The Disunity of Legal Reality

Legal Theory 28 (3):235-267 (2022)
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Take “legal reality” to be the part of reality that actual legal thought and talk is dis- tinctively about, such as legal institutions, legal obligations, and legal norms. Our goal is to explore whether legal reality is disunified. To illustrate the issue, consider the possibility that an important metaphysical thesis such as positivism is true of one part of legal reality (legal institutions), but not another (legal norms). We offer two arguments that suggest that legal reality is disunified: one concerns the heteroge- neity of different entities that are part of legal reality; the other concerns variation within legal thought and talk. We then show that taking the possibility of the disunity of legal reality seriously has important upshots for how we think about the positivist and antipositivist traditions, the debate between them, and their relation to other parts of legal theory, such as critical legal theory and legal realism.

Author Profiles

Daniel Wodak
University of Pennsylvania
David Plunkett
Dartmouth College


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