From existence to ethics in legal theory

This paper argues against the continuing domination, within legal theory, of the ambition to determine the mode of law's existence and our access to it. It illustrates the problems with such an approach via a close reading of George Pavlakos' recent work, Our Knowledge of the Law (2007). It seeks to replace the dominance of that ambition with the ethics of legal theory, i.e., the avoidance of both theoretical insularity and theoretical imperialism. Theoretical insularity ensues when we come to think that any one of our theoretical pictures (of law, legal systems and legal work) provides us with access to that which exists, or how we really are, thereby missing the utility of other theoretical pictures. We come to see the utility of other theoretical pictures when we subject them to the scrutiny of practical contexts, but in doing so, we should not be tempted to think that any one theoretical picture can come to govern what we ought to do in any specific practical context (should we do so, we fall foul of theoretical imperialism).
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