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There has been considerable debate in legal philosophy about how to attribute purposes to rules. Separately, within cognitive science, there has been a growing body of research concerned with questions about how people ordinarily attribute purposes. Here, we argue that these two separate fields might be connected by experimental jurisprudence. Across four studies, we find evidence for the claim that people use the same criteria to attribute purposes to physical objects and to rules. In both cases, purpose attributions appear to be governed not so much by original intention or by moral value as by current practice. We argue that these findings in the cognitive science of purpose attribution have implications for jurisprudential questions involving purposivist legal interpretation.
Legal positivists maintain that the legality of a rule is fundamentally determined by social facts. Yet for much of legal history, ordinary officials used legal terminology in ways that seem inconsistent with positivism. Judges regularly cited, analyzed, and predicated their decisions on the ‘laws of justice,’ which they claimed had universal legal import. This practice, though well-documented by historians, has received surprisingly little philosophical attention; I argue that it invites explanation from positivists. After taxonomizing the positivist’s explanatory options, I suggest that the most viable option appeals to conceptual change: classical Romans, early modern Europeans, and founding-era Americans were not using ‘law’ (or ‘lex’ or ‘jus’) to refer to the subject matter of contemporary legal philosophy. But the strategy is costly. It renders positivism’s truth surprisingly parochial. And it supplies new reasons for doubting positivist accounts of contemporary practices, including the treatment of moral principles in modern adjudication.
Democratic theory tends to proceed on the assumption that law requires democratic legitimation because it is coercive. However, the claim that law requires democratic legitimation is distinct from claims about the nature of law. This paper takes issue with the notion that law is coercive by an exploration of three distinct understandings of the nature of law: the state-based conception of law, law as the rules of institutionalized normative systems, and law as social norms. Drawing on insights from legal and democratic theory, the paper defends the view that the ‘law’ to which democratic claims apply are the rules of conduct of institutionalized normative systems. Since rules that belong to such systems are found in associations beyond or below the level of the state, the scope of democratic participation is significantly wider than is usually recognized.
Every country must allocate final decision-making authority over different issues/subjects within its boundaries. Historically, many scholars working on this topic implicitly assumed that identifying the features providing entities with justified claims for authority and the entities possessing those features would also identify which groups should have which powers (or vice versa). However, many candidate allocative principles select multiple entities as candidates for some sub-state authority and yet fail to explain which powers each should possess. Further work must explain which groups should possess which powers when and what to do when two groups can make equally-valid authority claims using the same principle. Subsidiarity, the principle under which authority should presumptively belong to the entity representing those ‘most affected’ by its exercise and capable of addressing underlying problems, is one of the few principles focused on identifying which groups should have which powers. Unfortunately, subsidiarity alone does not provide guidance on many issues/subjects. Useful subsidiarity-related guidance relies on balancing underlying justificatory interests, which do the real allocative work. Another allocative principle remains necessary. A deflationary account of subsidiarity’s allocative potential nonetheless provides insights into how to articulate a new principle and accounts of subsidiarity that can fulfill other moral roles.
Despite more than half a century of reform efforts, access to civil justice is still understood to be in a state of crisis. Part of the reason for this is because there is no consensus among the legal community on the meaning of justice in this context. This paper seeks to provide a much-needed theoretical underpinning to the access-to-civil-justice movement. It advances ‘justice as fairness,’ as articulated by the American philosopher John Rawls, in conjunction with Lesley Jacobs’ model of equal opportunities, as a suitable theory in which to frame the access-to-civil-justice movement. I explain why this framework is appropriate for pluralistic democracies like Canada and how it can be used to define measures of justice. This exercise is thus not simply a theoretical discussion, but rather is intended to be used as a practical framework to assess current and proposed policy initiatives.
The central theoretical assumption of English land law (and land law in related legal systems) that all rights in land are derivative of the Crown’s rights does not provide a full account of the origins of rights in land. ‘Liberal’ theories of the origin of property rights, which see property rights as something that emerged independently of state action, retain considerable explanatory value. The paper begins with a discussion of the principal features of David Hume’s account of the origins of property. The paper then engages with historical scholarship that shows that (1) it is a mistake to see the medieval English hierarchy of administration as implying a hierarchy of property rights ultimately derived from the Crown’s ‘title,’ and (2) the idea that communal medieval agricultural practices were super-imposed upon a pre-existing system of individual property rights is plausible.
Automated decision-making takes up an increasingly significant place in the administrative state. This article presents a conception of discretion that is helpful for evaluating the proper place of algorithms in public decision-making. I argue that the algorithm itself is not a site of discretion. The threat is that automated decision-making alters the relationships between traditional actors in a way that can cut down discretion and human commitment. Algorithmic decision-makers can serve to fetter the discretion that the legislature and the populace expect to be exercised. We must strive to maintain discretion, moral agency, deliberative ideals, and human commitment through the system that surrounds the use of an algorithm and to develop a new expertise that can retain and exercise the expected discretion. Backing this argument are traditional legal constraints, public expectations, and administrative law principles, tied together through the organizing principle of discretion.
This paper examines the claim that justice is necessary for a moral obligation to obey the law. By reflecting on the meaning of obedience, it identifies one version of the claim that must be right and another that must be wrong. It then focuses on the argument for a moral obligation to obey the law that most obviously includes the claim: John Rawls’s argument from the natural duty of justice. More specifically, it focuses on the degree of justice that is needed for this duty to ground a moral obligation to obey the law.
Ronald Dworkin’s argument from theoretical disagreement remains a pressing challenge for legal positivists. In this paper, I show how positivists can answer Dworkin’s argument without having to attribute confusion or disingenuity to legal officials. I propose that the argument rests on two errors. The first is to assume that positivism requires legal officials to converge on precise grounds of law when convergence on more general grounds will do. The second is to construe judicial speech too literally. If we pay attention to the pragmatics of judicial speech, we see that judges do not disagree over what the grounds of law are; they at most disagree over how courts should proceed when agreed-upon, though imprecise, grounds of law underdetermine what the content of the law directs in the case at hand.
This article examines the grappling of modern positivists with the question of legal unity. It presents and contrasts two antagonistic positivist strands—naturalist and normativist—epitomized in the works of Austin and Kelsen, respectively. The two strands correspond to two contrasting models of legal authority—criterial and coherence-based—and they accordingly diverge on the proper explanation of unity. Naturalist, criterial models purport to explain the unity of law based on extra-legal facts alone; normativist, coherence-based models resort strictly to the interrelation of legal elements themselves. Against this backdrop, the article argues that Raz’s work on the subject is torn between Austin and Kelsen: While his naturalist ancestors accounted for legal unity externally, Raz’s prominent works are captivated by the Kelsenian realization that the unity of law must be accounted for internally. Two central upshots follow. First, the analysis provides a litmus test for the (in)ability of naturalist positivism to explain legal unity. Second, Raz’s strategic reliance on Kelsen distorts his work: Both the Grundnorm and validity chains are upended to fit Raz’s naturalist commitments.