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Raff Donelson
Illinois Institute of Technology
  1. Fuller and the Folk: The Inner Morality of Law Revisited.Raff Donelson & Ivar R. Hannikainen - 2020 - In Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 3. Oxford: pp. 6-28.
    The experimental turn in philosophy has reached several sub-fields including ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. This paper is among the first to apply experimental techniques to questions in the philosophy of law. Specifically, we examine Lon Fuller's procedural natural law theory. Fuller famously claimed that legal systems necessarily observe eight principles he called "the inner morality of law." We evaluate Fuller's claim by surveying both ordinary people and legal experts about their intuitions about legal systems. We conclude that, at best, we (...)
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  2.  96
    Are There Cross-Cultural Legal Principles? Modal Reasoning Uncovers Procedural Constraints on Law.Ivar R. Hannikainen, Kevin P. Tobia, Guilherme da F. C. F. De Almeida, Raff Donelson, Vilius Dranseika, Markus Kneer, Niek Strohmaier, Piotr Bystranowski, Kristina Dolinina, Bartosz Janik, Sothie Keo, Eglė Lauraitytė, Alice Liefgreen, Maciej Próchnicki, Alejandro Rosas & Noel Struchiner - 2021 - Cognitive Science 45 (8):e13024.
    Despite pervasive variation in the content of laws, legal theorists and anthropologists have argued that laws share certain abstract features and even speculated that law may be a human universal. In the present report, we evaluate this thesis through an experiment administered in 11 different countries. Are there cross-cultural principles of law? In a between-subjects design, participants (N = 3,054) were asked whether there could be laws that violate certain procedural principles (e.g., laws applied retrospectively or unintelligible laws), and also (...)
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  3.  92
    Describing Law.Raff Donelson - 2020 - Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 33 (1):85-106.
    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 (...)
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  4. Three Problems with Metaethical Minimalism.Raff Donelson - 2018 - Southwest Philosophy Review 34 (1):125-131.
    Metaethical minimalism. sometimes called quietism, is the view that first-order moral judgments can be true but nothing makes them true. This article raises three worries for that view. First, minimalists have no good reason to insist that moral judgments can be true. Second, minimalism, in abandoning the requirement that true judgments need to have truthmakers, leads to a problematic proliferation of truths. Third, most versions of minimalism entail a disjointed and therefore unacceptable theory of language and thought.
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  5. Ethical Pragmatism.Raff Donelson - 2017 - Metaphilosophy 48 (4):383-403.
    Beginning with a thought experiment about a mysterious Delphic oracle, this article motivates, explains, and attempts to defend a view it calls Ethical Pragmatism. Ethical Pragmatism is the view that we can and should carry on our practice of moral deliberation without reference to moral truths, or more broadly, without reference to metaethics. The defense the article mounts tries to show that neither suspicions about the tenability of fact-value distinctions, nor doubts about the viability of global pragmatism, nor worries about (...)
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  6. Rorty’s Promise in Metaethics.Raff Donelson - 2017 - Contemporary Pragmatism 14 (3):292-306.
    Little attention is given to Richard Rorty’s metaethical views. No doubt this stems from the fact that most commentators are more interested in his metaphilosophical views; most see his metaethical views, offered in scattered passages, as just the downstream runoff from higher-level reflection. This article considers Rorty’s metaethics on their own merits, quite apart from whether his global picture works. I ultimately argue that Rorty’s metaethical outlook is attractive but beset by internal difficulties. Specifically, I contend that Rorty does not (...)
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  7. The Pragmatist School in Analytic Jurisprudence.Raff Donelson - 2021 - Philosophical Issues 31 (1):66-84.
    Almost twenty years ago, a genuinely new school of thought emerged in the field of jurisprudential methodology. It is a pragmatist school. Roughly, the pragmatists contend that, when inquiring about the nature of law, we should evaluate potential answers based on practical criteria. For many legal philosophers, this contention seems both unclear and unhinged. That appearance is lamentable. The pragmatist approach to jurisprudential methodology has received insufficient attention for at least two reasons. First, the pragmatists do not conceive of themselves (...)
