In this major new work, Matthew Kramer seeks to establish two main conclusions. On the one hand, moral requirements are strongly objective. On the other hand, the objectivity of ethics is itself an ethical matter that rests primarily on ethical considerations. Moral realism - the doctrine that morality is indeed objective - is a moral doctrine. Major new volume in our new series _New Directions in Ethics_ Takes on the big picture - defending the objectivity of ethics whilst rejecting the (...) grounds of much of the existing debate between realists and anti-realists Cuts across both ethical theory and metaethics Distinguished by the quality of the scholarship and its ambitious range. (shrink)
The authors of this book engage in essay form in a lively debate over the fundamental characteristics of legal and moral rights. They examine whether rights fundamentally protect individuals' interests or whether they instead fundamentally enable individuals to make choices. In the course of this debate the authors address many questions through which they clarify, though not finally resolve, a number of controversial present-day political debates, including those over abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights.
This collection of essays forms a lively debate over the fundamental characteristics of legal and moral rights. The essays examine whether rights fundamentally protect individuals' interests or whether they instead fundamentally enable individuals to make choices.
In Legality Scott Shapiro seeks to provide the motivation for the development of his own elaborate account of law by undertaking a critique of H.L.A. Hart's jurisprudential theory. Hart maintained that every legal system is underlain by a rule of recognition through which officials of the system identify the norms that belong to the system as laws. Shapiro argues that Hart's remarks on the rule of recognition are confused and that his model of lawis consequently untenable. Shapiro contends that a (...) new approach is vital for progress in the philosophy of law and, with his lengthy presentation of his own Planning Theory of Law, he aspires to pioneer just such an approach. Except for a very terse observation in the final main section, this article does not directly assess the strengths and shortcomings of Shapiro's piquant planning theory. Instead, I defend Hart against Shapiro's charges and thereby undermine the motivation for the development of the planning theory. (shrink)
This book is an uncompromising defense of legal positivism that insists on the separability of law and morality. After distinguishing among three facets of morality, Kramer explores a variety of ways in which law has been perceived as integrally connected to each of those facets. The book concludes with a detailed discussion of the obligation to obey the law--a discussion that highlights the strengths of legal positivism in the domain of political philosophy as much as in the domain of jurisprudence.
How are law and morality connected, how do they interact, and in what ways are they distinct? In Part I of this book, Matthew Kramer argues that moral principles can enter into the law of any jurisdiction. He contends that legal officials can invoke moral principles as laws for resolving disputes, and that they can also invoke them as threshold tests which ordinary laws must satisfy. In opposition to many other theorists, Kramer argues that these functions of moral principles are (...) consistent with all the essential characteristics of any legal system. Part II reaffirms the legal positivist argument that law and morality are separable, arguing against the position of natural-law theory, which portrays legal requirements as a species of moral requirements. Kramer contends that even though the existence of a legal system in any sizeable society is essential for the realization of fundamental moral values, law is not inherently moral either in its effects or in its motivational underpinnings. In the final part, Kramer contests the widespread view that people whose conduct is meticulously careful cannot be held morally responsible for harmful effects of their actions. Through this argument, he reveals that fault-independent liability is present even more prominently in morality than in the law. Through a variety of arguments, Where Law and Morality Meet highlights both some surprising affinities and some striking divergences between morality and law. (shrink)
Some important recent articles, including one in this journal, have sought to devise theories of rights that can transcend the longstanding debate between the Interest Theory and the Will Theory. The present essay argues that those efforts fail and that the Interest Theory and the Will Theory withstand the criticisms that have been levelled against them. To be sure, the criticisms have been valuable in that they have prompted the amplification and clarification of the two dominant theories of rights; but (...) their upshot has been to reveal the need for the improvement, rather than the abandonment, of those theories. (shrink)
As is well known to everyone familiar with the analytical table of legal relationships propounded by the American jurist Wesley Hohfeld, one of the eight positions in the table is that of the no-right. In most discussions of Hohfeld’s overall framework, no-rights have received rather little attention. Doubtless, one reason for the relative dearth of scrutiny is that Hohfeld devised a hyphenated neologism to designate no-rights. Each of the other positions in the Hohfeldian table is designated by a term with (...) a solid grounding in everyday discourse and juristic discourse, whereas the hyphenated term “no-right”—in contrast with the unhyphenated phrase “no right”—does not have any comparable grounding either in ordinary discourse or in juristic discourse. That neologism is almost never employed by anyone outside the confines of discussions of Hohfeld’s categories, and it is often not employed even within those confines. Notwithstanding the enormous amount of philosophical and juristic attention bestowed on Hohfeld’s analytical framework since its elaboration in the second decade of the twentieth century, the term “no-right” has found little favor in philosophical or juristic circles. Moreover, on the rather rare occasions when the term is used rather than merely mentioned, it is almost always misused. The exploration of the correct use of that term in the first half of this paper may seem rather fussy, but the importance of that exploration for a satisfactory understanding of legal and moral relationships will become apparent in the second half of the paper. While endeavoring to vindicate the term “no-right” as a fully apposite element in the vocabulary of legal philosophy, this paper will also be replying to a recent article by Heidi Hurd and Michael Moore in this journal. (shrink)
The morality of interrogational torture has been the subject of heated debate in recent years. In explaining why torture is morally wrong, Kramer engages in deep philosophical reflections on the nature of morality and on moral conflicts.
