july, 2020

29jul4:00 pm6:00 pmVirtual Hart Seminar: Guyora Binder & Bethany Cates on content independence


Event Details

Guyora Binder (Buffalo) and Bethany Cates (Harvard): ‘The Empty Idea of Content-Independence’

Please join us in welcoming Guyora Binder and Bethany Cates for their paper, ‘The Empty Idea of Content-Independence’, our final talk of the unique 2019-2020 academic year.


Legal positivists generally hold that since law need not be authorized or constrained by morality, it can direct its subjects to do anything. That an act is legally required is said to provide its’ subjects with a “content-independent” reason to do it, by contrast with the fact that it is morally good, which is a “content-dependent” reason. Law is thereby distinguished from morality as a source of content-independent reasons. Relying on this distinction, many philosophers have framed the problem of political obligation as a debate about whether law can be a source of valid content-independent reasons. Many have concluded that it cannot and that legal and political authority are unjustifiable. Yet despite the influence of the concept of content-independence, and its centrality to the debate over the authority of the state, the distinction between content-dependent and content-independent reasons has not been clearly explained. Questions remain as to its concepts of content, reason, and dependence. Nor is it clear that any version of this distinction can consistently differentiate legal from moral reasons. Indeed, the view of legal reasons as anomalous may depend on a particular–perhaps peculiar–combination of contestable jurisprudential and metaethical views.

The online talk will begin at 4pm on 29 Jul. The paper for this optional pre-read seminar is available HERE.

The link for the online talk is HERE. Hope to see as many of you as possible on 29 Jul.


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

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