Moral law

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As a designation for an ethical norm, the moral law is a term used in philosophy, theology and jurisprudence. In philosophy, moral law, following the use of the term by Immanuel Kant, is understood to be a “law” that is independent of positive laws and conventions, viewed as objectively existing and timeless, and which in some philosophical teachings is viewed as part of a binding order of nature or being. In Catholic moral theology, the expression denotes a natural ethical order which is understandable and binding for the rational person. In the constitutional understanding, the moral law comprises all moral norms that are recognized as common property of civilizations worldwide.


Kant uses the terms moral law and moral law synonymously. He uses it to designate the basic law of pure practical reason he has adopted , which dictates action according to universalizable maxims . This commandment is formulated in the categorical imperative, which demands that a maxim is only valid if it can be made the principle of general legislation. By moral laws in the plural, Kant understands the individual moral norms that agree with the moral law.


Within the Christian doctrine of the faith , the so-called moral law and, as a further consequence, the “natural moral law” (also the moral natural law , natural moral law or natural law ) are explained, for example, in the catechism of the Catholic Church : It prescribes the ways and rules of conduct for people that are promised Lead bliss and forbid the ways that lead away from God . A narrow theological interpretation based on the reading of St. Augustine and with reference to Bible passages, such as in Hebrews 10.16 EU , is even limited to the Ten Commandments as a moral law.


Philosophical use of terms

Legal use of terms

  • Tatjana Hörnle: Grossly offensive behavior. Criminal law protection of morals, feelings and taboos. Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2005.
  • Wolfgang Kahl: The moral law in public law. In: Ferdinand Kirchhof , Hans-Jürgen paper , Heinz Schäffer (ed.): Rule of law and basic rights. Festschrift for Detlef Merten. Müller, Heidelberg 2007, pp. 57-75.
  • Ingo von Münch (greeting), Philip Kunig (ed.): Basic Law Commentary. Volume 1. 5th edition, Beck, Munich 2000-2003, pp. 137-140.
  • Kurt Rebmann , Werner Roth, Siegfried Herrmann (greeting): Law on administrative offenses. Comment. 2 volumes. 3rd edition, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1968–2007, as of April 2007.
  • Michael Sachs (Ed.): Basic Law. Comment. 4th edition, Beck, Munich 2007, p. 132.
  • Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider : The moral law and good morals. In: Dagmar I. Siebold, Angelika Emmerich-Fritsche (ed.): Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider. Freedom - law - state. A collection of articles for the 65th birthday. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, pp. 90-120.
  • Bruno Schmidt-Bleibtreu , Franz Klein : Commentary on the Basic Law. 11th edition, Heymanns, Cologne / Munich 2008, pp. 158f.
  • Lothar Senge (Ed.): OWiG. Karlsruhe commentary on the law on administrative offenses. 3rd edition, Beck, Munich 2006.

Web links

Wiktionary: moral law  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. KKK, Part 3, Chapter 3, Art. 12, I, 1950 ff.
  2. ^ KKK, Compendium, No. 417, 1960.