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Philosophy and ‘The Life of the Law’

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Abstract:

abstract 

Focusing on the criminal law, I discuss three ways in which analytical philosophers might contribute to the development or health of the law (and of legal theory). The first is as humble under-labourers, who seek only to clarify legal rules and doctrines, but not to criticise them. This modest conception of the role of philosophy, however, proves to be untenable: clarification must become rational reconstruction — an attempt to make rational sense of the law; and rational reconstruction must involve at least an internal critique, which appraises the law in terms of ends, values or principles that the reconstruction discovers within the law. Such an internal critique must then also point beyond itself, to an external critique that appraises law in terms of the broader and deeper political and moral values by which states should be structured; the paper ends by noting some of the problems that such an external critique faces, and some of the problems that philosophers must face in trying to engage with the world of public policy.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5930.2009.00449.x

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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