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Naturalism in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Law

Mark Greenberg

UCLA School of Law and Department of Philosophy

May 20, 2011

Law and Philosophy, 2011
UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 07-17

In this paper, I challenge an influential understanding of naturalization according to which work on traditional problems in the philosophy of law should be replaced with sociological or psychological explanations of how judges decide cases. W.V. Quine famously proposed the “naturalization of epistemology.” In a prominent series of papers and a book, Brian Leiter has raised the intriguing idea that Quine’s naturalization of epistemology is a useful model for philosophy of law. I examine Quine’s naturalization of epistemology and Leiter’s suggested parallel and argue that the parallel does not hold up. Even granting Leiter’s substantive assumption that the law is indeterminate, there is no philosophical confusion or overreaching in the legal case that is parallel to the philosophical overreaching of Cartesian foundationalism in epistemology. Moreover, if we take seriously Leiter’s analogy, the upshot is almost the opposite of what Leiter suggests. The closest parallel in the legal case to Quine’s position would be the rejection of the philosophical positions that lead to the indeterminacy thesis.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: epistemology, foundationalism, justification, legal philosophy, legal realism, Leiter, naturalism, naturalization, normativity, natural science, indeterminacy, Quine, psychology, replacement, science, sociology

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Date posted: May 21, 2007 ; Last revised: June 4, 2011

Suggested Citation

Greenberg, Mark, Naturalism in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Law (May 20, 2011). Law and Philosophy, 2011; UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 07-17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=987523

Contact Information

Mark Greenberg (Contact Author)
UCLA School of Law and Department of Philosophy ( email )
385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
(310) 206-1337 (Phone)
(310) 825-6023 (Fax)
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