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Implications of Indeterminacy: Naturalism in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Law II


Mark Greenberg


UCLA School of Law and Department of Philosophy

June 2, 2011

Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming
UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 11-18

Abstract:     
In a circulated but heretofore unpublished 2001 paper, I argued that Leiter's analogy to Quine's "naturalization of epistemology" does not do the philosophical work Leiter suggests. I revisit the issues in this new essay. I first show that Leiter's replies to my arguments fail. Most significantly, if – contrary to the genuinely naturalistic reading of Quine that I advanced – Quine is understood as claiming that we have no vantage point from which to address whether belief in scientific theories is ever justified, it would not help Leiter's parallel. Given Leiter's way of drawing the parallel, the analogous position in the legal case would be not the Legal Realists' indeterminacy thesis, but the very different position that we have no vantage point from which to address whether legal decisions can ever be justified. I then go on to address the more important question of whether the indeterminacy thesis, if true, would support any replacement of important legal philosophical questions with empirical ones. Although Ronald Dworkin has argued against the indeterminacy thesis, if he were wrong on this issue, it would not in any way suggest that the questions with which Dworkin is centrally concerned cannot fruitfully be addressed. The indeterminacy thesis is a bone of contention in an ordinary philosophical debate between its proponents and Dworkin. Of course, if the determinacy thesis were true, no one should try to show that it is false, but this triviality lends no support to the kind of replacement proposal that Leiter proposes. I conclude with some general reflections on naturalism and philosophical methodology.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 21

Keywords: Epistemology, Quine, Cartesian Foundationalism, Foundationalism, Science, Justification, Philosophy of Law, Legal Philosophy, American Legal Realism, Legal Realism, Legal Determinacy, Indeterminacy Thesis, Legal Indeterminacy, Ronald Dworkin, Naturalism, Naturalization, Normativity, Replacement

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Date posted: June 5, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Greenberg, Mark, Implications of Indeterminacy: Naturalism in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Law II (June 2, 2011). Law and Philosophy, Forthcoming ; UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 11-18. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1857231

Contact Information

Mark Greenberg (Contact Author)
UCLA School of Law and Department of Philosophy ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
(310) 206-1337 (Phone)
(310) 825-6023 (Fax)
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