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Between Example and Doctrine: Contract Law and Common Morality

M. Cathleen Kaveny
The Journal of Religious Ethics
Vol. 33, No. 4 (Dec., 2005), pp. 669-695
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40017993
Page Count: 27
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Between Example and Doctrine: Contract Law and Common Morality
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Abstract

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 Maclntyrean 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.

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