Conflicts of Law and Morality

Conflicts of Law and Morality

Conflicts of Law and Morality

Conflicts of Law and Morality

Synopsis

Powerful emotion and pursuit of self-interest have many times led people to break the law with the belief that they are doing so with sound moral reasons. This study, a comprehensive philosophical and legal analysis of the gray area in which the foundations of law and morality clash, views these oblique circumstances from two perspectives: that of the person who faces a possible conflict between the claims of morality and law and must choose whether or not to obey the penal code; and that of the people who make and uphold laws and must decide whether to treat someone with a moral claim to disobey differently from ordinary lawbreakers. In examining the extent of the obligations owed by citizens to their government, Greenawalt concentrates on the possible existence of a single source of obligation that reaches all citizens and all laws. He also discusses techniques of amelioration of punishment for conscientious lawbreakers, asking how far legal systems should go to accommodate individuals who break the law for reason of conscience. Drawing from numerous examples of conflicts between law and morality, Greeawalt illustrates in detail the positions and predicaments of potential lawbreakers and lawmakers alike.

Excerpt

This book aims to bring an understanding of modern legal systems to bear on classic problems of political and moral philosophy, in a way that illuminates choices about obedience to law made by ordinary citizens and officials. Because it combines much of the fruit of my life "in the law" as well as my education and study outside the law, the intellectual debts the book reflects are extensive indeed.

I had the good fortune to be the student of four great teachers of political and legal philosophy: J. Roland Pennock at Swarthmore and Sir Isaiah Berlin, H. L. A. Hart, and John Plamenatz at Oxford. They generated an interest in the question of why citizens should obey the law that has lain dormant for stages of my professional life but has never disappeared. What I have learned about the law from members of the Columbia faculty, initially as student and subsequently as colleague, has added a different dimension to my thought about this subject, one that has been further enriched over the years by exchanges with students in classes and seminars in Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy, and particularly in a 1984 seminar on Conflicts of Law and Morality.

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