The Promise and Limits of Grounding in Law

Legal Theory 29 (3):202-228 (2023)
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Abstract

Discussions of metaphysical grounding have recently found their way into general jurisprudence. It is becoming increasingly common to frame the debate between positivism and antipositivism as a disagreement about what facts metaphysically ground legal facts. In this article we critically evaluate this grounding turn. First, we argue that articulating the debate about the nature of law in terms of grounding holds the promise of recasting it in a common vocabulary. Second, we argue that this comes at a cost: framing the debate in this way obscures a range of further disagreements that cannot be usefully analyzed in terms of metaphysical grounding. We conclude that grounding may give us a clearer picture of what we already knew, while obfuscating a number of important questions to which it cannot, and is not intended to, provide answers.

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Dennis Patterson
University of Surrey

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