The Limits of Integrity

21 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2012 Last revised: 29 Nov 2012

See all articles by John D. Inazu

John D. Inazu

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: March 8, 2012


This article draws upon the work of theologian Stanley Hauerwas to demonstrate how Ronald Dworkin’s theory of law as integrity relies upon secular liberal presuppositions. Dworkin’s constraint on “religious convictions or goals” not only inhibits theological argument in our discussions about law and legal interpretation, but also neutralizes what may be the strongest objections to Dworkin’s normative views. The juxtaposition of Hauerwas and Dworkin is particularly apt because both hold similar interpretive commitments that hang in the balance between a fixed textualism and an unbounded pragmatism. Both justify their epistemic practices by a kind of faith — they do not and cannot know what comes next in their interpretive traditions.

Part I sketches Dworkin’s interpretive theory, and Part II notes its limitations. Part III introduces Hauerwas’s views on interpretation and suggests commonalities between Dworkin and Hauerwas. Parts IV and V illustrate the exclusionary effects of Dworkin’s premises on Hauerwas’s arguments by comparing the ways in which both thinkers approach the abortion controversy. Hauerwas’s arguments show that Dworkin has either imported his own normative commitments into his interpretive premises or failed to distinguish law as integrity from the constraints of public reason. Put differently, either Law's Empire or Life's Dominion has overreached. Dworkin hasn’t told us which it is, but Hauerwas shows us why the question cannot go unanswered.

Keywords: Hauerwas, Dworkin, Rawls, integrity, public reason, abortion, theology, interpretation

Suggested Citation

Inazu, John D., The Limits of Integrity (March 8, 2012). Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 75, 2012, Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-03-01, Available at SSRN:

John D. Inazu (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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