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Law Is a Moral Practice

Scott Hershovitz

ISBN 9780674258556

Publication date: 12/05/2023

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A powerful argument for the essential role of morality in law, getting at the heart of key debates in public life.

What is law? And how does it relate to morality? It’s common to think that law and morality are different ways of regulating our lives. But Scott Hershovitz says that this is a mistake: law is a part of our moral lives. It’s a tool we use to adjust our moral relationships. The legal claims we advance in court, Hershovitz argues, are moral claims. And our legal conflicts are moral conflicts.

Law Is a Moral Practice supplies fresh answers to fundamental questions about the nature of law and helps us better appreciate why we disagree about law so deeply. Reviving a neglected tradition of legal thought most famously associated with Ronald Dworkin, Hershovitz engages with important legal and political controversies of our time, including recent debates about constitutional interpretation and the obligations of citizens and officials to obey the law.

Leavened by entertaining personal stories, guided by curiosity rather than ideology, moving beyond entrenched dichotomies like the opposition between positivism and natural law, Law Is a Moral Practice is a thought-provoking investigation of the philosophical issues behind real-world legal debates.


  • Masterful. With clarity, humor, and insight, Scott Hershovitz declutters jurisprudence. Condemning the philosophical ‘original sin’ of reducing law to rules and the ‘obsession’ with separating law from morals, he shows that the embattled ideal of the rule of law is itself a part of a shared moral outlook. Law Is a Moral Practice resets a field and pries it open, making it newly accessible to non-specialists and ordinary people.

    —Samuel Moyn, Yale Law School


  • Scott Hershovitz is Thomas G. and Mabel Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Law and Ethics Program. He served as a law clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the US Supreme Court and is the author of Nasty, Brutish, and Short: Adventures in Philosophy with My Kids, an NPR Best Book of 2022.

Book Details

  • 256 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press