may, 2017

23may12:30 pm2:00 pmBarbara Baum Levenbook: 'Not My Problem: Legal Positivism and Dworkin’s Theoretical Disagreement'


Event Details

The Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy is pleased to announce that Professor Levenbook will present: ‘Not My Problem: Legal Positivism and Dworkin’s Theoretical Disagreement’

A catered lunch will be served. Please RSVP so that appropriate provisions can be made.


“There’s a distinction Dworkin elides between ontology and epistemology with regard to law.  Ontology answers the question of what objects are the laws.  Ontology tells us what legal experts and officials are talking about when they disagree about the content or the existence of a law of their legal system.  A reductionist ontology for law may name truthmakers for propositions of law, may tell us what makes claims about the law true or false.  (Truthmakers will be things that exist in the world.) Epistemology, on the other hand, concerns conditions for someone’s knowledge of the law and also conditions for justifying claims about the law.  Epistemology would tell us what counts as justification for (believing or assenting to) claims about the law, and what counts as evidence, including whether these matters are relative to legal systems. It is a truism in epistemology that justification isn’t the same as truth and does not guarantee truth…In the argument from theoretical disagreement, Dworkin begs the question by importing his own view that propositions of law have no independent truthmakers, just justifiers. Reject that assumption, attend to the distinction between truthmakers and justifiers, and the argument has no bite against legal positivism.  It is consistent with legal positivism, and perhaps also with the core of Hart’s position (though Hart may make the same error) to reject that assumption.  The case for the existence of pervasive theoretical disagreement that is problematic for legal positivism then collapses.”

About the Speaker:

Barbara Baum Levenbook is a professor of philosophy at North Carolina State University. She holds a Ph. D. in Philosophy of Law from University of Arizona, and her primary areas of research interest are legal philosophy, ethics, and moral and political philosophy. Her publications are available here:


(Tuesday) 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


University of Surrey School of Law

Frank Whittle Building (AB) Fifth Floor, Guildford, GU2 7XH

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