Are There Any Rules?

Journal of Ethics, Vol. 5, pp. 199-220, 2005

18 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2008

Date Written: July 3, 2008


Widespread, deep controversy as to the content of the law of a community is compatible with the view that the law is a system of rules. I defend that view through a critique of Ronald Dworkin's discussion of Riggs v. Palmer 22 N.E. 188 (1889). Dworkin raised an important challenge for jurisprudence: to account for the fact that legal rights and duties are frequently controversial. I offer an explanation of the possibility of deep disagreement about the application of social rules, which reconciles controversy as to the content of the law, with the model of a legal system as a system of rules. And I discuss the implications for understanding the role of judicial discretion in law.

Keywords: jurisprudence, judicial discretion

Suggested Citation

Endicott, Timothy A.O., Are There Any Rules? (July 3, 2008). Journal of Ethics, Vol. 5, pp. 199-220, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Timothy A.O. Endicott (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St. Cross Building
St. Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UJ
United Kingdom

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