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Green on Gardner on Law and Morality

Leslie Green continues his critique of his Oxford colleague John Gardner on the relation between law and morality. Here he engages Gardner’s point about the “inescapability of morality” in relation to law — that law is judged by morality, if law isn’t in some way, a moral norm by itself, or a “near natural law.”

The discussion echoes but couldn’t quite identify, the multi-aspectual view, where “positive law” in fact functions in all aspects of reality — it has a moral, social, economic, aesthetic, lingual or historical sides, and so on.As Alan Cameron, who edited the first volume of HD’s Encyclopedia of the Science of Law, put it to me recently, the process of law forming “is not merely the positivisation of a jural norm. It also requires the positivisation of analytical, lingual, social, economic and possibly aesthetic norms. An individual law has it own ‘individuality’ structure – it is some “thing” jurally qualified but displays all the modal aspects (subjectively and objectively).”

Thus a contract is not merely a legal document, it also has a social dimension, or functions in the social realm, as it has a certain history and an economic value (as the sociologists of law have been trying to show).

It should be interesting to note that in HD’s modal scale, the ethical (moral) aspect comes after the legal aspect. Law is prior and foundational to, and anticipates, morality. So there is some correspondence between HD’s and Gardner’s notion of morality, as the former in fact says that the ethical aspect deepens the legal aspect in the process of disclosure.


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