•  78
    Are there any rules?
    The Journal of Ethics 5 (3): 199-219. 2001.
    Widespread, deep controversy as to the content of the law of a community is compatible with the view that the law is a system of rules. I defend that view through a critique of Ronald Dworkin's discussion of Riggs v. Palmer 22 N.E. 188. Dworkin raised an important challenge for jurisprudence: to account for the fact that legal rights and duties are frequently controversial. I offer an explanation of the possibility of deep disagreement about the application of social rules, which reconciles cont…Read more
  •  29
    What Human Rights Are There—if Any—and Why?
    Studies in Christian Ethics 23 (2): 172-181. 2010.
    Are there human rights to a good such as social welfare, which depends on circumstances, and on the needs of a putative right-holder? Is justice constituted by rights? Does it take belief in God to understand the grounds of human rights? The essay responds to Nicholas Wolterstorff’s answers to these questions
  •  72
    The impossibility of the rule of law
    Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 19 (1): 1-18. 1999.
    No community fully achieves the ideal of the rule of law. Puzzles about the content of the ideal seem to make it necessarily unattainable (and, therefore, an incoherent ideal). Legal systems necessarily contain vague laws. They typically allow for change in the law, they typically provide for unreviewable official decisions, and they never regulate every aspect of the life of a community. It may seem that the ideal can never be achieved because of these features of legal practice. But I ask what…Read more
  •  116
    Law is Necessarily Vague
    Legal Theory 7 (1): 377--83. 2001.
    In fact, law is necessarily very vague. So if vagueness is a problem for legal theory, it is a serious problem. The problem has to do with the ideal of the rule of law and with the very idea of law: if vague standards provide no guidance in some cases, how can the life of a community be ruled by law? The problem has long concerned philosophers of law; the papers at this symposium address it afresh by asking what legal theory may have to learn from (or contribute to) work on vagueness in philosop…Read more