What is Law and Morality in Jurisprudence || Jurisprudence ||

Law and Morality

In this article, we are going to discuss what is law and morality in jurisprudence, what is the difference between law and morality, what is the relation between law and morality, and what theories or debates have been given by jurists in the past time. Let’s begin.

What is law and morality in jurisprudence:-

There are many different beliefs, values, laws, and social standards in the world around us; an individual adheres to such types of norms that describe how one should behave in society in order to live in peace. To prevent ambiguity and confusion, it is essential to distinguish between each of these. Law and morality are two conflicts that are frequently brought up together. Laws are explicit guidelines that outline what we should and shouldn’t do as members of society. To establish a fundamental and upheld norm of conduct for the benefit of society, these are enforced by the state and the judicial system. On the other hand, morality refers to a loose framework of principles, values, beliefs, customs, and ways of life. Although morality cannot be enforced by law, there is social pressure. Numerous jurists argued the same question of law and morality in jurisprudence, which led to the emergence of distinct points of view.

what is law and morality in jurisprudence


Now, let’s discuss what history says about the law and morality. Actually, there was no clear line between law and morals in the past, when legal regulations were yet in their infancy (beginning stage). Dharma was regarded as a morality and law in India. For instance, the Vedas and Smritis—which were essentially the people’s values—were the primary sources of Hindu law. But over time, Mimansa developed several ideas that made a clear distinction between recommendatory rules—which are advised because they are beneficial if followed and would amount to morality—and obligatory rules, which are regulations that must be obeyed and are regarded as the law. The Bible was acknowledged as having a significant impact on legal codes even during the medieval ages. The notion that these two conceptions are distinct eventually arose with the passage of time and the emergence of new philosophies.

What is law?

Black’s Law Dictionary says that law is “A body of rules of action or conduct prescribed by controlling authority and having binding legal force. That which must be obeyed and followed by citizens subject to sanctions or legal consequence is a law.”

Simply said, the law is a collection of guidelines created by the legislative body and implemented by the executive body, all of which have legal standing. And which residents must adhere to in order to avoid legal repercussions.

What is morality?

The concept of morality has evolved beyond philosophical contexts and norms of behaviour in the workplace. Morality is concerned with other forms of conventions and laws as well as the practices that define right and wrong and are typically passed down within a community or institution from generation to generation. A social institution known as morality is defined as a collection of values that are universally accepted by people in a culture. The ideas, values, beliefs, and behaviour developed and upheld by society are, in a nutshell, what is meant by morality. They lack legal sanctity, yet they impose social obligations on individuals or depend on their moral convictions.

As an illustration, visiting the temple to pray to God is moral, but it is not mandated by law.

law and morality in jurisprudence

What is the relationship between law and morality?

These are two words that you have undoubtedly encountered in daily life. Law and morality, however, have two distinct meanings, yet when we discuss jurisprudence; it demonstrates how they are related. These are the two systems that control how people behave. All individuals are required by law to abide by a set of rules and regulations. On the other hand, morals relate to broad rules or expectations of behaviour that outline social behaviour but are not compelled to be followed. The connection between morality and the law is complex and has changed over time. Initially, the two were thought to be equivalent, but with time and advancement, it has become clear that they are actually two distinct notions with some interdependence.

Four stages in the development of the law with respect to morality:-

There are four stages that are described by Prof. Roscoe Pound in the development of the law with respect to morality.

  1. Morals as a basis of law
  2. Morals as test of law
  3. Morals as end of law
  4. Morality as part of law

How is Morality the basis of law?

As we discussed above that, there has never been a solid division created between morality and law throughout history. Due to a lack of distinction, all laws originated from what members of a community believed to be morally right. The state eventually adopted what was ethically just and gave it the shape of laws, rules, and regulations. As a result, law and morality are two notions that are similar in that they both derive from the ideals that are prevalent among people. For instance, raping or killing someone is morally wrong. This principle has been formalised into law.

How is the Morality test of law?

Let’s see how morality tests the law. The entire purpose of having laws is to uphold justice in society and act in a way that is best for everyone’s well-being. Any law that violates moral principles needs to be repealed, and the morality of law can be assessed by considering whether it is consistent with moral principles. There shouldn’t be any conflict between law and morality, according to many jurists, because the principle of fairness falls squarely within the purview of morality.

How are Morals as end of law?

The goal of the law is to uphold justice, which is heavily founded on morality. In most languages used across the world, words are used to convey the concepts of justice and morality as well. morality is dharma.

How is Morality part of law?

