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Meta-Ethical Agnosticism in Legal Theory: Mapping a Way Out

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Abstract:

In his review of Bernard Williams' Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Hart eloquently formulated an apprehension that still haunts much of contemporary jurisprudence: if the moral 'I must' has to be 'seen as coming not from outside, but from what is most deeply inside us ? the fear is that this will not be enough'. I argue that this fear is the byproduct of the dualist outlook within which Hart—and a significant part of contemporary legal theory—is confined: because of his bald naturalist premise, Hart could not conceive of moral objectivity except in terms presupposing an order of Reason resolutely distinct from the 'natural' world. This paper seeks to debunk this dualist outlook by engaging with the kind of 'non-bald' naturalism advocated in different ways by both McDowell and Blackburn. In considering contemporary efforts to draw a middle way between ethical scepticism and metaphysical rationalism, the paper draws on the pragmatic elements emerging from the confrontation between Habermas and Rawls.

Keywords: HABERMAS; META-ETHICS; PRAGMATISM; RAWLS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5235/204033210793524267

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • Jurisprudence provides a forum for scholarly writing on the philosophy of law. While demanding the utmost intellectual honesty, clarity and scholarly rigour, its editorial policy is distinctively open-minded in relation to philosophical approach. A main purpose of the journal is to encourage scholarship which explores and transcends the categories and assumptions on which contemporary jurisprudential debates are conducted, and to stimulate reflection upon traditional questions concerning the nature of law, politics and society. The journal's unique reviews section will provide in-depth discussion and analysis of major developments in the field. Jurisprudence aims: " to encourage research exploring the relation between questions in the philosophy of law and debates in related branches of philosophy, including but not limited to political philosophy, moral philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind; " to support study of the intellectual history of the philosophy of law, both for its own sake and in order to shed light on contemporary jurisprudential questions; " to encourage careful research illuminating relations between jurisprudential questions and theoretical debates in anthropology, sociology, cultural and literary studies. Replies and correspondence pieces will be generally discouraged, although may be acceptable if the intention is to deepen and extend an original line of thought, and not merely to reiterate or amplify an earlier argument.

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