I was making a Google search for some information for a homily I gave last weekend. I needed, “Examples of things that are legal but immoral.” The last entry on one site said this:
“That depends on your definition of ‘immoral’. Defined as such in some book? Then almost anything can be immoral, including things that are legal.
“But if you're talking about actual morality (which is relative, not absolute), not the fake stuff religions claim, almost anything that's legal can, in some instances, be immoral. Legality is orthogonal to morality (IOW, one has nothing to do with the other)”
There is a lot of rich, fertile soil to dig in here. Probably because the cows have been standing over it too long.
So what is “actual morality?” Morality is the extend that one (or a group) can say something is right or wrong. If it is completely subjective, than I cannot say that something is right or wrong for someone else, only myself and those who either agree with me or that I can force to be obedient. Therefore, it may be illegal for me to let my dog do his business on you lawn, but I may think it moral. After all, dogs have rights, he enjoys the freedom, his gift to you is good for your lawn. And prevents filling up landfills.
The owner of the lawn however thinks it is completely immoral. He does not want my dog’s gift on his lawn, does not want my dog trespassing, does not think it is good for the environment, and is upset he is going to have to go outside and pick it up.
There is something we can do legally here of course, but is there anything we can say morally of morality is relative or subjective?
If morals are subjective then no. I think brown is horrid and you think it is the best color ever. I think something is immoral and you see nothing wrong with it. If this is true, then there is no such thing as morality. There are preferences and all we have left is legality and with it “might that makes right.” Legality is no longer orthogonal to morality, it is morality.
The paragraph would be better written:
“But if you're talking about actual morality (which is absolute, not relative), not the fake stuff relativists claim, many things that are legal may be immoral. Legality is orthogonal to morality only insofar as there is a basis for absolute morality.”