Skip to main content
Between Example and Doctrine: Contract Law and Common Morality
Journal of Religious Ethics (2005)
  • M. Cathleen Kaveny, Boston College Law School

In Democracy and Tradition, Jeffrey Stout contends that American constitutional democracy constitutes a well-functioning moral and political tradition that is not hostile to religion, although it does not depend on any specifically religious claims. I argue that Stout's contention is supported by a consideration of the great common law subject of contracts, as taught to first-year law students across the United States. First, I demonstrate how contract law can fruitfully be understood as a MacIntyrean tradition. Second, I illustrate the moral richness of this tradition, and the mutually interpreting nature of rules and facts, by close attention to one particularly colorful case, Syester v. Banta. I conclude by suggesting that both religious and secular ethicists might find common law cases in general and contract law cases in particular to be a source of moral reflection that is substantively rich without being religiously divisive.

Publication Date
December, 2005
Citation Information
M. Cathleen Kaveny. "Between Example and Doctrine: Contract Law and Common Morality" Journal of Religious Ethics Vol. 33 Iss. 4 (2005)
Available at: