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The Special Case Thesis. An Assessment of R. Alexy's Discursive Theory of Law

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Legal Argumentation Theories seek mainly to develop procedures, criteria and principles which can guarantee a proper justification of legal propositions within modern legal systems. In doing this, those theories solicit in general an interconnection between practical reasoning and legal reasoning. This paper refers mainly to what seems currently to be the most elaborate theory of legal argumentation, that is R. Alexy's Theorie der juristischen Argumentation. Although the discussion is mainly concentrated on critical points of R. Alexy's theory, this paper's scope is slightly broader; it attempts to present an overall view of the current discursive theory of law. This is mainly performed through the critical examination of R. Alexy's Special Case Thesis, which seems to raise a handful of counter arguments on behalf of the other proponents of Legal Argumentation. In the first part the special case thesis is presented, as well as the main objections to it. In the second part the validity of the special case thesis is checked against K. Günther's model of practical discourse, which proves to be more elaborate in certain points, when compared with the corresponding model of R. Alexy. In the third part it is shown that the special case thesis can be accepted consistently only if it is combined with a normative theory of law that advocates the interconnection of the concept of law with the idea of right morality. It is further suggested that legal discourse has to be perceived as a special case of a broader moral-political discourse that “explains” or “justifies” (morally) the various restrictions that the positive legal systems impose on the legal discourse.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Christian-Albrechts University, Faculty of Law, Olshausenstra§e 40, D-24118 Kiel

Publication date: 1998-06-01

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