Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 39–55 | Cite as

Civil Ethics and the Validity of Law

  • Adela Cortina


This paper aims to clarify the nature and contents of 'civil ethics' and the source of the binding force of its obligations. This ethics should provide the criteria for evaluating the moral validity of social, legal and morally valid law. The article starts with observing that in morally pluralist Western societies civil ethics already exists, and has gradually started to play the role of guiding the law. It is argued that civil ethics should not be conceived as 'civic morals' which is in fact rather 'state ethics', nor as 'public ethics' which is said to reach its perfection when it becomes law, nor as ethics applicable primarily to the basic structure of a society (political liberalism), but instead as a citizens' ethics. Subsequently the paper attempts to show what the contents of this ethics are, and which ethical theory would be able to ground its obligations.

citizenship civil ethics law legal validity moral obligation moral pluralism moral values public ethics virtues 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adela Cortina
    • 1
  1. 1.Catedrática de Ética y Filosofía PolíticaUniversidad de ValenciaSpain

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