Fictionalising Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Strong Legal Fictionalism

Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy 38:52-73 (2013)
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The proposed theoretical motivation for legal fictionalism begins by focusing upon the seemingly supernatural powers of creation and control that mere mortals exercise over legal things, as a subclass of socially constructed things. This focus brings to the fore a dilemma of uncharitableness concerning the ontological commitments expressed in the discourse of whole societies about such things. Either, there is widespread equivocation as to the fundamental concept expressed by terms such as ‘existence’ or our claims about legal and other institutional things are never really true. When stated as a dilemma, rather than assuming either horn from the outset, our broader social practice of fiction-telling yields a reason to prefer the fictionalist horn. I differentiate three grades of legal fictionalism and contrast strong legal fictionalism with Horacio Spector’s weak form. Only the stronger form has it that engagement in a fictional discourse of law can provide reasons for legal decision-making independent of moral opinions or policy considerations. This stance relies on the claim that maintaining a fictional discourse with respect for its integrity justifies inferences to conclusions about a fictional domain beyond what is described in existing expressions of the discourse. Focusing on ontology allows an analogy between a fictional discourse of law and literary or popular fiction, in which context such inferences are more obviously persuasive. I argue that this notion of respect for the integrity of such a discourse saves legal formalist jurisprudence from the indeterminacy objections of legal realists.


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