This essay argues against the commonly held view that "ought" implies "can" in the domain of morality. More specifically, I contest the notion that nobody should ever be held morally responsible for failing to avoid the infliction of any harm that he or she has not been able to avoid through all reasonably feasible precautions in the carrying out of some worthwhile activity. The article explicates the concept of a moral right in order to show why violations of moral rights (...) can occur even when no one has acted wrongfully in any fashion. In so doing, it will effectively be maintaining that strict liability (i.e., liability irrespective of the presence or absence of culpability) exists in morality as well as in law. When we take account of the distinction between exoneration and extenuation, we can see that scrupulously thorough precautions are never sufficient to constitute an excuse in morality. Having made that point with some extended examples, the article goes on to consider a number of possible objections - objections that lead into discussions of some basic distinctions within moral philosophy and some central principles within deontic logic. (shrink)
This article defends my 2011 book “The Ethics of Capital Punishment” against the thoughtful critiques written by Carol Steiker and John Danaher respectively. It does not attempt to respond to every point of contention in the two critiques, but concentrates instead on a few of the main points from each of them.
Throughout the English-speaking world, and in the many other countries where analytic philosophy is studied, Hillel Steiner is esteemed as one of the foremost contemporary political philosophers. This volume is designed as a festschrift for Steiner and as an important collection of philosophical essays in its own right. The editors have assembled a roster of highly distinguished international contributors, all of whom are eager to pay tribute to Steiner by focusing on topics on which he himself has concentrated. Some of (...) the contributors engage directly with Steiner's work, whereas others focus not directly on his writings but instead grapple with issues that have figured prominently therein. Each essay seeks to advance the debates in which Steiner himself has so notably participated. The study concludes with a response by Steiner himself. (shrink)
In this wide-ranging investigation of leading issues in contemporary legal and political philosophy, distinguished philosophers and legal theorists tackle issues such as the rights of animals, the role of public-policy considerations in legal reasoning, the appropriateness of compensation as a means of rectifying mishaps and misdeeds, the extent of individuals' responsibility for the consequences of their choices, and the culpability of failed attempts to commit crimes.
Edited by leading contributors to the literature, Freedom: An Anthology is the most complete anthology on social, political and economic freedom ever compiled. Offers a broad guide to the vast literature on social, political and economic freedom. Contains selections from the best scholarship of recent decades as well as classic writings from Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant among others. General and sectional introductions help to orient the reader. Compiled and edited by three important contributors to the field.
This article delineates some of the main issues that are debated by philosophers of law. It explores the connections between legal philosophy and other areas of philosophy, while also seeking to specify the distinctiveness of many of the concerns that have preoccupied philosophers of law. It illustrates its abstract points with examples focused on the separability of law and morality, the nature of the rule of law, the nature of rights, justifications for the imposition of punishment, and the identification of (...) basic legal entitlements. (shrink)
Ronald Dworkin has long criticized legal positivists for their efforts to distinguish between legal and non-legal standards of conduct that are incumbent on people. Recently, Dworkin has broached this criticism in his hostile account of the debates between Incorporationist Legal Positivists and Exclusive Legal Positivists. Specifically, he has maintained that Incorporationists cannot avoid the unpalatable conclusion that the axioms and theorems of arithmetic are legal norms. This article shows why such a conclusion is indeed avoidable and why Dworkin's criticism is (...) therefore wide of the mark. (shrink)
Two recent high-quality articles, including one in this journal, have challenged the Inclusivist and Incorporationist varieties of legal positivism. David Lefkowitz and Michael Giudice, writing from perspectives heavily influenced by the work of Joseph Raz, have endeavored—in sophisticated and interestingly distinct ways—to vindicate Raz's contention that moral principles are never among the law-validating criteria in any legal system nor among the laws that are applied as binding bases for adjudicative and administrative decisions in such a system. The present article responds (...) to their defenses of Raz's Exclusive Legal Positivism. (shrink)
This book expounds an analytical method that focuses on paradoxes - a method originally associated with deconstructive philosophy, but bearing little resemblance to the interpretive techniques that have come to be designated as 'deconstruction' in literary studies. The book then applies its paradox-focused method as it undertakes a sustained investigation of Thomas Hobbe's political philosophy. Hobbes's theory of the advent and purpose of government turns out to reveal the impossibility of the very developments which it portrays as indispensable.
