Lazy Cross-Platform Posting: A Comment I Made On Facebook, Edited And Expanded

‎A friend posted this gnomic utterance on Facebook: ‘A moderate amount of morality should be legislated.’ I found this confusing, to say the least. It is easy to show that his assertion is a variant of the more common assertion that ‘Morality should not be legislated’. Now, such an assertion is self-contradictory, given that it is a public moral judgment, first of all, and a judgment offered as it were ex cathedra with nothing to support it. The same can be said of my friend’s assertion, given that it is apodictic in both form and tone.

Second, it’s far from clear to me just what ‘morality’ and ‘legislation/legislated’ signify if they do not signify the normal acts of writing and passing laws in a polity, the very acts which determine who gets to do what with and to whom and for how long, which implies that they regulate morals within the polity. Whether one is ‘moderate’ in pursuing such legislation is a wholly arbitrary determination. As with the words ‘progressive’, and ‘conservative’, and the like, there is no non-tendentious, non-arbitrary measure by which to assign such adjectives. Indeed, they are most often self-referential and self-revelatory. That is to say, depending on which we find more pleasing, each of us defines as ‘moderate’, ‘progressive’, ‘conservative’, ‘radical’, that complex of moral reasoning and action that we believe ought to be normative.

Given all this, I conclude that there is no act of legislation that is not ‘legislating morality’, and that there is no basis either to determine if one is ‘moderate’ in this, or to assign greater value to ‘moderation’ in the first place. It seems best, then, for the legislator to craft laws based on what is simply good and true, indifferent to all measures of ‘moderation’ or ‘extremism’. The grounds for knowing what is good and true, of course, cannot be determined within the legislative ‘process’ itself, but that’s a discussion for another day.

 

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