The Antinomy of Coherence and Determinacy

Posted: 18 Jun 2008

See all articles by William A. Edmundson

William A. Edmundson

Georgia State University College of Law


Coherence and determinacy are both apparent desiderata for bodies of law and legal systems. Unfortunately, in legal systems of any complexity, increasing the degree of one invariably brings about a lessening of the other. For theories of law - such as Ronald Dworkin's - that emphasize the importance of coherence in judicial reasoning, while requiring as a condition of legitimacy that legal rights pre-exist judicial decisions, this must be an unwelcome fact.

Keywords: coherence, determinacy, legitimacy, Ronald Dworkin, Benjamin Cardozo, Louis Brandeis, MacPherson v. Buick, Prosser

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Edmundson, William A., The Antinomy of Coherence and Determinacy. Iowa Law Review, Vol. 82, ppl. 1-20, 1996, Available at SSRN:

William A. Edmundson (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
85 Park Place NE
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
404-413-9167 (Phone)
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