Legal moralism is when a society creates laws based on the prevailing morality of that society. Stuff like "we think green houses are immoral, so we made a law to ban green houses".

Is there a term for the opposite influence? As in "if Y is legal, I have no problems with doing Y" as an individual viewpoint for moralism?

  • Note: I am uncertain whether this is the right stack or whether this belongs in the philosophy stack (or a different stack entirely). If this stack is the wrong one, let me know which one would be more appropriate.
    – Nzall
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 17:00
  • 4
    I'd say philosophy.stackexchange.com is a better place; this stack doesn't deal with pure morality or the legislation of laws. Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 17:21
  • The title and the body question conflict. The body question roughly described Natural Law. Going from law to morality is somewhat like Legal Positivism.
    – user6726
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 17:48
  • 1
    @user6726 do they conflict? Am I wrong in reading the body as a contrapositive of the title? (Title: L->M; body: ~M->~L)
    – grovkin
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 18:23
  • 6
    You have to read the whole question. The body says "if moral, then law," but only as ap prelude to asking what the opposite is.
    – bdb484
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 2:19

3 Answers 3


You're thinking of legalism. It can have different meanings -- especially in Chinese legal/philosophical history -- but is the best match to the concept you're describing.

  • So you're saying I was half right by jokingly switching around the words to "moral legalism"? Nice :p Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 13:33

Probably the term Legalism is the best short term, as mentioned by others, but to put it into a larger framework, it is part of the second stage of moral reasoning in Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Level 2 (conventional), Stage 4 (Authority and social-order maintaining orientation). This makes it a higher level of reasoning than avoiding punishment or pure self-interest, but lower than reasoning that evaluates the good of the laws for society as a whole and questions them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg%27s_stages_of_moral_development


I think an appropriate term for what you might be asking is "virtue jurisprudence," which overlaps with philosophical questions of ethics and morals. Aristotle popularized this concept to some extent. Ancient Greeks used the word "Arete" to refer to good morals and ethics, although it more generally can be used to refer to anything that is highly superior in its existence and translates to "excellent." In legal theory, Arete can be applied to how one interacts with the law as it relates to a virtuous quality of one's actions.

  • 3
    Doesn't virtue jurisprudence go in the opposite direction? I understand it as a system for discerning what the law should be, where the OP is asking about a system using what the law already is to discern what is moral.
    – bdb484
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 18:27
  • You make a valid point as to question that was asked. Can the ideal be based on what is proscribed to us as right and wrong? Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 20:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .