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The Many Faces of Legal Positivism

Author(s): W. J. Waluchow
Source: The University of Toronto Law Journal, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Summer, 1998), pp. 387-449
Published by: University of Toronto Press
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W.J.Waluchow* THE MANYFACES
OF LEGAL POSITIVISMt

I LegalPositivism
and 'LegalPositivism'

Ronald Dworkinonce describedlegal positivism as therulingtheoryoflaw.1


Since at least the timeof Benthamand Austin,positivismwas the theory
held,in one formor another,bymostlegal scholars.It wasalso arguablythe
(largelyunarticulated)workingtheoryof mostlegal practitioners. It makes
a good deal of sense to distinguish,both in theoryand in practice,the law
and whatwe thinkit oughtto be, the realityand the ideal. Such a division,
usuallycalled the separationthesis,accordswithour sense that:the law is
morallyfallible;thatwe can sometimesbe underobligation(moralor legal)
to obeyor applyan unjustlaw but neverunder obligationto obey or apply
an unjustmoralprinciple(whateverthatmightbe); thatthelegal reasoning
in which lawyersand judges engage is differentin crucial respectsfrom
moral reasoning;and finally,thatunlike our moral principlesforwhich
each of us mustbe preparedto offerjustification, legal rulesand principles
can oftenbe discoveredin authoritative sourceswhichwe can just look up
and applywithoutconsideringwhetheror not theyarejustified.Legalityis
markedbya claim to authority, moralitybyautonomy.
Despite itsconsiderableinfluenceand appeal (to some), positivismhas
been undervigorousattackin the20thcentury.2 Amongtheclaimsofitscrit-
ics are thatpositivismis descriptively
and/orconceptuallyfalse,thatitis triv-
ial, thatitis an amoraldoctrine,thatitis an immoraldoctrine,and thatit is
fullycompatiblewiththecentralclaimsofnaturallawtheory.The opponents

*
Departmentof Philosophy,McMasterUniversity, Hamilton,Ontario
t A reviewarticleof: S. Guest,ed., PositivismToday(Aldershot:DartmouthPublishingCo.
Ltd., 1996) (xiv + 152) ISBN: 1 85521 689 2; TheAutonomy ofLaw: Essayson LegalPositiv-
ismed. RobertP. George (Oxford:ClarendonPress,1996) (viii + 339) ISBN: 0-19-
825786-4;TheLegal Theory ofEthicalPositivism
Tom D. Campbell (Aldershot:Dartmouth
PublishingCo. Ltd., 1996) (xii + 286) ISBN: 1 85521 171 8
1 R. Dworkin,TakingRightsSeriously, 2d ed. (Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press,
1978) at vii.
2 One recentcritichas gone so faras to claim thatpositivismitselfis among itsown worst
enemies.AccordingtoJ.D. Goldsworthy, legal positivismhas 'self-destructed'.
See 'The
Self-Destruction of Legal Positivism'(1990) 10 OxfordJ.Legal Stud. no. 4, 449.

OF TORONTOLAWJOURNAL387
(1998), 48 UNIVERSITY

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388 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

of positivismhave included legal realistssuch as JeromeFrank and Karl


Llewellyn,who denied the positivist's thesisthatthe properresolutionof a
legal disputecan typically be determinedby the morallyunbiased applica-
tionofauthoritative legal rulesvalidatedbysomethinglikethewillofthesov-
ereign, Kelsen's grundnorm,or Hart's rule of recognition.In more recent
times, the realistchallengehas been pursuedbyvariousmembersof thecrit-
ical legal studiesmovementwho followtheirrealistpredecessorsin denying
the coherentrule-governed qualityof legal decisions.But the criticaltheo-
ristsgo on to add thatideologicallyconservative and mutuallyinconsistent
politicalforcesare at workin theapplicationand administration oflaw,and
thattheseare largelyresponsibleforthebad decisionsand oppressivelawsof
mostmodem legal systems. The criticaltheoristshave been joined byfemi-
nistauthorsin theirassaultupon currentlegalpracticeand thepositivist the-
ories thatare thoughtto underlieit.Accordingto feminists like Catherine
Mackinnon,theoppressiveforcesatworkin thelaware misogynist and patri-
archaland are maskedbytheliberalpretensionsto equalityand impartiality
characteristic ofmodernpositivism.3
Yet anotherchallengeto positivism is to be foundin thewritings ofmod-
ern naturallaw theoristswho disputethe truthand/or significanceof the
positivist'sattemptto separate law and morality,the so-called 'separation
thesis.'4Included in thisgroupis Lon Fuller,whoseproceduralnaturallaw
theorywasmeantto establishthatthereis an internalmoralityto lawwhich
fuseslawwithwhatit oughtto be in a waywhichthe positivists were appar-
entlyanxious to deny.Fullerwas of course also concernedto establishthat
positivism is a morallyperniciousdoctrinewhicheitherrequiresor encour-
ages blind deferenceto law,a claimhotlydisputedbymodernpositivists like
H.L.A. Hart,JosephRaz and Leslie Green.5Accordingto Fuller,positivism
encouragesus to viewlawas an 'amoral datum'whichsomehowmysterious-
lycreatesforus an obligationto obeyit.
A second influentialnaturallaw challengeto positivism has been spear-
headed byJohnFinnis,whosemoretraditional naturallawtheoryincludesthe
startling claimthatthe animatingidea of positivism, the separationthesis,is

3 See e.g., C. Mackinnon,Towards a Feminist


Theory oftheState(Cambridge,MA: Harvard
UniversityPress, 1980) and Only Words(Cambridge, MA: Harvard UniversityPress,
1993). See also D. G. R6aume, 'What's DistinctiveAbout FeministAnalysisof Law',
(1996), 2 Legal Theory,no. 4, 265.
4 As we willsee shortly,the 'separationthesis'is used to marka numberof verydifferent
theoreticalclaims.
5 See H.L.A. Hart, 'Positivismand the Separationof Law and Morals', 71 H.L.R. (1958)
593; L. Fuller,'Positivismand Fidelityto Law - A Reply to ProfessorHart', 71 H.L.R.
(1958) 630; J. Raz, TheAuthorityofLaw (Oxford:Clarendon Press,1979), ch. 12-15;Les-
lie Green, TheAuthorityoftheState(Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press,1990).

