This is a substantially expanded version of a paper that will appear in a collection of essays in honour of John Gardner’s contribution to thinking about private law. The idea that there are such things as moral duties was central to John’s thought about private law. This paper suggests that we have reason to think that that idea is incorrect, and that the idea that there are such things as moral duties results from thinking about morality in law-like terms (with the paradoxical result that we end up thinking that our private law duties are modelled on moral duties that we owe to each other because moral duties were conceived as being modelled on our private law duties). A better way of thinking about morality is commended in this paper, as providing far more illumination on questions that John pondered, such as the wrongness of rape and the tragedy of Sophie’s Choice.
McBride, Nicholas, Are There Any Moral Duties? (February 1, 2022) in Private Law and Practical Reason: Essays on John Gardner’s Private Law Theory (Harris Psarras and Sandy Steel eds, 2022).