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This article is written by Isha Baloni, a student of Maharishi University of Information Technology


Everyone has a perception of the relation between morality and law. Why we all are obliged to follow the law? Because of moral duty or the fear of punishment from legal bodies. A rare common approach becomes a turning point for the relationship between law and moral virtue. Then the question arises whether it is virtuous for being an obligatory to law. William Edmondson is one of the best supporters of the statement and also achieved its possibility. He defended an account of law- abidance as a virtue for pursuing it. Law should have built a virtue for all by establishing an example that everyone has one good reason to emulate. If law can pursue it, then everyone can include artifacts, films, plays, and novels. Law is a model in itself as to express how it is a legal obligation on everyone and one of the sources of establishing morality in people’s lives. 

Law reflects the moral values through people who obey it because of fear of punishment. Society is obligatory towards it because it is complex, supports justice, and expects from its officials and guards to follow it honestly. But when the law will bend towards injustice it will no more seems like a virtue model to the people and it cannot help them in any way. If it is good enough, then it can build virtue. Virtuous law focuses on the mandate of character and individual’s excellence or virtue to the question on the content and judgment of the law.

Issues covered by the virtue Jurisprudence:

  • Virtue ethics can be applied for account of ends of legislation. If law is ambitious towards opposing to maximizing utility then how should be the content of the laws applied?
  • Virtue ethics can be applied to legal ethics. Trending approaches to legal ethics focuses on the theory of deontological moral i.e. respecting client for his autonomy and duties which are obligatory towards them. These approaches are also highlighted in various professional conduct by lawyers and legislators.
  • In Natural Justice Theory by Aristotle and Aquinas’, there are applications mentioned for the debates between legal positivists and natural lawyers over the law’s nature.
  • The requirement of particular excellences by judges are described by the virtue-centered theory of judging.

Theories based on Judgment: 

The judicial virtues are the virtues of the best legal minds in their respective area of study on the nature of law and its relation to morality. It invites the excellence that can make a good judge in the particular topic. These include judicial temperance, judicial intelligence, judicial courage, wisdom, and the quality of serving justice. These theories of virtue have a distinguished significance from others.

These theories also have lot of criticizers: –

  • Virtuous law does not provide good guidance for making decisions regarding law. Sometimes legal minds disagree with the judge who is a supporter of virtuous law as it gives birth to various unedifying debates. It invites inappropriate attacks on the judges.
  • Virtuous law requires blind trust in the capacities of judges. As India is a country of democracy, so the legal decisions should be fair enough that can be accessed by the citizens. Judges who follow the virtuous theory and involve their view in the judgments, sometimes they are not acceptable by the society. 
  • In modern societies, nobody agrees upon the set of moral values a good judge must possess. Some values like wisdom, impartiality, fairness, etc are not controversial but the sympathy part for the underprivileged is rigorous and cannot be accepted in legal decisions.
  • The argument is that rules play a vital part in law than the ethics because the law is obligatory to citizens and violation of it will lead to punishment. Ethics are not binding on people and it also differs from individual to individual for eg, going to night outs is ethical for one person and not for others. One thing or act that is ethical for one might be unethical for others.
  • One of the arguments is that virtue theory can lead to illiberal values and mislead attempts to legislate moral values.

Virtue as the end of law:

There are few thoughts by legal positivists like Aristotle stated that implementing virtue theory will lead to the end of law but Aquinas said that virtue theory can be taught by true laws in which particulates of best virtues planted. Those who haven’t pursued this level of virtue can be forced into the obligation of law and this might enable them to become a person with virtue. 

A statement found in the writings of Robert George, he argues for the promotion of this topic virtue as the end of law and against the different views of people that law aims to the general happiness and protection of rights. He wrote it in his book ‘Making Men Moral’. 


Law and morality are somewhere connected either directly or indirectly. The function of law is not to perform all virtues and also law somewhere teaches virtues in its way. Some people follow the law as an obligation because of fear of punishment but some follow it as a moral value that if they will do that particular act this will be a wrong and against their ethics. Law establishes a code of conduct that should be followed by a society for peace but ethics are defined as an individual’s morality. Law says that drinking alcohol is not a crime or punishable offense but when we talk about ethics, it is wrong. There is a huge difference between a good person and a good citizen like a good citizen will pay tax because of legal obligation but a good person will do it willingly as his responsibility. Though some people will always criticize it as not everyone accepts everything. Virtue theory also plays a very significant role in serving justice in some complex cases while legal precedents play this role in the maximum number of cases. The usage of both depends upon the situation.

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