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 389

somethingwhichno sensiblenaturallawtheorist wouldeverwishtodeny.6No


such theoristwould (or did) everdenythatlaw and morality are distincten-
terprises, thatvalid positivelawscan sometimes be unjust, that it oftenmakes
perfectly good sense to distinguishpositivelaw from the law which oughtto
exist(because itis requiredbythenaturallaw),and finally, thatwe are often
morallyobligatedto obeyunjustlaws.It is also thecase,Finnisargues,thatthe
naturallawrequires,in practice,a system oflawsinwhichmorality and legality
are separatedin thewaysmanypositivists have stressed.As we shallsee later,
thislatterclaim,strippedof itsreferenceto naturallaw theory,is one upon
whichself-proclaimed suchas Neil MacCormickand Tom Campbell
positivists
are in fullagreementand withwhichat leastone otherself-proclaimed natu-
ral law theorist,RobertGeorge,fullyconcurs.This pointitselfmayleave one
wonderingjust whatitis thatseparatespositivistsfromtheirtraditional natural
lawrivalsandjust whatpositivism ultimately stands for.
The final,and perhaps most influential,contemporarychallenge to
positivismlies in thejurisprudentialwritingsof Ronald Dworkin.Dworkin
is well knownforhis full-scaleattackon the sophisticatedversionof legal
positivismdeveloped by Hart in his now classic text,The ConceptofLaw.7
AmongDworkin'sprincipalassertionsis thedescriptiveclaim thatthe sep-
aration of law and morality,to whichpositivists such as Hart subscribe,is
not in factcharacteristicof modern legal systems.Determiningwhat the
law is in such systemsnecessarilyrequiresresortingto moral argumentsof
the sortprecluded bythe theoreticalcommitments of positivism. Whether
positivism does in thiswaypreclude moral argumentsis, as we shall see, a
question which is hotlydisputed by positivists and anti-positivists alike.
Some, such as Raz, agree withDworkinthatpositivismis committedto de-
nyingthatmoralitycan be a determiningfactorin establishingwhatthelaw
is and whatit means8.Others,such as JulesColeman, Tom Campbell and
myself, firmlydenyDworkin'scharacterizationof positivismas being theo-
retically committed to the exclusionof moralfactorsfromdeterminations
of law.
Despite itsprofoundinfluenceon the developmentof legal theoryand
(arguably)legal practice,and despitetheconsiderableefforts of some the-
oriststo underminethatinfluence,controversy and confusionabound con-
cerningjustwhatit is thatlegal positivists are supposed to be saying.Those

6 In thisviewFinnisisjoined byRobertGeorgewhosecontributionto TheAutonomy ofLaw


we willexamine below.
7 TheConcept ofLaw,(Oxford:ClarendonPress,1961). Dworkin'scritiqueofHart is found
principallyin TakingRightsSeriously,
supra,n. 1.
8 Henceforthwe will referto such attemptsto determinethe existenceand meaning of
validlawsas 'determinations of law.'

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390 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

who thinkit a simplematterto determinewhatpositivismstandsforneed


onlyread thethreebookswithwhichthisreviewessaydeals. The label 'legal
positivism'is understoodin so manydifferent waysthatit has become al-
mostmeaninglessto speak of legal positivism withoutstatingpreciselythe
sense or meaningin whichone takesthatterm,the kindoflegal positivism
one has in mind.It maybe timeto stop referring to 'legal positivism'perse,
and to speak insteadof thevarietyof different formsof legal positivism. As
KentGreenawaltsuggests,'the label 'legal positivism'maybe mainlya mat-
terof rhetoricalforce,nowusuallynegative,ratherthanone thatgenuinely
clarifiesseriouspositions.'If thisis so, Greenawaltadds, 'it maybe best to
advance actual disagreementsfree of thislabel. At a minimum,theorists
should explain very how theyare usingthelabel.'9Withthislat-
carefullyjust
tersentimentI am in completeagreement.
This multiplicity of meaningsrendersthe taskof presentingand evalu-
ating the arguments contained withinour threebooksverydifficult indeed.
The problemis compounded bythefactthattwoof thevolumes,Positivism
Todayloand TheAutonomy ofLaw, are collectionsof essaysbydifferent writ-
erswhosebackgrounds,interests, and understandings of theissuesat stake,
are quite varied.This difficulty is furthercompounded bythe factthatnot
all of the authorsare interestedin engagingpositivism directlyat the phil-
osophicallevel.Althougheach believesthathisobservationsand arguments
bear in some wayor otheron theplausibility ofpositivism as a philosophical
theory oflaw, the argumentsput forward bysome of the authors,particular-
lyin Positivism Today,are oftennot themselves philosophicalin nature.They
are more historicalor sociologicalin nature.
Taken together, all thesefactorsmakeitvirtually impossibleto pursuethe
normalpracticein criticalreviews. Insteadofoutliningand thensubjectingto
critiquethe main themesof the threebooks underdiscussion,I propose to
followa somewhatdifferent course.I shallbeginbyoutliningthevariety ofdif-
ferentthesesforwhichthelabels 'legal positivism' and 'theseparationthesis'
are sometimesthoughtto stand.As we shall see, there is littlecommon
groundamongpositivists and theircritics,
leavingone withlittleoptionbutto
conclude thattheirargumentsare too oftenmountedat cross-purposes and
thattoo littleis gained bytheconsiderableefforts of thedebaters.The same
would be trueherewerewe simplyto delveintoa discussionof the authors'
contributions withoutfirstclarifying the termsof theirdebates.Myhope is
thata betterunderstanding oftheconceptualterrainwillfacilitate botha bet-
terappreciationofwhatis containedwithinthesethreeverydifferent books,
as wellas a betterappreciationof therichnessof thepositivist heritage.

9 TheAutonomy ofLaw,19. HenceforthI willreferto thisvolumeas AofL.


10 HenceforthI willreferto thisvolumeas PT

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THE MANYFACESOF LEGALPOSITIVISM 391

I LegalPositivisms

Justwhatis it to be a legal positivist? Let's begin witha preliminary set of


questions.Is commitmentto legal positivismcommitmentto a conceptual
thesis,a factualor descriptive thesis,a moralthesis,an interpretivethesis,a meth-
odological thesis,or some combinationof these?Put anotherway,in arguing
foror againstlegal positivism, is one engaged in conceptual clarification,
theoreticalexplanation,normativemoral philosophy,normativepolitical
philosophy,constructive interpretation,definitionalstipulation,or some-
thingelse? And here's a relatedquestion: In debatingthe meritsof legal
positivismis our goal the moral improvementof legal practice,its philo-
sophicalunderstanding, or somethingelse entirely? In otherwords,is legal
positivismto be recommended,or rejected,ifitleads people, perhapsjudg-
es, to behave wellor badly?Or is legal positivismto be commended,or re-
jected, onlyifand to the extentthatit leads us to a better,or worse,philo-
sophicalunderstanding of the natureof law and its connections (if any) to
social phenomena like moralityand force?In short,is our aim in debating
the meritsof legal positivismmorallyimproved legal practice, or the
achievementof philosophicalunderstandingand insight?If the answeris
thatit is both,how are we tojudge successor failurein our theoreticalen-
deavours?Is it possible thatone of our goalsis improvedpractice,but our
method is betterphilosophicalunderstanding? If so, would it be valid to re-
ject a philosophicallyilluminatingtheoryifforsome reason itsarticulation
and defencedid not lead to improvedpractice,or led to morallybad prac-
tices?Surprisingly (at leastto me) some authorsdo believethatit is correct
to rejecta philosophicaltheoryon some such grounds.Myownviewis that
thiswould be a serious philosophicalmistake.One of the goals of philo-
sophical theoriesof law is improvedmoral practicethroughbetterunder-
standing;butitwouldbe invalidto rejecta philosophicallyilluminatingthe-
oryjust because it somehowled people to behave badly,perhaps because
theymisunderstoodthe theory'simplications.But more on thislater.11
These are some of the manyquestionswhichdividelegal philosophers,
and our threeauthorsproveno exception.It is importantto appreciatethat
how one answersthese questionswilllargelydeterminethe natureof the
claimsforwhichone arguesand thekindsofevidence (understoodin a very
widesense ofthatterm)thatone willcountas relevantin establishingor dis-
putingone's claims.The combinationsare virtually endless. Considerjust
one example. Some self-avowed positivistslikeNeil MacCormickappear to
believethattheirclaimsare conceptualin nature,and thatargumentsof a

11 I defend this view of legal theoryin Chapter 2 of InclusiveLegal Positivism


(Oxford:
ClarendonPress,1994).

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392 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

decidedlymoralnatureare required,or can be used, to substantiatethem.


Other theorists, likePhilipSoper,agree thatthe claimsofpositivismare in-
stancesof conceptualanalysis,but rejectthe use of such moral arguments
in assessingthose conceptualclaims.12Stillothersagree thatmoralfactors
can have a place in conceptual theories,but deny thatparticularkindsof
moral argumentare theoretically acceptable. Argumentspointingto the
supposed causaleffectsupon moralpracticeofwidespreadcommitmentto
a theorylikelegal positivismare,on thisview,as invalidas argumentsoppos-
ing the truthof Galileo's theorieson the ground that theiracceptance
threatenedsocial stability.'3
Then thereare those,likeTom Campbell,who
claim thattheapparentlyconceptualclaimsofpositivists are betterthought
of as normativein nature,and thatmoral argumentsare thereforeneces-
saryin defendingthem.And finally,thereare othersstillwhose viewsare
just not clear enough forus tojudge withconfidencewhethertheirclaims
are conceptualbut are being defendedon moralgrounds.
Enough has been said,I believe,to substantiatetheclaimthata stagger-
inglylarge numberof theoreticalpositionsreferredto bythe phrase 'legal
positivist'are possible.Manyof theseare nowin existence;manyare repre-
sented, in one formof another and for one purpose or another,in our
threevolumes.At the riskof oversimplification, we mightbegin bydistin-
guishingthe variouskinds of positivisttheoriesin termsof the different
kindsof thesessketchedabove.We mightdistinguishthe different kindsof
propositionsthatcan be, and oftenare, expressedbyAustin'sfamoussepa-
rationthesis,that'the existenceof lawis one thing;itsmeritor demeritan-
other thing altogether.'Depending on whetherthe separation thesis is
viewed as a normative,conceptual, factual,interpretive, definitional,or
meta-theoretical claim,one getsdifferentkindsof 'positivism,'and verydif-
ferentkindsof strategiesin assessingtheirvalidity.

A. A Conceptual Claim
The separationthesisis oftenunderstoodas a claimabout theveryconcept
of law. In the same wayas one mightprovidean analysisof the concept of
a promisebyaskingwhatit is necessarilyor typically
to engage in the social
practicewe call 'makinga promise,'one mightalso providean analysisof

12 See Soper,'Legal Theoryand theClaim ofAuthority', 18 Philosophy


and PublicAffairs,
no.
3, (1989), 214.
13 In InclusiveLegalPositivism
I referto thiskindof argumentas a causal-moralargument.
Bentham argued against natural law theoryby using a causal-moralargumentciting
whathe took to be the anarchicaltendenciesof naturallaw theory.Fuller,on the other
hand, used a similarstrategy in arguingthatpositivismencourages blind deferenceto
law.As we shall see below,argumentsof thissort,ifdirectedat conceptual versionsof
positivism, are invalid.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 393

the concept of law byaskingwhatit is necessarilyor typically to engage in


the social practicewe call 'law.'14Some theorists,
such as Hart,believe that
providinga conceptual analysisof law involvesone in explicating the
meaning and typicaluses of variousphrases and sentencesin which the
term'law' and associatedterms(e.g. legal,lawful,obligation,and rule) ap-
pear. Their belief is thatthe concepts thoughwhichwe understandour-
selvesand the worldabout us are best revealedto us in the meaningsand
implicationsof the wordswe use to expressthose concepts.These words
reveal our conceptual commitments.As a result,analysisof concepts in-
volvesus in analysingthe use of language. But it is much more than that,
and thisis one reason whyit is misleadingto call thisparticularversionof
positivisma semantic theory,or an attemptsimplyto define the word
'law.'15Analysisof the concept of law equallyinvolvesattemptsto provide
theoreticalmodels whichhelp us to understandvarioussocial practicesto
whichwe make referencewhenwe use termslike 'law' and 'legal.' AsJules
Coleman observes,' [p]hilosophical theoriesaspire to help us understand
the practicesin whichwe are engaged byofferingaccountsor analysesof
their theoreticaland conceptual commitments."'6 Hart's theoreticalac-
count, of course,includes such theoreticalconstructsas rules of recogni-
tion, the union of primaryand secondaryrules, and the distinctionbe-
tween obligationand being obliged. Most importantly forour purposes,

