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Law and Obedience: Pros and Cons Essay

Despite the fact that people have always been striving for freedom, which involves freedom of choice, freedom of lifestyle and the freedom to make mistakes, social life has always presupposed a certain level of control over people’s lives. However mild the laws and the rules in a certain society might be, they always determine complete obedience and the absence of any revolutionary moods. Whatever the society might be, without people obeying its laws, it would collapse.

Although this statement might sound cruel and uncompromising, it has a proof psychological; and sociological basis, which cannot be argued. Obedience is a part of human’s nature, or at least so says the psychology of a man, the common sense and the Bible. In fact, obedience as a part of a man’s religious beliefs plays an important part in this situation, persuading people to follow the rules established in the Testaments. Without the due respect to the Testaments a man cannot make a virtuous believer. According to Green’s point of view, these are “God’s children, who calls for obedience and honor, and who promises faithfulness and love” (4).

However, obedience concerns not only the sphere of religion, but also many other spheres of a man’s life, providing a man with a way to live in peace with the society a part of which he or she represents. The laws that an earthy life grounds on are strict and uncompromising as well, since they declare the ideas that the society is based on, and in case they are not followed, the society simply stops existing. Without obedience, people would go against the laws and make the society collapse. It must also be considered that the reasons for breaking the laws can be different and it is not obligatorily that these reasons should be vulgar, egoistic and criminal.

On the contrary, a man can think of committing a misdemeanor, a petty crime or even a felony in the attempts to lend someone a helping hand and improve the conflicting situation. The cost for such a deed is punishment according to the existing law, because the actions that have been undertaken conflict with it. Like a Latin proverb says, “Dura lex, sed lex” – “The law is harsh, but it is the law”. If people stop acting according to the rules of the civil and criminal law, the world that they live in will become a mess. Indeed, there are rimes when it seems that a petty crime or a small mischief will only improve the situation, but even taking such a step, a man should fully realise that he or she will be responsible for what has been done and that the punishment that will follow will be just and lawful.

As Woozley said, “the reason for acting in accordance with the law, or for conforming one’s conduct to it, lies in the value of the practice.” (73) If a world becomes a place where people do not cat accordingly with the law, most of the population will spend a lot of time in jail, paying for the crimes they have committed when doing what they thought right. There would be not a single man free of charge if obedience would be forgotten.

Yet there is another aspect of being obedient that raises a lot of questions. The problem is how far one can go with being obedient. The orders that come from the commanders or another people in charge of leaders can be conflicting with one’s morals or beliefs and life concepts. A Buddhist, for example, will never do harm to any single creature, a man or a worm. A Muslim will not make any single thing that contradicts the standards of life that Torah prescribes.

When such a situation emerges, it is easier to cease to convince a man and give up than to make this man act according to your or any other will. This observation drives to the conclusion that a world without obedience is also a world without beliefs, credos, or any other firm positions that a man takes during his life as he or she accumulates the life experience. From this point of view, the mankind that does not obey is the mankind that does not have its place in the world, its own system, and does not represent any ideas, because once an idea is expressed, it creates a basis to exist on, and this basis is another law.

Phillip Mayer asks his audience a question to think about: “If Hitler asked you to electrocute a stranger, would you?” (111). In my opinion, this is where the line between a conscious obedience and the blind one should be drawn. The situation itself does not seem absurd, which is important, – and it does not, because the person that gives the order justifies it. Since Hitler was posed in the history as a cruel and fanatic man, it is quite natural that he gives orders to deprive someone of their life.

Thus, the society in which Hitler is the head justifies death, and in the given circumstances a murder will not be considered a crime. Mayer sets the decorations for the situation where a murder, completely justified from the legal point of view, is a matter of a person’s own ideas and beliefs. Again, one’s morals come into conflict with the existing law. A good example of such a clash of moral principles is a dialogue from A Few Good Men (1992):

Kaffee: Dawson brought a hungry guy some food… what crime did he commit?
Lt. Kendrick: He disobeyed an order!

Summing up everything that has been said, I would add that a world without obedience will not last long. It will turn into anarchy that will destroy everything that has been created so far. Until people possess “the native justice and magnanimity” that Jefferson (7) was speaking about, they have to obey the rules set in the Constitution. Even in the situation when the law turns out “logically bankrupt and grossly unfair” (Fuhrman 118), people create a new one to comply with. Living without a law that controls the situation is impossible, at least at the present stage of people’s development. Otherwise, the total madness is inevitable.

Works Cited

A Few Good Men. Dir. Reiner, Rob. Perf. , , and Castle Rock Entertainment, 1992. Film.

Fuhrman, Mark. Death and Justice. New York, NY: Harper Collins. 2004. Print.

Green, Joel B. Salvation. New York, NY: Charlise Press. 2003. Print.

Jefferson, Thomas. Declaration of Independence. Dep. of State.1911. Print

Mayer, Philip. Readings in Psychology. New York, NY: Ardent Media. 2009. Print.

Woozley, Douglas A. Law and Obedience: the Arguments of Plato’s Crito. New York, NY: Duckworth, 1979.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Law and Obedience: Pros and Cons." June 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/law-and-obedience-pros-and-cons/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Law and Obedience: Pros and Cons'. 25 June.

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