may, 2017

25may5:30 pm7:00 pmDavid Plunkett: 'Robust Normativity, Morality, and Legal Positivism'


Event Details

The Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy is pleased to announce a presentation by David Plunkett: ‘Robust Normativity, Morality, and Legal Positivism’. This event is optional pre-read, so I will send along drafts to registered attendees shortly. Refreshments will be provided.


In recent years, a number of philosophers of law have characterized the legal positivism and legal antipositivism as competing views about the ultimate grounds of legal facts (facts about what the law is in a given jurisdiction, at a given time). Roughly, the thought is this: legal antipositivism is the thesis that legal facts are ultimately grounded in both social facts and moral facts, whereas legal positivism is the thesis that it is social facts alone. In the first part of this paper, I make some proposals about how to best sharpen this distinction to make it more philosophically precise and useful. This discussion leads to a reformulation of the above definitions of legal positivism and legal antipositivism. One of the key ideas is that we should broaden our focus from moral facts to robustly normative facts. The theses of positivism and antipositivism (as I formulate them here) concern one important metaphysical issue about the relationship between robust normativity and the law. But there are many other important metaphysical issues as well, including some that are arguably more important than this one. Many of these issues do not receive the explicit attention they deserve in the contemporary discussion, given the dominance of the positivist/antipositivist way of framing the field. In the second part of the paper, I briefly explore three of these other issues; ones that also involve the issue of what role (if any) robustly normative facts have in our best constitutive accounts of legal facts. The first issue concerns what I second-order explanation; the second issue concerns real definition, and the third issue concerns essence. Thinking about these issues, I argue, helps us better situate the positivist/antipositivist dispute, helps us better understand the space of positions in legal philosophy, and helps us better evaluate views in the field. Moreover, I argue it can also help us better diagnose points of agreement and disagreement in legal philosophy and avoid merely verbal disputes.

About the Speaker: David Plunkett is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Dartmouth College. Before coming to Dartmouth, he was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Law and Philosophy program at UCLA. Professor Plunkett’s main areas of current research are Metaethics, Ethics, Philosophy of Law, and the Philosophy of Mind and Language.


(Thursday) 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


University of Surrey School of Law

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

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