Society is made up of community of ideas, both political & about how members should behave & govern their lives → it has a moral structure made up of moral & political beliefs. E.g. whether man take more than one wife is something soc has to make up its mind on. Institution of marriage is an example of division b/w politics & morals & it would be gravely threatened if individuals judgments were permitted about morality of adultery. Society is held together by invisible bonds of common thought – if they were too relaxed, members would drift apart. Common morality is part of that bondage which in turn is a part of a price for society.
- But beliefs about moral matter change! (Bix: at any time there might be some consensus on some moral questions, yet sharp division on others. Over time, any issue may go from being a matter of consensus to becoming a controversy: so how can we know that our laws are enforcing society’s moral consensus rather than simply protecting last generation’s prejudices against consensus forming around alternative position?
- But it’s not possible to talk of private/public morality any more than it is of public/private highway – morality is a sphere in which there’s public & private interest, often conflicting, which must be reconciled. Impossible to put forward gen. principles – need toleration of max individual freedom consistent w/integrity of the soc, so that nothing should be punished by law that doesn’t lie beyond the limits of that tolerance. Not enough to say majority dislike the practice – need real feeling of reprobation. No soc can do w/out intolerance, indignation & disgust – these are forces behind moral law.
- Limits of tolerance shift but moral standards don’t (controversial!) – the extent to which soc will tolerate departures from them will vary from generation to generation
- So Devlin recognised change only in terms of greater or lesser tolerance; however, when we’re respectful of religious minorities, we don’t see ourselves as being tolerant re deviations from the old rules of persecuting them; instead, we see ourselves as following a new rule that such respect is correct. So his assumption that changes in social convention = laxness in our tolerance of deviation indicates how much he confused conventional & critical morality argued for by Hart. He assumed there was some true moral thinking to which we’d always return – at the very least, this is bad moral history & moral sociology. Truth of the matter is that conventional moral opinion changes & may do so radically over time.