Skip to main content
Past Event

Law’s Virtues: Exploring the Tensions between Law and Values in the United States

Past Event

Law’s Virtues: Exploring the Tensions between Law and Values in the United States

Throughout our nation’s history, lawmakers have had to balance serving the common good with the protection of individual freedom. This task is particularly difficult in a pluralistic liberal democracy such as the United States, especially when it comes to sensitive moral issues, such as abortion or euthanasia. Should the law be morally neutral so as not to impose a particular set of values on society as a whole? Or should the law make a moral judgment on such issues?

On January 31, Brookings Senior Fellow William Galston moderated a discussion of Law’s Virtues: Fostering Autonomy and Solidarity in American Society (Georgetown University Press, 2012), by legal scholar and moral theologian Cathleen Kaveny. Kaveny argues that legal frameworks are never value-neutral, yet sound lawmaking must take more than morality into account when deciding how to regulate particular actions. Kaveny discussed her vision for a realistic relationship between law and morality. After her presentation, a panel of experts joined the conversation.

This event was hosted by the religion, policy and politics project at Brookings and is also part of the Governing Ideas series intended to broaden the discussion of governance issues through forums on timely and relevant books on history, culture, legal norms and practices, values and religion.


Introduction and Moderator



Margaret Little

Director, Kennedy Institute of Ethics and Associate Professor, Philosophy - Georgetown University



Cathleen Kaveny

John P. Murphy Professor of Law and Professor of Theology - University of Notre Dame

More Information

To subscribe or manage your subscriptions to our top event topic lists, please visit our event topics page.

Get a weekly events calendar from Brookings