june, 2019

05jun4:00 pm6:00 pmNorman P. Ho: 'Confucians Are Legal Realists, Too'


Event Details

On behalf of the Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy, it is my pleasure to invite you to join us for a Hart Seminar with Norman P. Ho: ‘Confucians Are Legal Realists, Too’. This is an optional pre-read seminar, and the reading will be circulated to registered attendees. A reception will follow the event.

Abstract: How should we understand, describe, and/or characterize classical Confucian (i.e., pre-Qin Confucianism, namely, the thought of Confucius and Mencius) legal thought? Some scholars have argued that classical Confucianism should be understood as a natural law theory. Others have argued that classical Confucianism should be understood as a Dworkinian coherence theory of law. Still others have maintained that classical Confucian legal thought should not be understood as a legal theory but rather as a moral theory emphasizing self-cultivation and harmony. In this paper, I argue that classical Confucian legal thought and approaches to adjudication are best understood as an (American) legal realist approach to law and adjudication. Primarily examining the legal thought of Confucius and Mencius, I hope to show that classical Confucian legal thought can be described as anti-formalistic and very much concerned with the nature of adjudication and how legal officials should decide cases. In many respects, classical Confucian legal thought and adjudicatory practices can also be understood as the representing the ideal approach and reflection of adjudication as advocated by many of the leading American legal realists. Finally, this paper makes the following preliminary more macroscopic conclusions: first, by showing the similarities classical Confucian legal thought shares with American legal realism, I hope to show that there is nothing fundamentally uniquely “Sinic” about classical Confucian approaches to adjudication, which hopefully will bring Confucian legal thought more into dialogue with Western theories of law and adjudication; and second, American legal realism, which has experienced heavy criticism and even scorn by legal philosophers, actually has important applications even in non-American systems of law.

Norman P. Ho is Associate Professor of Law at Peking University, School of Transnational Law. This year, he is an IAS Fellow at the University of Surrey, School of Law, visiting both in June and in October. Prof. Ho’s research interests, broadly speaking, are in legal theory and legal history. More specifically, he writes in the areas of premodern Chinese legal history and legal theory, comparative jurisprudence, property theory, and Asian-American jurisprudence. Professor Ho has practiced law at Slaughter and May and Morrison & Foerster LLP and was previously a lecturer in the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law. He received his A.B. and A.M. degrees from Harvard University and his J.D. from New York University School of Law.

This seminar is part of our Hart Seminar Series, which features a diverse group of leading scholars working at the intersection of law and philosophy. Hart Publishing contributes generous support to make the seminar series possible.


(Wednesday) 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


University of Surrey School of Law

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

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