Unit 9 AssignmentFinal AssignmentKristen Fellows WalkerLS490 ??“ Legal PhilosophyDr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Legitimacy of Positive Law Versus Natural LawFor King, the freedom he spoke of under the ???symbolic shadow??? (King, 1963) of the Lincoln Memorial (reference to the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Lincoln 100 years earlier in 1863) was not a metaphorical freedom or an idealistic freedom; the freedom he demanded that August afternoon was the freedom promised to all American??™s, including blacks, within the text of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
A freedom promised but not yet delivered. (King, 1963)From a legal philosophy perspective, King was asserting that the promise of freedom meant very little if it went unfulfilled. In order to fulfill this promise, society, through its government, would require the obligation to recognize its moral duty and act accordingly.
Of the legal philosophers we have studied, Kings views seem to resonate more evenly with the natural law theorists, especially, as this essay will relate, with Aquinas. There is, however, evidence from King??™s ???I Have A Dream??? speech and other writings that indicate some positivist views, as well. With that said, it is evident that King??™s education and personal experiences have not only shaped his personal philosophy of justice but have allowed him to consider that the struggle against discrimination and the fight for freedom and equality was not just about civil rights for blacks, it was about human rights for all. As illustrated by Aquinas, ???justice is the steady and lasting willingness to give to others what they are entitled to ??¦ [it is a] concept of [justice] …
impos[ed] on me and my communities, [and is due as] a duty to everyone without discrimination??™ (Aquinas, 2011). A Subjects Duty to Obey the Law King??™s views on peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience go straight to the heart of what King believed was morally required when the law is defect. Where King was concerned, all people, not just blacks, have a moral and civil obligation to stand against laws that are unjust and violate the rights of others and the justice due to others. King??™s promise that the ???whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges??? (King, 1963) speaks directly to this ideal. Like King, Aquinas was also concerned with the circumstances under which one??™s duty to obey comes in question. If a law ???lack[s] moral authority ??¦ [it cannot] bind in conscience ??¦ and cannot rightly be complied with??? (Aquinas, 2011).
Though King ultimately believed that the process of obtaining civil rights should not be done through ???wrongful deeds???, King, like Aquinas, believed there is a point where one has a moral obligation to disobey. How Law Should or Should Not be Used to Promote the Common Good In his April, 1963 Letter From a Birmingham Jail, just four months before his ???I Have A Dream??? speech, King recounts his reasons for being in Birmingham by relating that ???injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ??¦ whatever effects one directly, affects all indirectly ??¦ that there is an ???interrelatedness of all communities and states??? (King, 1963). It is the idea of interconnectedness of community and state for the common good that would be later supported in the August speech when King calls out that ???the devotees of civil rights ??¦ will not be satisfied while our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity ??¦ until the rough places [are] made plain, and the crooked places [are] made straight ??¦ and until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream??? (King, 1963). Justice, where King was concerned, would not be justice unless it was justice for all; justice for the common good. King??™s views on law for the promotion of the common good were also held by Aquinas. Like King, Aquinas, held that law should be ???an ordinance of reason for the common good of a [complete] community, promulgated by the person or body responsible for looking after that community ??¦ morally as well as legally??? (Aquinas, 2011). Harm to Others Principle as Justification for His ViewsThough we are well aware that King??™s philosophy of creating change through civil disobedience and peaceful demonstration was a cornerstone of his message his 1963 speech under the Lincoln Memorial provided many clear reminders to his supporters that their ???creative protest [must not] degenerate into physical violence ..
. [that they] must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force???. It is these words that indicate Kings belief that harming others had no place in the business of fighting for civil rights.
Even though he described the movement as a ???marvelous new militancy??? perhaps referring to the uprising of civil rights supporters, both black and white; or perhaps referring to the newly popular militant methods of Malcolm X, he was careful to encourage that ???we must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline??? (King, 1963). As a student of many philosophies, King??™s position on violence was surely bolstered by his study of St. Thomas Aquinas.
In his Letter From A Birmingham Jail, King invokes the wisdom of Aquinas by writing:An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. (King, 1963)King??™s position on segregation is also reflected in Millian ???harm to others principle??? (Murphy, 2006). Where Mill was concerned, ???any action that directly diminishes another??™s well-being, that sets another??™s interests back in some way??? is unjust (Murphy, 2006). The Roles Paternalism and Autonomy Should Play in Determining the Aims of LawKing??™s belief that the government owed a paternalistic duty to its citizens is evidenced in his discussion of the ???promissory note??? signed by the framers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The ???promissory note??? he speaks of is the commitment of ???unalienable Rights??? (King, 1963); it is the debt of freedom, ???Life, Liberty and ??¦ Happiness” that the government as its guarantor promised all men, black and white, within the text of these documents. To say that the government has defaulted on this debt is to say that the government failed in its paternalistic duty to protect and promote the common good. Kings devotion to this ideal, and to the government that promised it, is indicated in the words that he has not given up on the opportunity to reconcile the debt: ???But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt ??¦ and so we??™ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice??? (King, 1963).
