Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 June 1999
This article seeks to parry Ronald Dworkin’s assaults on the legal-positivist thesis that the authoritative norms in any legal system are ascertained by reference to some overarching set of criteria that may or may not require the making of moral judgments. Four main lines of argument are presented. First, Dworkin does not establish that judges disagree with one another at a criterial level in easy cases; second, even if criterial disagreements are indeed present (at least subterraneously) in all cases, they will be quite sharply limited by the need for regularity at the level of outcomes in a functional legal system; third, Dworkin errs in thinking that legal conventions must be static, and he further errs in thinking that the adjudicative practices of American law can plausibly be portrayed as based solely on convictions and not on conventions. Finally, with his recent reflections on the metaphysics of morals, Dworkin helps to reveal the resilience of a doctrine (viz., soft or inclusive positivism) that he seeks to confute.