14 Notice thatone can ask whatit is to make a promisewithoutaddressingdifficult moral


questions about the conditionsunder whichone is obligated to keep one's promises.
One can providea conceptualanalysisof the practiceof promise-keeping withoutdecid-
ing whetherit would be rightto returnthe promisedgun to Plato's madman.Whatever
one's conceptual analysisof promising,it willbe possible to identifythata promisewas
made independentlyofwhetheritscontentis such as to makeit binding.In otherwords,
itsexistenceis one thing;itsmeritor demeritanother.Likewise,accordingto positivists
committedto the conceptualversionof the separationthesis,it is possibleto ask whatit
is to have law withoutaddressingdifficultmoral questionsabout the conditionsunder
which one is obligated to obey it or the conditionsunder which it has the authority
whichmostmodernpositivists now believelaw necessarilyclaimsforitself.The verypos-
sibilityof constructing
such morallyneutralanalysesof lawand promise-keeping is hotly
disputedby Ronald Dworkinwhose viewis thatsuch analysesmustbe interpretive. As
such,theyinevitably requireresortto moralargumentsabout the 'point' of the practice.
On thissee R. Dworkin,Law's Empire(Cambridge,MA: HarvardUniversity Press,1986),
passim,particularlyDworkin'sdiscussionof the concept 'courtesy.'
15 Ronald Dworkinappears to characterizeHart'stheoryas a semantictheoryin thissense.
He then goes on to show thata philosophicaltheoryof law mustbe much more than
this,somethingwithwhichHartwould have been in fullagreement.He would not,how-
ever,have agreedwithDworkinthattheonlyviablealternative is a normatively
richinter-
pretivetheoryof law.On Hart'srejectionof Dworkin'sclaim thatHart'stheoryis seman-
tic,see TheConcept ofLaw,2nd ed., Postscript,244-48.
16 AofL,287.

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394 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

Hart'sconceptualversionoftheseparation thesisasserts thatinconceiving


ofa practiceas legalwein no wayconceiveofitas something whichis nec-
essarilymoralin nature.
Unfortunately Hartwas,untilveryrecently, somewhat vagueas towhich
oftwoverydifferent theseshe meanttoassertin proposing hisconceptual
versionoftheseparation thesis.Did he meanto suggest, asJulesColeman
succinctly putsit,'thatlawand morality are necessarily separated'?Or was
hisclaimthelogically muchweakerproposition 'thattheyarenotnecessar-
ilyconnected'?'7 The first
thesis,whichelsewhere I havecalled'Exclusive
LegalPositivism,' andwhichsomewriters prefer tocall'hardpositivism' or
simply the'separationthesis,'wasneveradvancedbyHart,despiteDwor-
kin's(unfortunately influential)claimthatitwas,andthefactthatExclusive
Positivism does havethesupportof Hart'sfamousand influential pupil,
JosephRaz.'8The secondthesis,whichI call 'InclusiveLegal Positivism,'
and whichsome writers call the 'separabilitythesis,''incorporationism'
(Coleman),or 'softpositivism' (Hart)is theversionofpositivism towhich
Hartsubscribed and towhichhe is theoretically committed as a legalposi-
tivist.
It is also theversionofpositivism advancedbyAustinand Bentham,
as wellas theonlyconceptualversionofpositivism whichprovidesa theo-
reticallyadequateaccountofAnglo-American legalpractice.19
So theconceptual version
oflegalpositivism comesinatleasttwosharp-
lydifferent varieties:
Inclusiveand ExclusivePositivism. The theoriesof
Hart,Austin, and Benthamareversions oftheformer, Raz'stheory an in-
stanceofthelatter. Attheriskofoversimplification, wemightcharacterize
thesetwoconceptualversions ofpositivism as follows:
ExclusiveLegal Positivism:
As a matterof conceptual necessity,determina-
tionsoflawcan neverbe a function
ofmoralconsiderations.
InclusiveLegalPositivism:
It is conceptuallypossible,but not necessary,that
determinations
oflawcan be a function
ofmoralconsiderations.

17 AofL,290.
18 In the Postscriptto TheConcept ofLazt Hartfinally verifiedthathiscommitment to positiv-
ism had neverbeen to the exclusiveversion,somethingwhichI had earlierattemptedto
establishin InclusiveLegalPositivism.
Otherswho arguedin a similarfashionincludeJules
Coleman in 'Negativeand PositivePositivism'11 Journalof Legal Studies (1982), 139;
Philip Soper in 'Legal Theoryand the Obligationsof a Judge:The Hart/DworkinDis-
pute', 75 MichiganLaw Review(1977), 477; andJohnMackie,'The ThirdTheoryofLaw',
7 Philosophyand PublicAffairs, no. 1, (1977), 3. Raz's ExclusivePositivism is defendedin
a numberof places, includingTheAuthority ofLaw (Oxford:ClarendonPress,1979) and
'Authority,Law and Morality',68 TheMonist,no. 3, (1985), 295. For myresponseto Raz's
Exclusiveversionof positivism,see InclusiveLegalPositivism, especiallychs. 4 & 5.
19 See InclusiveLegalPositivism,passim.Many criticsof legal positivismidentifypositivism
withitsexclusiveversion.This is unfortunate because itskewsour understandingofwhat
Hartand the earlypositivistswereattempting to establish.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 395

Accordingto ExclusivePositivism, our conceptoflaw,as revealed (part-


ly) in a conceptual analysisof our linguisticand legal practices,excludes
moralityfromthe considerationswhichcan determinewhethera standard
existsas validlaw (itsexistence)and whatitsaysand requiresof us (itscon-
tent). Accordingto InclusivePositivism,our concept of law, as revealed
(partly)in a conceptual analysisof our linguisticand legal practices,in-
cludes moralityas a possible,thoughbyno meansnecessary,basisfordeter-
minationsoflaw.Accordingto modernversionsofInclusivePositivism, itis
the accepted rule of recognitionthatdetermineswhich,ifany,moral con-
siderationsfigurein determinations oflaw.So whethermoralitycountsin de-
terminations of law is not itselfa matterof morality.Rather,it depends on
whichcriteriaof validityexistas a matterof accepted social practicewithin
a legal system'sruleofrecognition.Butthereis nothingto preventthesecri-
teria frombeing moral in nature.The Canadian Charterof Rightsand
Freedomsarguablyservesto illustratethisverypoint.20WhatunifiesInclu-
sive and ExclusivePositivismis theircommitmentto the conceptual claim
that,in conceivingof law,we are conceivingof a convention-basedsocial
practicewithitsowninternally sanctionedcriteriaforwhatcountsas a valid
legal standard.Whether,as a matterof conceptualnecessity, theseinternal
criteriacan evermake referenceto morality, and thereforebe moral crite-
ria,is whatseparatesthe twoconceptualversionsof legal positivism.

