Is there a moral test for legal validity?

Jonathan Crowe

Research output: Contribution to journalOnline ResourceProfessional


Must law pass a moral test in order to be valid? Most legal theorists today answer this question in the negative. The dominant tradition in contemporary legal philosophy, known as legal positivism, maintains that the only necessary factor in establishing a law’s validity is its social sources – for example, whether the law was passed by a recognised legal authority, such as a legislature, using the appropriate process.

An older tradition in legal philosophy, known as natural law theory, takes the opposite view. According to this theory, the validity of a law necessarily depends on both its social sources and its moral content. In Natural Law and the Nature of Law, I argue that natural law theory is correct on this issue; legal positivism is false. My argument proceeds by comparing law to other human artifacts, such as chairs and screwdrivers.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFifteenEightyFour Blog
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2019


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