Authority, Legitimacy and Obligation in Law's Empire (and Justice for Hedgehogs)

10 Pages Posted: 2 May 2014

See all articles by John Finnis

John Finnis

Notre Dame Law School; University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 6, 2011


In June 2011 a closed seminar was held in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford to mark the 25th anniversary of the publication of Law’s Empire. Papers were sent to Ronald Dworkin in advance, and he commented on them at appropriate points in the seminar. This is the appreciative paper I contributed. It revises the account I gave in 1987 of Dworkin’s theory of authority, belatedly crediting it with substance and richness (and a traditional character) that I had overlooked. Still, my 1987 comments on the thinness of Dworkin’s account of the human goods at stake are retained and are extended in the present paper to critique the thinness of his account of the cultural and other presuppositions or prerequisites of sustainable political communities and their authority structures. This critique doubtless extends to all theories of merely “constitutional" patriotism.

Keywords: Dworkin, authority, nations, political association, constitutional patriotism, obligation of law

Suggested Citation

Finnis, John M., Authority, Legitimacy and Obligation in Law's Empire (and Justice for Hedgehogs) (June 6, 2011). Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1419, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 24/2014, Available at SSRN: or

John M. Finnis (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

University College
High Street
Oxford, England OX1 4BH
United Kingdom

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