The Standard Picture and its Discontents
Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Law, Vol. 1, 2010
89 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2008 Last revised: 3 Jun 2010
Date Written: June 2, 2010
In this paper, I argue that there is a picture of how law works that most legal theorists are implicitly committed to and take to be common ground. This Standard Picture (SP, for short) is generally unacknowledged and unargued for. SP leads to a characteristic set of concerns and problems and yields a distinctive way of thinking about how law is supposed to operate. I suggest that the issue of whether SP is correct is a fundamental one for the philosophy of law, more basic, for example, than the issue that divides legal positivists and anti-positivists, at least as the latter issue is ordinarily understood.
The goals of the paper are fourfold: 1) to identify and articulate in some detail the Standard Picture; 2) to show that SP is widely held and has important consequences for other debates in the philosophy of law; 3) to show that SP leads to a serious theoretical problem; 4) to sketch an alternative picture that promises to avoid this problem. I emphasize the modesty of these goals in one respect. I make no claim to refute SP or to fully develop and defend an alternative picture.
Keywords: authority, authoritative, command paradigm, concurrence hypothesis, content of the law, dependence view, explanatory directness, philosophy of law, legal positivism, legal authority, law and morality, law and reasons, morality, obligation, obligation to obey the law, standard picture
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