Describing Law

Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 33 (1):85-106 (2020)
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Legal philosophers make a number of bold, contentious claims about the nature of law. For instance, some claim that law necessarily involves coercion, while others disagree. Some claim that all law enjoys presumptive moral validity, while others disagree. We can see these claims in at least three, mutually exclusive ways: (1) We can see them as descriptions of law’s nature (descriptivism), (2) we can see them as expressing non-descriptive attitudes of the legal philosophers in question (expressivism), or (3) we can see them as practical claims about how we should view law or order our society (pragmatism). This paper argues that we should understand these claims in the pragmatist way, as claims about how we should view law or order society.

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Raff Donelson
Illinois Institute of Technology