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Morality, Law and Normative Conflict

Maccabaean Lecture in Jurisprudence, delivered by Professor Peter Cane FBA, on 15 November 2011 (venue: The British Academy).

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The relationship between morality and law is a foundational issue in jurisprudence and has been a recurrent theme of the Maccabaean Lectures. In a normative sense, morality is contrasted with immorality, while in a descriptive sense morality can be distinguished from social practices such as etiquette, custom and law.

There are various theories about the normative relationship between law and morality. One view – that what the law is and what it ought to be are always two distinct questions – is particularly associated with the great 20th century legal philosopher, H L A Hart. Hart also had much to say about what morality is and how it can be distinguished from law. To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Hart’s classic book, The Concept of Law, this lecture discusses his understanding of morality and its relevance to his views about morality’s normative relationship with law.

About the speaker
For the first 20 years of his academic career, Peter Cane taught law at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. In 1997 he joined the Australian National University where he is Distinguished Professor of Law. He is a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. His main research interests are in private law (especially tort law), public law (especially administrative law) and legal theory.

This lecture was published as 'Morality, law and conflicting reasons for action' by Peter Cane, in The Cambridge Law Journal, 71:1 (March 2012), 59-85.

More about the Maccabaean Lectures in Jurisprudence