The term “morality” can be used either

1. descriptively to refer to a code of conduct put forward by a society or,
1a. some other group, such as a religion, or
1b. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

I've been talking about morality in sense (1), and "unchanging" morality is sense (2), though I think as written (2) is much too specific about the required characteristics of unchanging morality.

Of course, like morality, law also comes in two varieties - natural law is unchanging. So the important distinction isn't really between morality and law. It's between the changeable varieties and the unchangeable varieties.

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A different distinction.

Morality is somewhat broader than law - vices are not crimes. Crimes are wrongs done against another, which therefore may rightly attract retribution. Vices are wrongs done against oneself. Wrongs that may rightly attract retribution are unlawful. Vices therefore, are not unlawful.

But that, I think, was not the distinction made in the article.

According to legal realism, law merely is the momentary opinion of a legislature, which is of course, lawlessness, and not even the opinion of the legislature, but rather the opinion of the judge - as Sotomayor tells us the appeals court is where policy is made - which, as Moldbug would probably tell us, takes lawlessness one step further.

The qualm I have with legal

The qualm I have with legal realism is that, if one sticks to the definition, it is tautological.

Yes, the law is the whim of the legislator or the judge, it has nothing to do with morality. Indeed, laws against drug possession for example are clearly immoral, yet they are laws.

However, most discussions do not circle around what the law is, but what the law should be, which is in the realm of morality.

It seems to me that behind legal realism, there is often the hidden assumption that one should obey the law.

Only visible to those who recognize natural law

Crimes are wrongs done against another, which therefore may rightly attract retribution. Vices are wrongs done against oneself.

Indeed. But as you point out, legal realists think that law is the momentary opinion of the legislature. Since the legislature can decide to send the police after vice, then legal realists must recognize vices as potentially unlawful. So legal realists are unable to recognize the distinction that you make.

(Needless to say, I'm not a legal realist.)

Natural law

Of course, like morality, law also comes in two varieties - natural law is unchanging. So the important distinction isn't really between morality and law. It's between the changeable varieties and the unchangeable varieties.

This can't be quite right. There are two different uses of "natural law," but your comment doesn't work either way.

One meaning of "natural law" isn't about law at all. This is "natural law" in the sense that Aquinas or Hobbes talk about it. But that's a theory about morality, and not about law. Natural law in this sense is certainly unchanging. But it's inaccurate to describe this as a theory about the law and then conclude from that that law and morality are alike in some important way.

Of course "natural law" can also be applied to legal philosophy. If that's what you mean, then I fear you're begging the question. Because natural law theory just is the view that laws are laws if and only if they are moral. So to talk about "natural law" in this sense is to more or less assume the very thing you're aiming to prove.

From the context of your comment, though, I fear that you might be trying to take the term as it is used in ethics and use it as a theory of the law. But that's not really quite right.

The word

This is "natural law" in the sense that Aquinas or Hobbes talk about it. But that's a theory about morality, and not about law.

And yet they use the word "law" (or anyway, somebody did). While they might not have meant it literally but only analogically (physical law and human law are similarly merely analogous), it's apparent that they saw enough of a connection or similarity to use that word. What do you suppose they were thinking?

Because natural law theory just is the view that laws are laws if and only if they are moral. So to talk about "natural law" in this sense is to more or less assume the very thing you're aiming to prove.

That is not my understanding of it. I've written on the topic of natural law in this blog before. My first post on the topic consists almost entirely of a complete reproduction of a long Usenet post by Mikel Evins which outlines and defends a certain claim. Here is the central claim as described by Mikel Evins:

The natural law argument is this:

People by their nature inevitably come into conflict from time to time.When they can't resolve a conflict peacefully between themselves and don't want to resort to violence or drop the conflict, they turn to someone else to resolve it. People will naturally and predictably find some methods for resolving such conflicts more congenial than others. There are some classes of conflict for which people will naturally and predictably find certain kinds of resolutions more congenial than others. The procedures people find more congenial will also produce the resolutions people find more congenial. And the procedures and resolutions that people find more congenial will tend to resemble each other across times and cultures.

There is no mention of morality in that statement of the natural law position. Natural law is the set of procedures and resolutions which trancend place, time, and culture in the manner described. Now, "congenial" is kind of vague, but there are ways of clarifying it. One way of thinking of it is in terms of stable strategies for dealing with other humans under evolutionary pressure. James Donald mentions this "ESS" definition (the theory being that there is something substantial satisfying the definition) of natural law in his essay on natural law, where he describes it thus:

The scientific/ sociobiological/ game theoretic/ evolutionary definition: Natural law is, or follows from, an ESS for the use of force: Conduct which violates natural law is conduct such that, if a man were to use individual unorganized violence to prevent such conduct, or, in the absence of orderly society, use individual unorganized violence to punish such conduct, then such violence would not indicate that the person using such violence, (violence in accord with natural law) is a danger to a reasonable man. This definition is equivalent to the definition that comes from the game theory of iterated three or more player non zero sum games, applied to evolutionary theory. The idea of law, of actions being lawful or unlawful, has the emotional significance that it does have, because this ESS for the use of force is part of our nature.

Notice the mention at the end of "emotional significance". This is commonly associated with morality. So of course, there is an obvious link between natural law and morality, likely to occur to anyone who's been thinking about natural law in the sense I've been describing. But this is more a corollary of the theory than the theory itself.

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