Law and ethics worksheet

Worksheet on Law and Ethics

Please use the web and other resources to answer the questions (indicated by question marks) below. You can write in the spaces provided as well as on the back or on separate paper.

Part 1. A Shocking Crime: See

What happened?

Consider the murder law at issue here. What is it?

How does it impact her?

What is the deontological view of the law? (Skip if we haven’t discussed deontology)

What is the utilitarian view of the law? (Skip if we haven’t discussed utilitarianism)

If you were on the jury, how would you vote?

If you were a good defense lawyer: Would you want deontologists or consequentialists on the jury? (Skip if we haven’t covered the concepts yet)

If you were a good prosecuting attorney: would you want deontologists or consequentialists on the jury? (Skip if we haven’t covered the concepts yet)

Have you ever been on a jury?

Part 2. Some Examples of Laws: 

Laws about cars

Laws about homicide

Laws about copyright

Rules about plagiarism

Rules vs. laws:

Law but not rule: 30 mph speed limit

Rule but not law: 40 mph “real” speed limit if 30 mph stated limit and 10 mph assumed leeway

Rule but not law: don’t slouch

Is there a difference between a rule and a law? What do you think it is? 

More about laws (from SEP):

“Law is not the only normative domain in our culture;
morality, religion, social conventions, etiquette, and so on,
also guide human conduct in many ways which are similar to law.”

Two major theories about what is a law

Ref: A. Marmor, “The Nature of Law”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP),

Laws can be legitimate or not. Why is a law legitimate (or not) in your estimation?

Two theories:

1. “Legal Positivism” theory: Legitimate laws reflect socially defined constraints on behavior

2. “Natural Law” theory: Laws must meet ethical standards

Which do you think is preferable?

St. Augustine wrote: lex iniusta non est lex” (“law unjust not is law” or using English grammar “unjust law is not law”)

Was he a proponent of legal positivism or natural law?

How do these two concepts, legal positivism and natural law, interact or how might the conflict start to be resolved?
Henry David Thoreau wrote: “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?” ― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
Is Thoreau arguing for the legal positivism theory of law, or the natural law theory of law?
What do you think is the better theory? Can you think of an interesting argument for the other view?
Find an ethical case related to the topic of ethics and law for your group discussions that will occur.

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