Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Wilfrid Waluchow
Some legal theorists argue that legal determinations apparently based on moral arguments actually involve an appeal to extra-legal standards because legal reasoning and the conceptual structure of a legal system necessarily excludes morality (Exclusive Legal Positivism). Others argue that moral principles can be incorporated into legal systems (Inclusive Legal Positivism), or must be so incorporated (Dworkinian Interpretivism), where they operate as legal rules. Does Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms actually incorporate the moral principle of equality, or does it merely authorize judgesto appeal to that extra-legal principle as a legitimate reason for invalidating those laws which violate it? To answer that question the philosophical legal theorist must evaluate and develop an account of juridical law in the face of epistemic uncertainty about the relation between law and morality (Le. whether it is necessary or contingent). In this work I first consider the meta-theoretical characteristics of legal theories, particularly their methodologies and the evaluative criteria applied to them, so as to identify and make explicit the source of legal-theoretical epistemic uncertainty. I then argue for an approach to describing and explaining law whereby we neither ignore epistemic uncertainty nor dispense with it by means of a stipulative definition. This inclusive positivist approach, however, also requires that we abandon the ideal of a presuppositionless inquiry. Accordingly, I demonstrate how a descriptive- xplanatory philosophical account of law can make use of a presupposition and, ultimately, offer a sound defence for it. Finally, through an analysis of some aspects of Canadian constitutional adjudication, I show that inclusive positivism is most able to describe and explain the legal-moral uncertainty exhibited by participants in legal systems of a certain type, and so offers the best philosophical account of legal practices as they are understood by those who instantiate them.
Burge-Hendrix, Brian, "Epistemic Uncertainty & Legal Theory" (2004). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1612.