Notebook June 1995
Obedience to the unenforcable
On the decaying domain of manners.
Seventy-five years ago, John Fletcher Moulton, Lord Moulton, a noted English judge, spoke on the subject of “Law and Manners.” He divided human action into three domains. At one extreme is the domain of law, “where,” he said, “our actions are prescribed by laws binding upon us which must be obeyed.” At the other extreme is the domain of free choice, “which,” he said, “includes all those actions as to which we claim and enjoy complete freedom.” Between these two, Lord Moulton said, lies a domain in which our actions are not determined by law but in which we are not free to behave in any way we choose. In this domain we act with greater or lesser freedom from constraint, on a continuum that extends from a consciousness of duty “nearly as strong as positive law,” through a sense of what is required by public...
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