Dirkie Smit


The essay reflects on the well-known poem “What abou’ de lô?(1961) by Adam
Small in order to raise some aspects of the complex relationship between law and
morality. Written in the years of struggle against the apartheid system, the poem
clearly questioned the legitimacy of so-called positive law, suggesting that legality
and legitimacy are not necessarily identical and that justice is not merely the
application of the existing law of the day. But what is then the alternative, what
could be the norm with which to measure the law? Three possible answers to this
question are considered, all of them implicitly suggested by the poem – some form of
moral law, some notion of justice, or some form of divine or revealed law. All three
are represented and defended by influential theoretical traditions, yet all three also
lead to ambiguities and new problems. In conclusion, some brief theological
comments are offered.


Morality, Law, Justice, Moral Law, Adam Small

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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