Introduction to Law and Morals

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Are there aspects of our lives into which the law must not intrude? Can the intrinsic immorality alone of certain activities constitute sufficient ground for their prohibition? In this topic, we will familiarise ourselves with the debate over the moral limits of the law and with some of the controversial cases and intricate concepts it involves, and consider the weaknesses of some classical attempt to address it.

General Reading

Primary texts

  • Devlin The Enforcement of Morals, Chs. 1, 6 and 7:

Chapter 1

    • A society is inextricably linked to its morality, usually coming from the traditional religion so that in the UK, for example, Christianity provides us with a moral code. However a state that leaves religion to the private conscience cannot enforce religious beliefs on the basis of that religion. However shared morals can still be enforced through the belief that without them society would be lost.
    • The law currently does enshrine moral principle e.g. one cannot consent to assault, euthanasia is banned, as is assisted suicide, duelling, incest etc which do not involve doing harm to others. See Hart’s response belowIntroduction to Law and Morals



  • Devlin argues that because a society acts with certain standards, others must be bound by them and this cannot be left to