Study Guide

An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals Rules and Order

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Rules and Order

Where would we be without rules and order? We might like to imagine a utopia where everyone's equal and works together, but Hume doesn't see this as reality. If it were reality, then rules wouldn't exist. The whole reason why they've been put in place is that they're useful and necessary for the smooth running of society.

Even where there aren't formal rules in place, people can still have a code of conduct. In daily life, people observe codes of politeness and decency, and even criminals can have a code of conduct among themselves (if you've ever seen a gangster movie, you'll know what Hume's talking about).

Questions About Rules and Order

  1. Under what circumstances (if any) is it acceptable to suspend or take away someone's rights?
  2. Though some quarrels can be settled in court, what happens when no laws have been broken and there's no clear right and wrong? How might we deal with these cases?
  3. Supposing people don't follow the laws of the land (thieves, for example). Do they have any other codes of conduct or do they just embrace anarchy?
  4. Are there any settings or scenarios where rules/laws no longer apply or are temporarily put aside?
  5. What would happen if we didn't have rules and order? Would folks be able to regulate their own behavior?

Chew on This

If we disagree with a rule on an ethical level, then why shouldn't we disobey it? Our principles and sense of morality are more important than the rules and laws laid down by society.

It's vital that rules are applied evenly to every individual. Otherwise, society would become unstable. You know the saying: one bad apple spoils the whole barrel.

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