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Is Morality More Important Than Law?

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Is Morality More Important Than Law?

In ancient Chinese philosophy, to pursue a harmonious and well-ordered society, Confucianism advocates rule of virtue and Legalism promotes rule of law. Comparatively, a great number of people support Confucius. They think morality guides people to be good fundamentally while law is a palliative. Therefore, they believe morality is more important than law. However, I believe that morality and law as regulators of conduct are two sides of a coin. They are of equal importance.

Confucius said, “ If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good.” The first sentence is right. It reveals the disadvantages of ruling by law. The second sentence seems to be right, but it’s half wrong. Morality can guide people to be good from the root of their mind, but it can never make everyone be good in reality. Because goodness and evil are like yang and yin. They coexist in this world forever. Considering the reality, the importance of law is no less than that of morality.

For one thing, there are so many bad people in the world. Morality has a slow effect on them and the stubborn ones make it slower. However, law can prevent them by sanction and insure social relative stability constantly. At the same time, there are so many nations in the world. Internationally, some stands of behavior must be normalized by law. Morality can’t deal with the very complex international disputes in today’s world.

For another, morality relates to subjective power, thus it has randomness and the possibility of compromise. The specific judging standards vary from person to person. By contrast, standards in law are relatively stable. It helps to maintain social justice objectively. Law is the representation of collective will. It is the same rule every one should obey. The world can’t do without rule. Hu Shi said, “In a harmonious country, if people ignored rules, only praised morality, if everyone talked about nobility or moral norms every day and if everyone were selfless, then ultimately the country will degenerate to a rotten one full of hypocrites.” And law is the highest form of rule in modern world.  

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