Is there anything civil in disobeying the rule of law? Yes! No! Not really! I will leave you to decide.
I have heard the old old men say, the Law is a set of principles that governs a particular people. They are a set of rules that society must adhere to in order to maintain peace and order, but the young have also said, that the law is meant to be broken. Looking at the definition, one could deduce that, there is no comprehensive definition of what the law is and what it should be. It would be a waste of time and resources trying to give a comprehensive definition of Law. Rather, it should be defined based on individual perspective (School of Thoughts)
Thomas Hobbes in his book entitled “THE LEVIATHAN” outrightly said, Man in the state of nature was Anarchical and Brutish before the law set in. From Hobbes’ point of view, we can deduce that A lawless state can not survive! But Hobbes was rightly wrong as Jack Rousseau has a contrary view that, Man in the state of nature was Peaceable and Responsible before the law set in. According to Hobbes, The law is an instrument of peace and order but to Rousseau, it appears to be the reverse. It would interest you to know, whether the law is Peaceable or Destructive, we all have a moral obligation to obey it.
You would agree with me that, people tend to obey the law when it pleases them and when it doesn’t the reverse is the case. But Aristotle is saying, it is better for the law to rule than citizens, this thought was capitalized by A.V Dicey to whom the Rule of law is attributed, he said, “The law is supreme and we all are subjected to it” and that made sense.
Let me draw your mind back to the Ancient times when philosophy was born, most of you would still recall the account of Socrates the Great and how he was condemned to death by the government under the charges of corrupting the young. It is expedient to know that Socrates had the opportunity to flee Athens, but he didn’t! Rather, he said, if the law says am guilty, then I AM!
The question is, Do we obey the law because they are the law or do we do so because our conscience says it’s right? I will leave u to decide.
Aristotle rightly said, The law should rule and not citizens. This literarily means Aristotle believes in the supremacy of the law no matter what circumstance. But it contradicted his actions when he heard of the death of Socrates he fled Athens saying and I quote ” I will not stay and watch abomination to be committed twice on Philosophy”. Wouldn’t we be right if we say, Aristotle was cowardly right running away from the law? After is the assertion ” Let the law lead and not the citizens. I will leave you to decide as his actions draw my attention to CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.
Do we have a moral obligation to obey the law whether just or unjust? Finnis rightly said YES! And that the law presents itself like a ‘Seamless Web’ as such, one can not decide which law to obey and which not to as we all have a moral obligation to obey the law. Now, at what point do we say a given law is Moral? Because obviously, to the best of my knowledge moral laws are nature driven as such, I wouldn’t be wrong if I say, MAN DOES NOT DECIDE WHICH LAW IS MORAL AND WHICH IS NOT, OUR CONSCIENCE DOES! This would take us back to the pressing question,
IS THERE ANYTHING CIVIL IN DISOBEYING THE LAW? Oooo Yes! There is everything civil in disobeying specific laws.
Civil Disobedience is the active refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws and orders. Though some see it as a contempt of the law, others like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr., Joseph Raz, and Henry David Thoreau see it as a reverence to the law. My friends, When the law does not agree with the spirit of the people resistance is inevitable. So as an individual, I have the moral right to resist any law that is not morally driven. Of course, I agree with them, we all have a moral obligation to obey the law whether just or unjust. Still, Joseph Raz is asking, would you rather steal medicine for a sick neighbour who has no medical privilege or let him die because the law prohibits stealing? You should pray I choose the former.
Tell me, would you drive above the speed limit to save a patient’s life or maintain it and lose the patient? How about stopping at a traffic light at 3 A.m when nobody is there? Would you tell me you do not take illicit drugs because the law says u shouldn’t or because they are harmful and you don’t want to go to jail? I will leave you to decide.
Henry David Thoreau one of the major advocates of Civil Disobedience rightly said in his 1849 Essay Entitled Resistance to Civil Government. He pointed out that, individuals should not allow the government to overrule their conscience as they have a duty to avoid the government making them agents of injustice. But John Austin has a contrary view that whether moral or immoral we all are subjected to the law.
Civil disobedience again is a tool against unjust laws. Antigone said and I quote ” I would rather obey my conscience than human laws.
In conclusion, indeed there is civility in disobeying certain laws and for the record’s sake, we do not obey the laws because they exist but because they are morally pleasant to our conscience.
Rule Of Law as Opposed to Civil Disobedience Written by: Ikoromasoma, Emmanuel
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