Ronald Dworkin and Duncan Kennedy represent arguably two opposing poles in legal theory. This paper offers a novel frame for reading their respective legal theories which reconceptualizes the traditional way in which they were opposed, and new ways to compare them, to understand their commonalities and their differences.
While Dworkin is taken to be a champion of a theory of rights, he is also associated with a certain theory of interpretation which holds that even in hard cases judges have limited discretion and a right answer to every legal question we might reasonably encounter. Kennedy, in contrast, seems to disagree with Dworkin in every conceivable respect such as the nature of law and legal reasoning, the role of right, the relation of law to its outsides (politics/ideology), thus questioning the objectivity and neutrality of legal reasoning, and he seems to be advocating what could be termed as a “radical indeterminacy” thesis.
The paper attempts reading Dworkin and Kennedy alongside each other, rather than in opposition, and so it deploys two interrelated strategies to establish such frame. One is concerned softening what appear to be rigid opposition through scrutinizing their writings, whereas the other takes stock of the common themes, presuppositions, images of law, and sensibilities that both share either explicitly or implicitly. This double strategy reveals the arguments that are attributed to them and which they themselves deny they are making. To that end, the paper unveils an unacknowledged shift toward phenomenology in legal theory that took place in the last few decades.