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  8.  46
    Natural Punishment.Raff Donelson - 2022 - North Carolina Law Review 100 (2):557-600.
    A man, carrying a gun in his waistband, robs a food vendor. In making his escape, the gun discharges, critically injuring the robber. About such instances, it is common to think, “he got what he deserved.” This Article seeks to explore cases like that—cases of “natural punishment.” Natural punishment occurs when a wrongdoer faces serious harm that results from her wrongdoing and not from anyone seeking retribution against her. The Article proposes that U.S. courts follow their peers and recognize natural (...)
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  9.  15
    The Inherent Problem with Mass Incarceration.Raff Donelson - 2022 - Oklahoma Law Review 75 (1):51-67.
    For more than a decade, activists, scholars, journalists, and politicians of various stripes have been discussing and decrying mass incarceration. This collection of voices has mostly focused on contingent features of the phenomenon. Critics mention racial disparities, poor prison conditions, and spiraling costs. Some critics have alleged broader problems: they have called for an end to all incarceration, even all punishment. Lost in this conversation is a focus on what is inherently wrong with mass incarceration specifically. This essay fills that (...)
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  10.  59
    The Rorty-Dworkin Debate.Raff Donelson - 2021 - In Giancarlo Marchetti (ed.), The Ethics, Epistemology and Politics of Richard Rorty. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 50-63.
    Ronald Dworkin and Richard Rorty are sometimes thought to be diametrically opposed philosophers, particularly in their approach to foundational questions in moral thought. Dworkin is a champion of truth and objectivity in morality. Rorty, by contrast, is a great pragmatist who subscribed to a deflated vision of truth and unambiguously renounced objectivity, in favor of what he called “solidarity”. If their stated -isms and alliances were not evidence enough of discord, they also criticized one another in print, particularly on these (...)
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  11.  10
    A Trilemma for Voparil. [REVIEW]Raff Donelson - 2022 - Contemporary Pragmatism 19 (4):410-416.
    This short review raises a trilemma for Chris Voparil’s reading of Richard Rorty. Voparil must deny one of three things. He must deny that Rorty affirmed a Jamesian approach to metaethics; he must deny that Rorty affirmed a version of Peircean realism; or, he must deny that Rorty treated all domains of discourse roughly the same. Because Rorty is quite clear in his commitment to the first and third theses and far less clear in affirming Peircean realism, I argue that (...)
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  12. Blacks, Cops, and the State of Nature.Raff Donelson - 2017 - Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 15 (1):183-192.
    This essay offers a new way to conceptualize the “police violence against Blacks” phenomenon. I argue that we should see the situation as an instance of what Thomas Hobbes called the state of nature, that is, a state without effective law. This understanding of the phenomenon stands in sharp contrast to that offered by Professor Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow. Alexander sees the phenomenon as a continuation of centuries-old patterns of state-backed anti-Black racism. My account is (...)
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  13.  35
    Reparations, Responsibility, and Formalism : A Reply to Carnes.Raff Donelson - 2021 - Philosophia 49 (2):643-649.
    In a recent paper, Thomas Carnes develops a novel argument for reparations for historical injustices. This Reply shows that Carnes succeeds only at the cost of invoking an implausible formalism. The Reply also presents in brief a simpler argument for reparations.
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  14. The Nihilist.Raff Donelson - 2019 - In Seth Vannatta (ed.), The Pragmatism and Prejudice of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. pp. 31-47.
    Scattered skeptical remarks and a general austerity that infused his writings have given Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes a reputation as some type of nihilist. Noted commentators such as Richard Posner and Albert Alschuler have claimed as much. This article seeks to correct this misunderstanding. Holmes was not a nihilist in the sense of being melancholy due to a belief that the world has no absolute moral values or gods. Instead, Holmes was a pragmatist in the spirit of William James and (...)
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  15. Review of Practicing Philosophy as Experiencing Life. [REVIEW]Raff Donelson - 2016 - Contemporary Pragmatism 13 (4):445-448.