Moral Aspects of Legal Theory

Essays on Law, Justice, and Political Responsibility

Moral Aspects of Legal Theory

David Lyons is one of the preeminent philosophers of law active in the United States. This volume comprises essays written over a period of twenty years in which Professor Lyons outlines his fundamental views about the nature of law and its relation to morality and justice. The underlying theme of the book is that a system of law has only a tenuous connection with morality and justice. Contrary to those legal theorists who maintain that no matter how bad the law of a community might be, strict conformity to existing law automatically dispenses "formal" justice, Professor Lyons contends that the law must earn the respect that it demands. Moreover, we cannot, as some would suggest, interpret law in a value-neutral manner. Rather courts should interpret statutes, judicial precedents, and constitutional provisions in terms of values that would justify those laws. In this way officials can promote the justifiability of what they do to people in the name of law, and can help the law live up to its moral pretensions.


"A rich and diverse collection of important essays by one of this country's outstanding legal and political philosophers." Jules Coleman, Yale Law School

"[This review] does not do justice to the complexity, the sensitivity to detail, the evenhandedness, or the deftness of Lyons's analyses and arguments. Lyons's examination of the dominant theories of law and of legal interpretation are penetrating and illuminating and his criticisms compelling. This is a very important contribution to legal philosophy." John Marshall, Review of Metaphysics