He continues his faith that the government will honor its obligation to its people for it is through the fulfillment of this paternalistic obligation that blacks and whites will together realize the autonomy that will bring their happiness, liberty and freedom to fruition. While some of the philosophers cited in our text (Mill, for example) would disagree that compelling adult individuals to abide by paternalistic interference is only permissible to prevent individuals from causing harm to themselves (Himma, 2005), Dworkin would agree with King that paternalist interference is warranted when that interference is done in defense of a ???person??™s liberty ??¦ welfare, good, happiness, needs, interests or values??? (Himma, 2005) The Role Morality Should Play in Determining the Aims of LawKing was considered a staunch and fervent activist for the positive role that morality would play in determining the aims of law. ???I have fought too long hard against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concerns,??? (King, 1963).
As a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a group created to ???harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform??? (The king philosophy, 2012), King believed that a government that promises freedom and liberty for all assumes a moral obligation to compel its citizens to act in accordance with that promise (King, 1963). When King called upon the nation to ???rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed???, he was calling on the government to fulfill its moral obligation to provide through legislation the equality it promised. King??™s views would likely be supported by philosophers like Fuller who posited that the rules and laws of a society are meant to compel social order by guiding the behavior of that society. He believed, as it seems that King did, that the laws themselves, not just those subject to them, were conditioned to an ???internal morality??? that ???conduces a state of social order [while at the same time] respecting human autonomy??? (Himma, 2005).
This social order through human respect is the very definition of the morality that King had dreamed of. Governor George Wallace The Legitimacy of Positive Law Versus Natural Law Known for his racist and segregationist politics, the former 4 time Governor of Alabama believed that “the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; no King holds the right of liberty in his hands.” Nor does any ruler in American government??? (Wallace, 1963). This statement seems to solidify the notion that Wallace would completely reject the hard positivist??™s views of Dworkin, yet reject the purely naturalist views of Aquinas. (Murphy, 2006) It seems that he would agree with the Fullers views on the guidance of morality and concept of autonomy (Murphy, 2006) yet it is clear that he would disagree with Devlin??™s philosophy that it is ???permissible for [government]to use its coercive power to enforce society??™s collective morality??? (Himma, 2005). Essentially, his views of law reside in his strongly held beliefs that it is spiritual law, not posited law that compels man to act rightly, justly or morally.
(Wallace, 1963)A Subjects Duty to Obey the Law In his inaugural speech at Montgomery, Alabama, Wallace was quite clear that he would not stand to obey civil rights and desegregation laws that he believed would impinge on the freedoms of white Alabamians. ???Let us send this message back to Washington by our representatives who are with us today ??¦ that from this day we are standing up, and the heel of tyranny does not fit the neck of an upright man . . .
that we intend to take the offensive and carry our fight for freedom across the nation, wielding the balance of power we know we possess in the Southland??? (Wallace, 1963). It is possible, that from this text of Wallace??™s speech we could conclude that he would side with Fuller??™s concept that a subject??™s moral duty to obey a law depends on whether or not performance is possible. Where Fuller was concerned, if performance is not possible, then the subject has no duty to obey. (Murphy, 2006) Where Wallace was concerned, his ability to perform seemed to be dictated by whether or not he believed he was morally obligated to comply. His previous warning that he would ???take the offensive??? was carried out two years later when he made threats to block the entrance of two black students to a building at the University of Alabama stating that “the unwelcomed, unwanted, unwarranted, and force-induced intrusion upon the campus of the University of Alabama today of the might of the central government, offers frightful example of the oppression of the rights, privileges, and sovereignty of this state by offices of the federal government??? (Pearson, 1998).
Wallace clearly believed that he had no duty to obey the federal law enacted by President Kennedy because he did not, again, believe he was morally compelled or obligated to do so.How Law Should or Should Not Be Used to Promote the Common Good Wallace was very much against the idea of law as the promoter of the common good. This is evidenced many times over in his inaugural address with statements such as ?????¦ as free men we do not recognize any government right to give freedom . . . or deny freedom ??¦ no government erected by man has that right??? (Wallace, 1963).
