A Theory of Legal Obligation
Forthcoming in Sciaraffa and Waluchow, eds, The Legacy of Ronald Dworkin
28 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2014 Last revised: 11 Mar 2015
Date Written: September 11, 2014
I propose a theory of legal obligation, which I call the Simple Theory, according to which for me to be legally obligated not to do some action is just for it to be the case that, from the legal point of view, the reasons for me not to do that action defeat any reasons for me to do it. I show how the Simple Theory accounts for some central intuitions about the normativity and preemptiveness of legal obligation, how it dovetails nicely with recent work about precedential reasoning, and how it responds to Dworkin's arguments about legal principles in Model of Rules I. I also discuss the Simple Theory in light of so-called one-system views about the nature of law such as that defended by Dworkin in Justice for Hedgehogs, and close with some thoughts about normative powers and the value of law. This is to be a chapter in a forthcoming collection on the legacy of Ronald Dworkin.
Keywords: legal obligation, practical reasoning, Ronald Dworkin, legal principles
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