Downloaded: 29 Sep 2015 IP address: 184.108.40.206 ARTICLES MORALITY, LAW AND CONFLICTING REASONS FOR ACTION P ETER C ANE * A BSTRACT . In The Concept of Law, H.L.A. Hart suggested that four formal features of morality distinguish it from law: importance, immunity from deliberate change, the nature of moral offences and the form of moral pressure. On closer examination, none of these supposed features clearly distinguishes morality from law, at least in the broad sense of ‘morality’ that Hart adopted. However, a fifth feature of morality mentioned by Hart – namely the role that morality plays in practical reasoning as a source of ultimate standards for assessing human conduct – does illuminate the relationship between law as conceptualised by Hart and morality variously understood. Because morality has this feature, law is always subject to moral assessment, and moral reasons trump legal reasons. It does not follow, however, that law is irrelevant to moral reasoning. K EYWORDS : Jurisprudence; morality and law; Hart; legal reasoning; reasons for action This article is an expanded version of the 26 th Maccabaean Lecture in Jurisprudence delivered at the British Academy on 15 November 2011, which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of what Brian Simpson has called “the most successful work of analytical jurispru- dence ever to appear in the common law world” 1 – HLA Hart’s The Concept of Law (“ CL ”). 2 The anniversary provided a good * Australian National University College of Law. I have benefited greatly from invaluable conversations with Tony Connolly. Niki Lacey and Nigel Simmonds made insightful comments on earlier versions. I am grateful to Jeff Goldsworthy and other participants in the Melbourne Law School Legal Theory Workshop, and participants in the Social and Political Theory Seminar at the ANU, for helpful feedback. Address for correspondence: Professor Peter Cane, ANU College of Law, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia. Email: [email protected] anu.edu.au 1 A.W.B. Simpson, Reflections on The Concept of Law (Oxford 2011), 1.
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