Wallace also believed that laws made for the common good were actually laws made to control Southerners and Alabamians. The more laws the government made, the more the government would ???assume more and more police powers [until] we find we are become government-fearing people . . .
not God-fearing people??? (Wallace, 1963). Although Wallace contends his views against government and government for the common good are rooted in morality (Wallace, 1963), Aquinas would argue that true morality requires a duty provide others what they are entitled to, without discrimination. (Aquinas, 2011) Additionally, Aquinas might argue that Wallace??™s position as governor, regardless of his view on segregation, bestow upon him a responsibility of care for the complete community and that he has both a moral and legal obligation that requires he possess ???an ordinance of reason for the common good??? (Aquinas, 2011).
Harm to Others Principle as Justification for his Views ???Let us not simply defend . . . but let us assume the leadership of the fight and carry our leadership across this nation. God has placed us here in thiscrisis .
. . let is not fail in this ??¦ our most historical moment??? (Wallace, 1963). By these words, it is evident that Wallace had little regard for those whose well-being would, according to Fuller, be diminished and set back (Murphy, 2006) by his actions. Three months after his appearance at Alabama University, in an act that was a direct consequence of his racist fueled rhetoric, (Pearson, 2008) Klansmen planted a bomb at a Birmingham church that killed 4 little girls. Wallace would not admit that his ???reckless disregard??? (Pearson, 2008) for his words and actions made him or the State of Alabama (as an official of that state) responsible for the harm to others that took place but it is possible that Mill would consider that Wallace had a ???distinct and assignable obligation to others??? (Murphy, 2006) and that his lack of responsibility diminished the well-being of others. (Murphy, 2006)The Roles Paternalism and Autonomy Should Play in Determining the Aims of LawWallace contended that while government has an obligation to invest in society, it does not have the right to dictate what society should do. ???This nation???, Wallace claimed, ???was never meant to be a unit of one .
. . but a united of the many . .
. . that is the exact reason our freedom loving forefathers established the states, so as to divide the rights and powers among the states, insuring that no central power could gain master government control ??¦ [yet] it offers and demands to father us through it all and even into the grave (Wallace, 1963). Wallace believed that the paternalism of government was a direct threat to the freedom that the founders of our nation intended for its people. (Wallace, 1963) While Mill might agree with Wallace that compelling adult individuals to abide by paternalistic interference is only permissible to prevent individuals from causing harm to themselves (Himma, 2005), Dworkin might agree that Wallace??™s stand against paternalistic interference is warranted (Himma, 2005) since Wallace??™s view of an autonomous utopia did not exclude autonomy for black people, it simply separated white utopia from black utopia. (Wallace, 1963) Where Dworkin philosophy might fail Wallace, however, is with regard to his exception that ???autonomy must [sometimes] be limited for the sake of autonomy??? (Himma, 2005) i.
e. when ones autonomy interferes with that of another, ???paternalistic restriction on conduct??? works to defend a ???person??™s liberty ??¦ welfare, good, happiness, needs, interests or values??? (Himma, 2005) and also works to protect us from ourselves. (Himma, 2005) The Role Morality Should Play in Determining the Aims of LawIn his address, Wallace leaves no room for misunderstanding that he believes that the only law is the law of God and, without the wisdom of God in government, we are left with ???a system that is the very opposite of Christ for it feeds and encourages everything degenerate and base in our people as it assumes the responsibilities that we ourselves should assume??? (Wallace, 1963). He asserts his disdain for the fact that government has assumed the position of God over his people by transforming itself from ???servant of the people to master of the people ??¦ to play being God ??¦ without faith in God??? (Wallace, 1963). It would seem that Wallace??™s unwavering position on morality would mesh with those of Aquinas in that Aquinas??™ philosophy is based on principles of morality; that when law ???lack[s] moral authority ??¦ [it cannot] bind in conscience ??¦ and cannot rightly be complied with??? (Aquinas, 2011). Where Aquinas??™ philosophy fails Wallace, or rather Wallace??™s philosophy fails to measure up to Aquinas??™ is that Aquinas requires that moral laws require care of the complete community ???without discrimination??? (Aquinas, 2011), something that Wallace??™s views on segregation prevented him from doing. (Wallace, 1963)Even in his final days, although he publicly admitted “We thought [segregation] was in the best interests of all concerned, we were mistaken,” (Pearson, 1998). Although he admits the old South is gone, he still does not concede his opposition to government regulating the lives of Americans.
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