The law is always moral

Legal norms are of a different nature from moral obligations


Read on one side

With Kant, a basic distinction that is conducive to freedom comes into play, which is extremely helpful in view of the current moral debates: the distinction between legality and morality, legal and moral. Legal norms are of a very different kind from moral obligations. The rule of law, which is supposed to ensure the peaceful coexistence of the many different people, wants to ensure with its laws that the freedom of one can coexist with that of the other. Its laws only regulate the external coexistence of people. He can force or prohibit actions and ensure with the police and the judiciary that I follow the traffic regulations and recognize the illegality of dodging.

The rule of law can sanction violations of the law according to their severity and enforce legal obedience. But the free state, which has to be ideologically neutral in recognizing pre-state freedoms of the individual, such as the fundamental right to freedom of belief and conscience, must not interfere with the inwardness of the citizens, in their attitudes and their conscience. It is true that he is dependent on the legal obedience of the citizens. But the moral motives that make a citizen willing to adhere to the legal system do not concern him, really nothing. Some may observe the traffic regulations out of fear of the police, others out of frugality - to avoid fines - and still others in respect of a natural law that also takes shape in the positive law of the state. If the constitutional state wanted to intervene in the idiosyncratic world of morality and prescribe certain attitudes to its citizens, it would no longer be a free state, but rather an attitude-based state based on whatever moral principles or "values". In the moral and value state there is not freedom, but only virtue terror.

In the heated debates about tax evasion by Theo Sommer or Alice Schwarzer, the elementary difference between morality and legality is often undermined. The prosecutors are happy to turn their morals into a weapon in order to be able to mock the prominent perpetrator in the pillory of the talk show. Much hypocrisy and self-righteousness can be observed in the media indignation industry. The thesis of some sociologists that modern pluralistic societies lack morality is likely to be wrong. Conversely, there is a great deal of excess morality. Mercilessly morally proud get intoxicated by the failure and crash of celebrities in order to be able to find themselves good. Have these noble boasters of virtue never driven too fast? Didn't you have to regret a wrong word yet? And haven't you noticed yet that we, as contradictions, are not completely transparent to ourselves?

Against the new paranoia of virtue, it should be stated soberly: First of all, it is not about moral misconduct, but about legal violations, for which an independent judiciary is responsible. In the Weimar Republic, the National Socialists called their fighting organ against republic-loyal radio stations "Funk-Pranger". Certainly one should denounce grievances in an open society. But just as certainly, even with a higher moral intention, one must not denigrate others, including public figures, or commit character assassination. Anyone who publicly stages shame only wants to exclude the perpetrator from the moral community he imagines.

But under the modern conditions of a legitimate variety of very different moral intuitions and attitudes, the notion of an inclusive moral universe is only a fiction. In addition to that universalistic ethos, for which key concepts such as human dignity and human rights stand, there is a wide range of private morals in pluralistic societies. One may consider it amoral, reprehensible for a politician to buy photos of naked boys. But if these images do not violate the criminal law norms to combat child pornography, this is neither the rule of law nor an often sensational public. One may reject one's act morally. But nobody has the right to publicly annihilate another person using their own moral standards. Anyone who eliminates the difference between guilt in the legal sense and possible moral misconduct can no longer even think of such a fundamental right as the "presumption of innocence".

The prominent perpetrators themselves often contribute to the de-differentiation of law and morality. A kind of embarrassment competition has been observed here in the last few weeks, a sad contest in lying self-justification. Hardly a trace of visible remorse, shame, willingness to repent, at least not in the case of Alice Schwarzer, who even stylized herself as the victim of a society that persecutes her. If shame, as Aristotle once asserted, is the virtue of sensitivity, then the moralizing dismissal of one's own breach of law is more reprehensible than this itself. Kierkegaard reading is recommended: Anyone who tries to explain one's own sin only makes it permanent. Because he remains caught in the spiral of narcissistic self-reference.