Can the Law Help Us to Be Moral?

22 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2012

See all articles by Kimberley Brownlee

Kimberley Brownlee

University of Warwick

Richard Child

University of Cambridge

Date Written: June 25, 2012


This essay looks at whether the law can help us to be moral. First, it assesses the law’s credentials to be an instrument or tool that can help us to be moral in a consequentialist, deontological, or virtue-ethical sense. As a tool, the law’s potential uses are 1) to be a moral advisor, 2) to set a moral example, and 3) to be a moral motivator. The law’s moral usefulness in each of these three ways is mixed. Second, the essay considers whether the law itself has intrinsic moral value. The essay shows that this is only true of the law of some legal systems.

Keywords: Ethics, Legal and Political Philosophy, Democracy, Justice, Natural law, Legal positivism, Punishment, Responsibility

Suggested Citation

Brownlee, Kimberley and Child, Richard, Can the Law Help Us to Be Moral? (June 25, 2012). Warwick School of Law Research Paper No. 2012/17, Available at SSRN:

Kimberley Brownlee (Contact Author)

University of Warwick ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Richard Child

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

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