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Staying busy while doing nothing? Dworkin’s complicated relationship with pragmatism

Nye, Hillary (2016) Staying busy while doing nothing? Dworkin’s complicated relationship with pragmatism. Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 29 (01). pp. 71-95. ISSN 0841-8209

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Identification Number: 10.1017/cjlj.2016.3


Ronald Dworkin was an outspoken critic of pragmatism, and engaged in extensive and at times virulent disagreements with Richard Posner and Richard Rorty. Yet, I argue here, that Dworkin himself had a number of deeply pragmatist commitments. I examine how we can square these two aspects of Dworkin’s thought. I suggest that part of the answer lies in seeing that there are different strands of pragmatism, and that Dworkin falls on the more objective, Peircean side of the divide, while Rorty and Posner belong more in the skeptical, Jamesian camp. But even with this distinction in mind, we should note the substantial overlap between the views of Dworkin and his pragmatist interlocutors—in particular, their anti-archimedeanism and their rejection of metaphysics. Attentiveness to this shared perspective is helpful in illuminating Dworkin’s disagreements with legal positivists. The more foundational divide, I argue, is between analytic legal philosophers who aim to provide an account of the metaphysics of law, and those, like Dworkin and the pragmatists, who reject such a project. I conclude by discussing the implications of Dworkin’s pragmatism for legal philosophy. I argue that it may lead to what some have recently called ‘eliminativism’, and engage with some new and prominent work on this current topic in legal philosophy.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Cambridge University Press
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2016 15:59
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2021 00:21

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