Theory of Justice Essay

Submitted By stefanlucian
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Pages: 3

History of Political Thought “The moral ambivalence of the law, a potential tension between politics and morality”

Candidate Number: 383945 01/03/2013

When we start discussing about the role of law, we need to mention first what it means. There are three ways in which we can understand the concept of law. First, there is that moral law which is the equivalent to the law revealed by God to Moses. Then the law can be understood as a natural law, which is related to the universal principles underlying all the laws made by humans and that can be discovered throw reasoning without the need of any special revelation from the God. Thirdly, the term of law can refer to that positive law, i.e. state constitutions and state laws. The complexity of the discussion about the role of law and its importance in a perfect society cannot be solved in a few pages, not even in one book. Yet, a brief look at two great philosophers’ perspectives can brighten the whole concept of the appearance and evolution of the law and will help us understand where we are today regarding the Law, the Rights and Politics. The idea of a “ruling law” has its source in ancient Greece. In his argument, Aristotle refers to the law as a way to mitigate or temperate the human passions. He agreed that these passions might pervert even the most virtuous amongst the people. According to the Aristotelian reasoning if people, even the most virtuous, are perverted under the influence of passion, the law is “dispassionate” and this alone justifies its supreme role under which the individuals must obey.1 The important thing to remember is not Aristotle`s answer to the question “Why?” rather to “For whom?” or “In what scope?” the Law should govern. Ensuring the freedom for everybody and achieving justice is the ultimate purpose of the law, from which the modern liberalism will only retain as a main preoccupation just the individual freedom. Invented by the Greeks, the idea of a “ruling law” would be developed and built by the Romans to its today’s status of “guarantor of the continuity of civilisation”2. Perhaps no other tradition of political thought stresses the virtue of the law more than republicanism. This idea of “being together”3 (Hannah Arendt) or “living together”4 (Maurizio Viroli), which is “res publica” is built only on and through laws. An antidote to the arbitrary government, the law is an element of republican liberty and also it signifies no form of domination. For Republicans, observes Christian List, at one point the non interference of others is not enough if these others have the virtual power to exercise arbitrary the interference (even though at the moment is not exercised)5. The law protects the individuals from arbitrary government, manifested by…