B. A DescriptiveClaim
H.L.A. Hart is famousfordescribingTheConcept ofLaw as 'an essayin de-
scriptivesociology.'21In so describinghismonumentalwork,Hartmeantto
distancehimselffromnormativetheoriesabout whatlaw (and laws) should
be like,as well as fromtheoriespurportingto offeror defendsemanticor
stipulativedefinitionsof theword'law.' His theorywas descriptivein so far
as it attemptedto providea descriptively accurateand theoretically illumi-
natingaccountof legal systems, and of theconceptswe actuallyuse in prac-
tisingand (in variousways)talkingabout law. In thissense, the theorywas
both conceptualand descriptive.The theorywas sociologicalin so faras it
was meantto be an accountof an actuallyexistingsocial phenomenonwith
whichhis readerwas familiar.
Owingto itsnature,Hart's theoryis, to some degree,susceptibleto em-
pirical confirmationor refutation.22 Hart's theoreticalclaim (that all sys-
temswe conceive of as legal include a foundationalrule of recognition)
stands,forexample,onlyifone can findsuch a rulewhereverone encoun-
terslaw.Severalauthorshavedenied thatsucha rulecan everbe discovered;

20 For argumentthatitdoes, see InclusiveLegalPositivism,


ch. 5.
21 ofLaw,1sted., v.
TheConcept

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396 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

others,whoseworkwe willbe examining,denythatsuch a rule can be dis-


covered withinthe modern worldof trans-national legal relations;others
still(notablyDworkin)denythatsuch a rule can everserveto explain the
use withinlegal systemsof legallybindingprinciplesof politicalmorality.
The presenceofsuch principlesofmorality servesto falsifyHart'ssupposed
descriptiveclaim that determinations of law never in factdepend on moral
considerations.As we saw above,however,Hart nevermade anysuch claim.
The descriptive claimthatdeterminations oflawneverdo in factdepend on
an
moralityis, however, implication of Raz's ExclusivePositivism.It is also
takenby manyto be the centralclaim of positivism.In otherwords,some
theoristsviewpositivism notas a theorypurportingto revealand explainour
theoreticaland conceptualcommitments, but ratheras a theorypurporting
just to describe existinglegal practices.And some theorists mightbalkat the
suggestion that their had
descriptions anything to do with conceptualanal-
or It be
ysis theory. may useful,then, distinguishpurelydescriptivever-
to
sionsof Exclusiveand InclusivePositivism.
Exclusive
Descriptive Positivism:As a matterof observablefact,thereis no sys-
temoflawin whichdeterminations oflaware evera functionof moral
considerations.
InclusivePositivism:
Descriptive As a matterof observablefact,thereare sys-
temsoflawin whichdeterminations oflaware a functionofmoralcon-
siderations.
ExclusivePositivism, in bothitsconceptualand descriptiveforms,is fal-
sifiedbytheexistenceoflegal systems in whichdeterminations oflawsome-
timesdepend on moralfactors.InclusivePositivism, in both itsconceptual
and descriptiveforms,is supportedby the existenceof such systems.It is
perhapsworthnotingthateven ifit were truethattherewere no such sys-
tems,thiswould not invalidateor falsify the conceptualversionof Inclusive
Positivism.AsJulesColeman observes,thisversionis vindicatedso long as
we can conceiveofat leastone possible worldin whichsuch a systemexists.23

C. A NormativeClaim
The descriptiveclaim thatlegal validityis neverin factdependenton moral
considerations,and the opposingviewthatitis sometimes(even always)so

22 Aswithanytheory, however, themannerinwhichone characterises or recal-


supporting
citrant
'data'isatleastas importantas whatitshowsusabouttheadequacyofthetheory.
Hence thereis an intimate betweenthedescriptive
relationship and conceptualclaims
ofpositivism,
justas thereisa closerelationship
betweenthedescriptive
andconceptual
claimsofquantum mechanics.
Thisisa pointstressedbyJulesColemanin 'Negative andPositive
Positivism.'
?23

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 397

dependent,mustbe distinguishedfromanalogous normativeclaims.Tom


Campbell defendsa viewaccordingto whichdeterminationsof law ought
neverto depend on moralconsiderationseven thoughtheyin factquite of-
ten do so in modernlegal systems.Campbell believeshis thesisto be fully
compatiblewiththe falsity of the descriptiveformsof ExclusivePositivism,
and also withthe soundnessof the conceptualversionof InclusivePositiv-
ism.This fullynormativeversionoflegal positivism he dubs 'EthicalPositiv-
ism.'
EthicalPositivism:As a matterof sound politicalmorality, the 'identification
and applicationoflawoughtto be keptas separateas possiblefromthe
moraljudgmentswhichgo into themakingof law.'24
Campbell's normativethesisconcernsthe actual practiceof identifying
and applyingvalidlaws,i.e. thepracticeofmakingdeterminations of law.It
positsand defendsan ideal to whichlegal systems ought,morally,to aspire
even thoughCampbell acknowledgesthatoftentheydo not do so.
Sometimespositivismis characterisedas makingnormativeclaims not
about thepractice of law but about legal theories
or definitionsof 'law.' Klaus
FiiBernotes a confusionbetweenthe 'object-level'and 'meta-level'claims
of positivistsand theircritics.25Crudelyput, object-levelclaims are about
law itself;meta-levelclaimsare about theoriesof law,or the word 'law.' As
an example of an object-levelclaim,FuiBerciteswhathe calls the 'Fallibility
Thesis,' the claim that'Law does not necessarilyhave (positive)moralval-
ue.'26As an example of a meta-levelclaim Ffiuercitesthe 'NeutralityThe-
sis,' the claim thatin defendingour conceptual claimsabout law - which
some describe as offeringa theoreticaldefinitionof the word 'law' - we
oughtto steerclear ofmoralfactors.We oughtto do so in one (or both) of
twoways.First,we oughtnot to endorse a concept or definitionof law ac-
cordingto whichit is possible formoralityto figurein determinationsof
law.Second, we oughtnotto defendthechoice ofa conceptoflaw,or a the-
oryabout our presentconceptualcommitments concerningthe natureof
law,on moral grounds.The latterFfiBercalls the 'Neutral-RationaleThe-
sis,' theformerhe calls the 'Neutral-Content Thesis.'27It is importantto be
clear thatitis possibleto hold one ofthesetwoversionsoftheneutrality the-
sis while rejecting the other. Neil MacCormick,for example, follows
Benthamin developingwhathe calls a 'moralisticcase foramoralisticlaw.'

24 TheLegal Theory ofEthicalPositivism,


p.3. HenceforthI willreferto thisbook as LER
25 Klaus FiiBer,'Farewellto 'Legal Positivism':The SeparationThesis Unravelling',in AofL.
As we shall see, thisconfusionplaguesmuch of theliteratureon legal positivism.
26 AofL,122. The Fallibility Thesis could be interpretedas makingeithera conceptualor a
descriptiveclaim.
27 AofL,134.

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398 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

On thisaccount,we have compellingmoral reasons to adopt or choose a


conceptionof law accordingto whichlaw and moralityare,both conceptu-
allyand in practice,separatedin thewaysin whichExclusivePositivismsays
theyalreadyare separated.In so arguing,MacCormickhas endorsed the
NeutralContentThesis but rejectedthe NeutralRationaleThesis.
I suggestwe followFfiBerin distinguishing theobject-leveland meta-lev-
el claimsofsome positivists (and theircritics).We need to distinguishfrom
(a) the descriptiveand conceptual,object-levelclaimsof Inclusiveand Ex-
clusivePositivism, and (b) the normativeobject-levelclaimsof EthicalPosi-
tivism,the followingmeta-levelclaim:
TheNeutralRationaleThesis:One oughtnot to defendthe adoptionof a def-
initionor conceptionof law,or claimsabout our presentconceptual
and theoreticalcommitments concerningthe natureof law,on moral
grounds.Once again,itis importantto be clear thatsome positivists re-
ject the NeutralRationaleThesis,whileothersseem to embraceit.
The NeutralRationaleThesis is byno means the onlymeta-levelclaim
foundwithinpositivistjurisprudence. Positivistsoftendefendfurthermeta-
level claimsconcerningthe verypossibility of describingversusevaluating
legal systems, betweenwhatare sometimescalled 'analytic'and 'normative'
jurisprudence.In his attemptsto unravelthevariousstrandswithinthe pos-
itivisttradition,Hart notes thatpositivists ofteninsiston distinguishingbe-
tween (a) descriptionof a legal systemas it is, and (b) normativeor moral
evaluationof the lawwhichis thusdescribed.28He furthernotes thatmany
positivists, Hartincluded,who embracethisdistinctionbelievethatdescrib-
ing a legal systemas it existsis bothvaluable in and of itselfand usefulfor
otherpurposes,among themthe moralevaluationof law.In order to eval-
uate the law,one mustfirstknowwhatit is. We would do well then,to add
to our listof positivist thesesthefollowingfurthermeta-levelclaim.
TheNeutralDescription Thesis:It is both possible,desirable,and philosophi-
callyenlighteningto describe(and explain) a legal systemas itis with-
out at the same timeengagingin itsmoralevaluation.
The NeutralDescriptionThesis is itselfa normativeor evaluativeclaim
about thepossibility and value ofa particularkindofjurisprudential theory.
It is importantto realize thatmodernadvocatesof theNeutralDescription
Thesis believe thatdescriptionof a legal system,thoughdifferent fromits
evaluation,can be influencedand to some degree governedby evaluative
considerations.Meta-theoretical values like simplicity,
comprehensiveness,

28 See Hart, TheConcept ofLarupassim.Neil MacCormickonce characterisedlegal positiv-


ism 'minimallyas insistingon the genuine distinctionbetweendescriptionof a
legal sys-
temas it is and normativeevaluationof the lawwhichis thusdescribed.'
LegalReasoning
and Legal Theory,(Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press,1978), 239-40.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 399

and coherence governthe developmentand assessmentof descriptiveac-


countsof a practicelike law. It is even possible thatmoralvalues can playa
varietyof roles in descriptiveaccounts.For instance,the moral beliefthat
autonomyis valuable mightlead one, in constructing a descriptiveaccount
of legal systems,to focusin one's descriptionon thoseaspectsof lawwhich
make it a threatto our moral autonomy.Thus one might,as Joseph Raz
does, focuson the concept of authority in describinghow lawsfunctionin
the practicalreasoningof citizensandjudges. Raz's descriptive/explanato-
rytheorythatlawsfunctionin our practicalreasoningas 'exclusionaryrea-
sons' is an attemptto describeand explain how the conceptof authority is
centralto our understandingof law.And thereis no reasonwhyhe cannot
assertthatitsimportanceis due, in partat least,to concernsmostofus have
about our moralautonomy.Acknowledging such a concerndoes not,how-
ever,in some waytransform Raz's theoryinto a moral evaluationof law or
into a Dworkinianinterpretation of law.29

D. An Interpretive Claim
It is a fundamentaltenetof Dworkin'sjurisprudencethatthe NeutralDe-
scriptionThesis is false.Accountsof a legal systemare necessarilyinterpre-
tive,and interpretations necessarilyinclude both descriptionand evalua-
tion.In thecase oflaw,interpretation necessarilyincludesbothdescription
and moralevaluation.We mightthereforeaskthefollowingquestion:Could
the claimsof legal positivismbe sensiblyviewedas interpretivein Dworkin's
sense of thatterm?BythisI mean: Could theseparationthesis,read in one
ofthewaysoutlinedabove,be viewedas partofan interpretation or account
of the practiceof law whichattemptsto put thatpracticein itsbest moral
light?Such an account would, in effect,blend the descriptive,normative
and conceptualversionsof positivism.In principle,I see no reason whya
positivisttheorycould not be advanced in thisway.Withthe exceptionof
the Neutral Rationale Thesis, any of the versionsof positivismoutlined
above could be re-configured as elementsin an interpretation oflegal prac-
ticewhichattemptsto put thatpracticein itsbestmorallight.Whetherany
contemporary would agree to such a re-configuration
positivist is doubtful,
thoughas we shallsee, Campbell'sethicalpositivism comes close. But there
is no reasonwhyitcould not be done, and whyplausiblerivalsto Dworkin's
'law as integrity'
could not in thiswaybe fashioned.I hastento add, howev-
er, thatthese Dworkinianversionsof positivismwould likelybear littlere-
semblance to the versionsDworkinhimselfconstructsin Law's Empireand
elsewhere.

29 For furtherdiscussionof thiscrucialpoint about the role of moral elementsin descrip-


tive/explanatorytheoriesof law,see InclusiveLegalPositivism,
ch. 2.

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400 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

III PositivismToday

PositivismToday,edited byStephenGuest,containseightessaysbyteachers
ofJurisprudencewithinthe Facultyof Laws at University College London.
The essaysrangefromhistoricalstudiesof the originsof legal positivismin
the writingsofAustinand Bentham,throughto discussionsof the connec-
tionsbetweenlinguisticsand legal theory,objectivity
and truthin law,and
thefeasibility
oflegal positivism
in theworldofmodem globalization.Virtu-
allyall thewritersrepresentedare in some wayopposed to legal positivism.
The volume beginswitha shortpiece byRonald Dworkinwho,despite
Hart'srepeatedobjections,once again seeksto transform positivismintoan
interpretivetheory.30In Law'sEmpire Dworkin
suggestedthatlegalpositivism is bestunderstood as an affirmative
interpretively,
normativetheory claiming thatwe makemostsenseoflegalpractice, and see itin
thebestpossible[moral]light,bysupposing thatconventionplaystheroleinfixing
whatthelawofa societyis thatpositivismdescribes.3'
In thismore recentoffering, 'Indeterminacy and Law,' Dworkin'saim is to
considerthephilosophical
basisofanotherwayofregarding as following
positivism:
from... theideaofindeterminacybydefault.
On thisview,propositions oflawcan
onlybe determinatively
trueorfalsewhentheycanbe demonstrated as oneortheoth-
er [viasomethinglikeHart'sruleof recognition]
.... Positivism
thenclaimsthat
nothing thatcannotbe demonstratedtobe trueinsomesuch'positive' way... can
be true.32

Having thus transformed positivisminto 'the defaultthesis,'Dworkin


goes on to showthatit confusesuncertainty withindeterminacy. From the
factthata propositioncannot be demonstrated,we cannot inferthatits
truthvalue is indeterminate;at bestwe can inferthatit is uncertain.Thus
positivismrestson a fundamentalconfusion.It is hard to imagineanyposi-
tivistwishingto dispute Dworkin'sattackon the defaultthesis.What the
positivistwilldispute,however,is Dworkin'sattempt,once again, to rede-
finehisopposition.As we haveseen,positivists embracea rangeof different
theoriesand different kindsof theories,conceptual,descriptive,and nor-
mative.But none, so faras I know,wishesto presenthis project as an at-
temptto put the legal practiceofjustifying
coercionin itsbestmorallight.
At theveryleast,no positivist
believesthatwe makemostsense oflegal prac-
ticein thewayDworkindescribes.

30 Hart'slatestobjectionsare foundin the Postscript.See TheConcept


ofLaw,2nd ed., 248-
250.
31 PT p.1.
32 Ibid.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 401

As noted above,manyof thearticlesin Positivism Todayhave a decidedly


historicaldimension.Two primeexamplesare PhilipSchofield's'Utilitari-
an Politicsand Legal Positivism:The RejectionofContractarianism in Early
UtilitarianThought' and AndrewLewis' 'Legal Positivism- Some Lessons
FromLegal History.'Lewisdescribesthehistoricalconnectionbetweenthe
developmentand widespreadacceptance of positivism, on the one hand,
and theriseofa professionalclassoflawyersin thirteenth centuryEngland,
on the other.'[T] he emergenceof a professionof specialisedlegal practi-
tionersis of criticalimportanceto theriseof theoreticalunderstandingsof
law.'33As in ancientRome, themostimportantdevelopmentin the history
of thecommonlawwas theemergenceof a specialistclass of lawyerswhose
expertiselies in 'the manipulationand determinationof issueswhichare
avowedlylegal in nature.'34Giventhishistoricalemergence,it was inevita-
ble thatconceptionsoflawwouldbe developed 'whichemphasizeitsauton-
omous natureand itshouldbe no surpriseto findpositivistic theorieswhich
supportsuch conceptionsdominantin both traditions.'35
Lewis' accountis bothinterestingand instructive, butit is farfromclear
whatphilosophicalor practicallessonsone is to drawfromhis historicalob-
servations.Conceptionsoflawotherthanpositivism'undoubtedlyexist'we
are told,but we are givenlittleidea whatthesemightbe, or whethertheir
'existence'suggestspossibilitiesforfundamentalchange in our legal prac-
ticesor thewaysin whichwe conceiveof legal practices.Lewisbrieflymen-
tions,withapparentapproval,themodernnaturallaw theoryofJohnFinn-
is,but also notesthedecidedlypositivisticflavourofFinnis'theory.36In the
end, one is leftwonderingwhat moral one is being asked to draw from
Lewis' historicalaccount.
Schofieldremindsus thatthe earlypositivists attemptedtojustifytheir
jurisprudentialtheorieson straightforwardly utilitariangrounds.Bentham
and Austinwishedto distinguishlaw as it is (a matteroffact)fromlaw as it
ought to be (according to the principleof utility)in order to avoid what
theybelieved were the anarchical tendenciesof naturallaw theory.37As
such, Schofiedargues,the positivismof Benthamand Austinwas not the
kindof apoliticalor amoral doctrineoftenassociatedwithmodem positiv-
ism. Ratherit was a fullynormativetheoryof law whose acceptance was

33 PT 71.
34 Ibid.
35 Ibid.
36 See PT p.74.
37 For an interesting(and amusing) account of the 'anarchical' tendenciesof naturallaw
theory,see Bentham'sdelightful'AnarchicalFallacies', in 2 TheCollectedWorksofJeremy
Bentham, (London, Bowringed., 1843).

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OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL
402 UNIVERSITY

thoughtto be 'mostconduciveto increasinghappiness.'38In so faras posi-


tivistsare oftencharacterisedas theoretically committedto the NeutralRa-
tionaleThesis,Schofield'spaper is a welcomereminderthatthe founders
of positivismwere themselvesopposed to any such thesis,as are many
present-daypositivistslike Neil MacCormickand Tom Campbell. But it
wouldbe a seriousmistaketo thinkthatall modernpositivists in thiswayfol-
low the lead of theirdistinguishedancestors.There are some, the present
authorincluded,who denythevalidityofmoraldefencesofconceptualthe-
oriesof law like Exclusiveand InclusivePositivism.39
Michael Freeman's 'Positivismand Statutory Construction:An Essayin
theRetrievalof Democracy'and David Hutchinson's'Positivismand Inter-
national Law' are partlyconcerned to challenge the descriptiveadequacy
ofconceptualand descriptiveformsofpositivism. Freemanaims to demon-
stratean historicallinkbetweenthe rise of positivismand such fictionsas
the beliefthatthereis a legislativewill;thatit can be discoveredbyhistori-
cal methods;thatit shouldbe so discoveredbyjudges; thatit should be de-
ferredto byjudges when theyinterpretthelaw;and finally, thatjudicialin-
terpretationcan thereforebe politicallyand morallyneutral.Againstthis
misguidedviewof modern adjudication,Freemanwishesto place his own
more Dworkinianview thatlegislationshould not be viewed as a 'single
dateable event which ends upon enactment;'40thatjudges should be
viewedas 'collaboratorswithlegislatorsin producingstatutory meaning;'41
and that'judges can be a powerforgood,' 'can redressimbalancescaused
bythefailuresof thepoliticalprocess,'and 'can rescuelegislationfromthe
deadhand [sic] of history.'42'[I] twasjudges who createdour constitution,
judges who invented the so-called rulesof statutoryconstruction... judges
who have created and expanded the powers of judicial review' in ways
which are inconsistentwiththe positivist'stheoryof judicial interpreta-
tion.43
Freeman'sdefenceoftheviewthatjudgesare suitablecollaboratorswith
legislatorsin producingstatutory meaning,and thatsuch a collaborativeef-
fortis called forbydemocratictheory,is both interestingand instructive.
And he maybe rightthatmore conservativeapproaches to statutory con-
structionaccompanied theriseoflegal positivism in themiddlethirdof the
nineteenthcentury.Where he is wrong,however,is in his suggestionthat