John Locke's labor theory of property is one of the seminal ideas of political philosophy and served to establish its author's reputation as one of the leading social and political thinkers of all time. Through it Locke addressed many of his most pressing concerns, and earned a reputation as an outstanding spokesman for political individualism - a reputation that lingers widely despite some partial challenges that have been raised in recent years. In this major new study Matthew Kramer offers an (...) extensive critique of the labor theory and investigates the consequences of its downfall. With incisive analyses of the merits and failings of many aspects of Locke's political thought, Kramer advances a powerful challenge to Locke's image as an individualist. Employing a rigorously philosophical methodology, but remaining aware of the insights generated by historical approaches to Locke, Kramer concludes that Locke's political vision was in fact profoundly communitarian. (shrink)
Legal positivism’s multi-faceted insistence on the separability of law and morality includes an insistence on the thoroughly conventional status of legal norms as legal norms. Yet the positivist affirmation of the conventionality of law may initially seem at odds with the mind-independence of the existence and contents and implications of legal norms. Mind-independence, a central aspect of legal objectivity, has been seen by some theorists as incompatible with the mind-dependence of conventions. Such a perception of incompatibility has led some anti-positivist (...) theorists to reject the notion of law’s conventionality, and has led some positivist theorists to query law’s mind-independence. What will be contended here is that both camps are mistaken. (shrink)
Every problem of dirty hands is a moral conflict in which a highly unpalatable course of conduct is chosen for the sake of fulfilling a stringent moral duty, and in which either the chosen course of conduct is evil or else it would have been evil in the absence of the exigent circumstances to which it is a response. To support this conception of problems of dirty hands, this paper endeavors to elucidate the nature of moral conflicts and the nature (...) of evil. (shrink)
Consequentialist doctrines have often been criticized for their excessive demandingness, in that they require the thorough instrumentalization of each person’s life as a vehicle for the production of good consequences. In turn, the proponents of such doctrines have often objected to what they perceive as the irrationality of the demandingness of deontological duties. In this paper, I shall address objections of the latter kind in an effort to show that they are unfounded. My investigation of this matter will unfold by (...) reference to a scenario that strikingly and concretely exemplifies the demandingness of deontological duties. That scenario, which involves a situation of torture, will serve as a springboard for my endeavor to vindicate the rationality of deontological absolutes and will help to illuminate the endeavor’s practical implications. (shrink)
Alan Gewirth has propounded a moral theory which commits him to the view that prescriptions can appropriately be addressed to people who have neither any moral reasons nor any prudential reasons to follow the prescriptions. We highlight the strangeness of Gewirth's position and then show that it undermines his attempt to come up with a supreme moral principle.
During the past few decades, Quentin Skinner has been one of the most prominent critics of the ideas about negative liberty that have developed out of the writings of Isaiah Berlin. Among Skinner?s principal charges against the contemporary doctrine of negative liberty is the claim that the proponents of that doctrine have overlooked the putative fact that people can be made unfree to refrain from undertaking particular actions. In connection with this matter, Skinner contrasts the present-day theories with the prototypical (...) liberal account of negative freedom propounded by Thomas Hobbes. The present essay challenges Skinner?s position both philosophically and exegetically. Because an agent can always elect to cease his activity as an agent, the ostensible inescapability of certain actions is not the same as the outright inescapability of certain instances of inaction. Once this point is properly recognized, the way is clear for a re-evaluation of Hobbes (and of Skinner on Hobbes). (shrink)
In a recent full‐length review of Matthew Kramer's In Defense of Legal Positivism, David Dyzenhaus has attacked legal positivists' accounts of adjudication and their views of the relationship between law and morality. The present essay defends legal positivism against his strictures, by arguing that he has misunderstood specific texts and the general lines of enquiry which the positivists pursue.
RÉSUMÉ: Les philosophes, au cours des cinquante dernières années, se sont efforcés de démontrer qu’un professeur peut, d’une manière cohérente et exacte, annoncer à ses étudiants qu’un examen surprise aura lieu lors d’une journée non spécifiée d’une période donnée, le problème étant qu’une telle annonce peut sembler s’annuler ellemême lorsqu’elle est soumise à une induction régressive. Deux grandes approches, l’une épistémique et l’autre logique, one été développées à ce propos. Le présent article adopte une approche logique, mais repose aussi d’une (...) manière cruciale sur une compréhension épistémique du problème, pour essayer de montrer que l’annonce du professeur peut effectivement être cohérente et exacte. (shrink)
This note will challenge G. A. Cohen's view of the interaction between legal systems and economic structures; such interaction raises the so‐called problem of legality, which Cohen sets out to solve in the eighth chapter of Karl Marx's Theory of History . In the course of this note, we shall interrogate the presumed rigor of Cohen's theory of base/superstructure relations, to which his understanding of law is central. His approach will not be simply destroyed, but will be resituated in a (...) network of problems that can highlight a certain fissure between his aspirations and his performance. (shrink)