It is said that morality is somehow an essential component of law or the formation of the law, even though law and morals can be distinguished from one another. According to some, the law is more than just a set of rules; it also makes use of certain principles. Although it is acknowledged that this does not allow the rules themselves to be rejected on the grounds of their morality, the skillful application of these principles to legal norms causes the judicial process to extract a moral element out of the legal order. Even the positivist admits that morality can and often does work against the creation of a legal rule.

What say different schools about the law and morality?

Now let’s discuss what different school says about the law and morality. Legal positivism and natural law theory are the two main theories that have contributed to the development of law.

Natural law school

The idea that human morality derives from nature and manifests itself as laws and regulations in a society is the root of the phrase “natural law,” as it were. The natural law idea contends that any legislation that is blatantly morally repugnant is not a law at all. Thus, morality and the law are closely related. Augustine, Aquinas, Lon Fuller, and other legal philosophers supported the natural law hypothesis.

Analytical school

On the other hand, the analytical school holds that morality and the law are two distinct concepts. They are distinctive from one another. Law and morality should be studied separately. Legal positivism asserts that the legal system does not adhere to any moral standards. Having said that, this view does not fully discount the impact of morals on the creation of laws. The philosophy promotes the separation of laws and morals because it holds that all laws, rules, and regulations were created by humans. Legal positivists John Austin and H. L. A. Hart are examples of those who support this theory.

What says Hart-Fuller debate on law and morality?

One of the most fascinating discussions between Lon Fuller and H. L. A. Hart on the intriguing interdependency between law and morality is the Hart-Fuller debate. This basically emphasised the divergent viewpoints between positivist and natural law philosophy and was published in the Harvard Law Review in 1958. It’s critical to examine both these ideologists’ ideas and the justifications for them individually in order to comprehend the arguments made by each.

H. L. A Hart

As you know Hart is a positivist, therefore he holds the view that morality and law may have a close relationship but are most definitely not interdependent. Hart does, however, agree that the prevailing morals in society have had a significant impact on the law. He argued that there should be a distinct difference between what the law ought to be and what it should be.

When the law is vague, Hart introduced the penumbra issue, which deals with determining meaning. In opposition, Fuller argued that when the law is unclear, judges make decisions based on morality, or more specifically, on what ought to be. 

In response, Hart argued that deciding what ought to be understood in a legal sense rather than a moral sense. In essence, interpretation of the law cannot originate from a source other than the legal profession.

There are both primary and secondary rules in the law as we have discussed in the theory of Hart’s concept of law. Citizens are subject to specific regulations under primary rules, and the state has the authority to create and enforce these regulations under secondary rules. This implies that moral principles are not required to be reflected in the legislation. He draws a distinct line between morality and legality, but he also thinks that the two must eventually cross paths.

Lon Fuller

Fuller was a naturalist who held the view that morality and the law are strongly intertwined. He believes that moral standards are the foundation of all legal rules. Simply put, legislation cannot be considered legal if it fails the morality test, which is based on the ethical principles that individuals hold. The morality of aspiration and the morality of obligation are two more categories created by Fuller. The former is concerned with moral standards that a person upholds in their own best interests. The latter, on the other hand, is more important to the efficient operation of society since it establishes standards that everyone must adhere to.

The terms “External morality of law” and “Internal morality of law,” which deal with the process of creating laws and their fundamental principles, respectively, were further developed by Fuller.

Hart-Fuller debate analysis

Both of these legal theorists sought justice, but they did so in different ways. Real-world examples can help us better understand their views. Consider a scenario in which parking a car somewhere is against the law. Although it is clearly not morally wrong to leave your car parked there, it is nonetheless against the law. This implies that law can exist outside of any moral duty to meddle with or to be dependent, as established by Hart.

On the other side, let’s look at the Nazi dictatorship, whose laws Hitler passed without regard for morality or ethics. We can all agree that the Nazi government was unjust and terrible to humanity, and that’s why there wasn’t justice. In a nutshell, Fuller believes that injustice results when laws did not match moral principles.

It is clear from a close review of their positions that there is no doubt that the two philosophers’ positions can be reconciled. There can be some overlap between morality and legality; they don’t have to be two illogical concepts. However, as morality is a matter of personal opinion, the law will ultimately have to take precedence.


It is clear from a close review of their positions that there is no doubt that the two philosophers’ positions can be reconciled. There can be some overlap between morality and legality; they don’t have to be two illogical concepts. However, as morality is a matter of personal opinion, the law will ultimately have to take precedence.


  1. https://legalstudymaterial.com/relationship-between-law-and-morality/
  2. https://lawcorner.in/law-and-morality-in-jurisprudence/#History_of_Law_and_Morality
  3. https://blog.ipleaders.in/all-about-law-and-morality/#:~:text=Law%20is%20a%20body%20of,not%20compulsory%20to%20be%20followed.

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