Essay Sample on Ethical Dilemmas: Navigating the Moral Landscape of Obeying Laws in Society

Published: 2024-01-28
Essay Sample on Ethical Dilemmas: Navigating the Moral Landscape of Obeying Laws in Society
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Law Society Ethical dilemma
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 559 words
5 min read

Martin Luther King's notion of disobeying unjust laws was an assertion that not all laws are created equal since these laws are made by humans who have a discriminatory history. King argues that we have the moral duty to disobey unjust laws and obey lawful ones as a means of expanding our freedom (Kenneth 2018). King confirms that laws can be just and unjust, and therefore, they all cannot be obeyed in the same way. On the other hand, Socrates feels that a society is only held together by laws in any circumstance. His concept is based on his belief that laws are not to be obeyed in pieces but either entirely or not at all (White 1994). Therefore, this discussion seeks to examine our obligation to obey laws even when they may be unjust.

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Moral obligations exist in a legal order where the citizens are governed by a system of rules that constitute the rule of law and constitutional democracy. The code under which the obligation to obey unjust law is based is the notion of fair play(Haerkens 2017). Fair play denotes that one who accepts the benefits of a system is expected to do their part and accept the burdens (Haerkens 2017). A citizen caught in this fair play system and decides to disobey the law will be acting superior to other fellow citizens. This disobedience of law leads to the loss of public equality, a situation that essentially requires citizens to be morally obligated to obey their state laws even if they are unjust.

The moral obligation to obey laws can be better understood in this perspective; a person does not stop taking illegal drugs basically because they are harmful to their health, expensive, or because they are part of criminal activity. Most people do so mainly because the laws have banned it. Law influences one's decision to engage or flee away from any action(Haerkens, 2017). The moral implications of an act are what guide rational decisions among citizens. Therefore, if the law comes in to guide, everyone must take this into account. Disobeying laws that are considered to be unjust makes private groups or the clique involved think they are justified in ignoring them. Law is meant to reflect a moral consensus and coordinate behavior in society(Haerkens 2017). If it fails in these two functions, it can be considered unnecessary or irrelevant, and a legal suit to disband it can be followed.

The existence of the general obligation to obey laws matters because whether there is a moral obligation or not, people are still subject to it. The fundamental question is what to do when faced with a morally unjust law(Haerkens 2017). This question can be answered by viewing the law from a moral perspective, whether the said law is good and following its terms in support of the overall institution of law. Hence, one ought to assume that the law is generally good and should follow it unless it is unjust, and there are special moral situations to breach it.


Haerkens van den Brand, R. (2017). On the Moral Obligation to Obey Unjust Laws. Two Defenses, a Case Study, and Critique (Doctoral dissertation, Leiden University).

Kenneth Craycraft(2018) King's legacy: Challenge unjust law. Retrieved from

White, J. B. (1994). Plato's Crito: The Authority of Law and Philosophy. U. Cin. L. Rev., 63, 11.

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