Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Laws and Reasons

A couple more philosophical questions today.

Philo asks,

"Is there a really a difference between (civil) law and morality?"
Absolutely there is. Civil law is the result of a legislative process that may be democratic in that it derives from a ballot initiative, it may the end product of horse trading among elected legislators, or it might be the whim of a dictator. None of these have anything to do with morality, they are simply the rule of the land enforced by the power of the governing body. If the two were not different, to say, "I oppose this law because it is immoral," would be the equivalent of saying "I know x is true, but I think it is false." While the second sentence is nonsense, the first one is perfectly meaningful.

Civil law are the rules by which order is kept (or not) in a region with a government. Hopefully these laws do not force us to do that which is immoral or keep us from doing that which is morally necessary, but they might. Most of them, however, are morally irrelevant, just making necessary conventions needed to make things more orderly and safe -- we are not morally superior to the Brits because we drive on the right, but some decision has to be made to limit traffic accidents.

71 asks,
"A philosophical bowling ball of a question... Are reasons causes?"
Causes may certainly be cited as reasons, but I do not think it is true that reasons are causes. Let me get Austinesque on this -- A reason is an answer a contextualized request for explanation. In the context, one may be asking for a cause, but the reason is not itself the cause, but a citing of something as an apprpriate explanation. It is a category mistake. The cause is the state of affairs that brought about the effect, but the reason need not be an actual state of affairs, nor need there be any causal connection between them. A reason, for example, may be an intention that was foiled because of intervening causes that allowed some unforeseen cause to be operative. So the reason for x would thus be distinct from the cause for x.