Ronald Dworkin and the External Sceptic

23 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2007 Last revised: 15 Apr 2009

See all articles by Dale Smith

Dale Smith

University of Melbourne - Law School


Ronald Dworkin has repeatedly claimed that the debate between moral objectivists and anti-objectivists (which I shall call 'the meta-ethical debate') has no implications for legal practice or theory. He has offered two main arguments to support this claim. The first is that while assertions about the truth or falsity of moral objectivism may be intelligible, they are irrelevant to legal practice and theory. The second is more radical, namely, that no assertion can be given an intelligible meta-ethical reading. In this article, I contend that neither argument is sound. The first argument overlooks the variety of ways in which the meta-ethical debate could impact upon legal practice or theory. It also rests upon an uncharitable interpretation of that debate. As for the second argument, Dworkin is correct in claiming that statements seemingly about the truth or falsity of moral objectivism can instead be interpreted as moral statements, but he is wrong to claim that this is the only intelligible reading they can be given.

Keywords: Dworkin, scepticism, objectivism

Suggested Citation

Smith, Dale, Ronald Dworkin and the External Sceptic. Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 433-457, 2006, Monash University Faculty of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2006/55, Available at SSRN:

Dale Smith (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics