Book Chapter

Legal Moralism and Public Wrongs



Duff RA (2016) Legal Moralism and Public Wrongs. In: Ferzan K & Morse S (eds.) Legal, Moral, and Metaphysical Truths: The Philosophy of Michael S Moore. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 95-110.

After sketching the main features of Moore’s version of legal moralism, and its connection to the type of retributivism that he espouses, I note its expansiveness, both as to the kinds of wrong and as to the range of agents that we have in principle reason to criminalise. I argue that we should instead ground a more modest legal moralism in the traditional idea of crimes as public wrongs and (in response to Moore’s criticisms of that idea) that we can begin to give it substantial content by beginning with the idea of the public realm that any polity must determine for itself; the way in which codes of professional ethics are developed on the basis of an account of the proper scope of the profession provides a useful illustration of this method.

Criminal law; legal moralism; retributivism; public wrongs; professional ethics

Publication date29/02/2016
PublisherOxford University Press
Publisher URL
Place of publicationOxford

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Professor Antony Duff

Professor Antony Duff

Emeritus Professor, Philosophy