Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Philosophical Foundations of the Nature of Law. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013.


For some time during the late 1970s and early 1980s Ronald Dworkin's claim that there are uniquely right answers to virtually all legal questions was the subject of heated debate. But as often happens with such debates, it eventually ran out of steam, even though neither side succeeded in convincing the other. It may therefore seem a bit odd to return to this topic now. IfT do so, it is because I wish to examine it from an angle that I think it has not yet been looked at, and which I think is relevant to some debates that are ve1y much alive these days. More specifically, I will argue that there is something about the right answer thesis that fits a certain view prevalent in American political culture about politics and (consequently) about the relationship between law and politics, and that this view is quite different from the British mainstream view about law and politics. The more general and more important goal of this chapter is to challenge the underlying idea of the search for the nature of law, at least so long as it is understood as a conceptual inquiry char purports to tell something about law outside the different political and cultural environments in which different legal systems operate. Somewhat surprisingly, many of the very same legal theorists who have argued vigorously against the view that there is a single right answer to legal questions accepted (or actually, assumed) this position at the meta-level inquiry on the nature of law. I think this is assumption is mistaken, and my chapter is an attempt to ·explain why.


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