The Legal Enforcement of Morality

30 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2001

See all articles by Larry Alexander

Larry Alexander

University of San Diego School of Law


In this encyclopedia entry I deal briefly with whether the immorality of conduct is a necessary condition for its criminal prohibition, and then at greater length with the more controversial question of whether conduct's immorality is a sufficient condition for its criminal prohibition. On the latter question, I present and then critique the "liberal" views of J.S. Mill, Joel Feinberg, H.L.A. Hart, and Jonathan Schonsheck, the "liberal perfectionist" views of Michael Moore and Joseph Raz, and the conservative views of Patrick Devlin. I also discuss the relation between the criminal proscription of offensive conduct and the criminal proscription of "harmless immoralities".

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Lawrence, The Legal Enforcement of Morality. BLACKWELL COMPANION TO APPLIED ETHICS, eds. R.G. Frey and C.H. Wellman, Blackwell Publishers, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Lawrence Alexander (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-2317 (Phone)
619-260-4728 (Fax)

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics