•  125
    Legal Statements and Normative Language
    Law and Philosophy 30 (2): 167-199. 2011.
    Can there be a non-reductivist, source-based explanation of the use of normative language in statements describing the law and legal situations? This problem was formulated by Joseph Raz, who also claimed to have solved it. According to his well-known doctrine of ‘detached’ statements, normative legal statements can be informatively made by speakers who merely adopt, without necessarily sharing, the point of view of someone who accepts that legal norms are justified and ought to be followed. In …Read more
  •  59
    A Proof-Based Account of Legal Exceptions
    Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 33 (1): 133-168. 2013.
    I propose and defend a proof-based account of legal exceptions. The basic thought is that the characteristic behaviour of exceptions is to be explained in terms of the distinction, relative to some given decision-type C in some decision-making context, between two classes of relevant facts: those that may, and those that may not, remain uncertain if a token decision C is to count as correctly made. The former is the class of exceptions. A fact F is an exception relative to some decision-type C, …Read more
  •  51
    Most philosophers of criminal law agree that between criminal offences and defences there is a significant, substantial difference. It is a difference, however, that has proved hard to pin down. In recent work, Duff and others have suggested that it mirrors the distinction between criminal answerability and liability to criminal punishment. Offence definitions, says Duff, are—and ought to be—those action-types ‘for which a defendant can properly be called to answer in a criminal court, on pain o…Read more
  •  27
    Fundamental Legal Concepts: The Hohfeldian Framework
    Philosophy Compass 11 (10): 554-569. 2016.
    Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld's account of legal rights is now 100 years old. It has been much discussed, and remains very influential with philosophers and lawyers alike. Yet it is still sometimes misunderstood in crucial respects. This article offers a rigorous exposition of Hohfeld's framework; discusses its claims to comprehensiveness and fundamentality, reviewing recent work on the topic; and highlights the argumentative uses of Hohfeld's most important distinction.
  •  24
    Geach and Ascriptivism: Beside the Point
    Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy 4 (6). 2016.
    This paper discusses the first incarnation of what came to be known as the “Frege-Geach” point. The point was made by Peter Geach in his 1960 essay “Ascriptivism”, and developed in “Assertion”, a 1965 piece. Geach’s articles launch a wholesale attack on theories of non-descriptive performances advanced by “some Oxford philosophers” whom he accuses of ignoring “the distinction between calling a thing ‘P’ and predicating ‘P’ of a thing”. One view that Geach specifically targets is H. L. A. Hart’s …Read more
  •  10
    The distinction between 'conduct norms' and 'sanction norms' is widely assumed to be an essential tool for any correct understanding of criminal responsibility. Conduct norms (often also called 'primary') are referred to with the language of 'prohibitions', and it is normally accepted that a crime is by definition a 'prohibited' human behaviour, in the sense that it is always an infraction of a 'conduct norm'. I mean to discuss and criticize this rather consensual assumption. Modern criminal cod…Read more
  •  1
    You find yourself in a court of law, accused of having hit someone. What can you do to avoid conviction? You could simply deny the accusation: 'No, I didn't do it'. But suppose you did do it. You may then give a different answer. 'Yes, I hit him', you grant, 'but it was self-defence'; or 'Yes, but I was acting under duress'. To answer in this way-to offer a 'Yes, but...' reply-is to hold that your particular wrong was committed in exceptional circumstances. Perhaps it is true that, as a rule, wr…Read more