38 PT 114.
39 See InclusiveLegalPositivism,
pp.86-98.
40 PT, 15.
41 Ibid.
42 PT 22.
43 Ibid.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 403

thislinkagewas anythingmore than historical.What reason is thereto be-


lieve that the literalrule, or other conservativeapproaches requiringre-
course to thehistoricalintentionsoflegislators, mustbe advancedbya legal
positivist?Whymustthese be advanced in preferenceto more liberal ap-
proaches,perhapseven the highlyliberalapproach of Dworkin'sHercules
which Freeman himselfendorses?There is no such reason - unless one
identifiespositivismwithExclusiveor Ethical Positivism.Yet as we have
seen, theseare onlytwoformsofpositivism. And as we shallsee belowwhen
we examineRaz's essayon interpretation, thereis reason to thinkthateven
ExclusivePositivism is consistentwithliberalapproachesto interpreting leg-
islation.Whetherin theend thisis trueofExclusivePositivism, thepointre-
mainsthattheconceptualversionofInclusivePositivism, towhichBentham
and Austinwere committed,is fullycompatible with more 'liberal' ap-
proaches to statutory construction.InclusivePositivismis compatiblewith
rulesofinterpretation whichpermitmoralconsiderationssometimesto fig-
ure in determiningthe meaningand applicationof valid laws.A positivist
theoryof law can be wedded to all kindsof different theoriesof statutory
construction. In short,Freeman'scritiqueofliteralismhas merit;itslinkage
to theviabilityofpositivism does not.Anyonewho believesotherwiseis him-
selfrelyingon a fiction,i.e., a fictionabout the natureof legal positivism.
David Hutchinsonbeginshis 'Positivismand InternationalLaw' withan
interesting observation:'Internationallaw serveslegal philosopherswell.It
acts as a testingground forthe various'definitions'and accounts of 'law'
whichtheypropose.'44Hutchinson'saim is to discreditpositivismbydem-
onstratingthatpositivist accountsof 'the law-findingprocess'failthe testof
internationallaw.Accordingto Hutchinson,positivist accountsof the law-
findingprocess,accordingto whichthelawjustis black-letter lawand noth-
ing else, oftenresortto closureruleswhen thereappears to be no black-let-
terlaw to be found.An example of such a rule is thatwhateveris not pro-
hibitedis permitted.Alternatively, sometimessuggestthatifthere
positivists
is no black-letterlaw on the matter,therejust is no law period,and the in-
ternationaltribunalmustresorttojudicial legislation.But as Hutchinson
notes,neitherof thesealternatives seems to be pursuedwithintheinterna-
tionalsphereanymore thanit is at thedomesticlevel.A claim to the effect
thata particularsortof conduct is illegal because it violatesfundamental
principlesofjustice or human rightscan succeed at the internationallevel,
even when thereis no agreed,black-letter law directlyon point.It willsuc-
ceed if,among otherthings,such a claimcan be shown,to 'fit'(to some de-
greeat least) theexistingblack-letter lawofnationstates.The trickis to find

44 PT, 45.

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404 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

an acceptable theoreticalaccount of thisphenomenon,and it is Hutchin-


son's contentionthatpositivist accountsnecessarilyfail.He applauds Den-
ningwho 'recognisedthe bankruptcy of positivism
in affordinganyplausi-
ble solutionto the problemin hand.'45'Naturalistaccounts,'on the other
hand,whichin some wayblend the requirementthatnovelpropositionsof
internationallaw 'fit'the lawsof the statesit governs,withrequirementsof
justice and othermoralvalues,standa much betterchance of success.But
even these are not freeof difficulty. No naturalisthas yetprovidedan ac-
ceptablejustificationforthe requirementof fit.
There is much in Hutchinson'spaper whichlegal philosopherswould
do well to heed in developingtheoriesof law. His critiqueof various at-
temptsto defendthe requirementof fitis particularly interestingand use-
ful.But his claim thatPositivismis bankruptin explainingwhyappeals to
principlesofjusticein internationalcourtsare notdiscretionary, but rather
attemptsto determinejustice according tolaw,seems to reston a particular
pictureof positivism,namely,ExclusivePositivism.Yet as we saw earlier,
thereare alternatives, InclusivePositivism forexample,whichacknowledge
a possibleroleformoralfactorsin determinations oflaw.There is no reason
to denythatsuch factorscan playa role in determinationsof international
law.
WilliamTwining's'Generaland Particular Jurisprudence - Three Chap-
ters in a Story'contains manyacute observationswhich positivistsof all
stripes,descriptive,conceptual and normative,would do well to ponder.
Twininginvestigates the impactof modernglobalizationon the heritageof
ideas and conceptual tools of legal positivism,arguing that the former
presentsa seriouschallengeto thelatter.It is a centraltenetof all formsof
positivism thata legal systemis unifiedbysomethinglikeobedience to a sov-
or
ereign, acceptance of a rule of recognitionor grundnorm.But thisthe-
oreticalpictureofwhatlaw eitheris,mustbe, or oughtto be, is radicallyat
odds withmodern 'trans-national and global relationsand to legal plural-
ism.'46On theworldstage,lawseems to be practisedin the absence of any-
thingremotelylike a sovereignrule ofrecognition.On thisstage,law's sub-
jects are not identifiedby theirshared relationshipto a sovereignrule of
recognition;law's subjectsare themselvesindependentsovereignstates.If
Twining'sobservationsabout the absence of a foundationalrule or recog-
nitionare correct,theyconstitutea seriouschallengeto modernpositivism
and its commitmentto the systemic, convention-basednatureof law. Per-
haps positivistsought to consider whether internationallaw can be mod-
elled on federalstates,or whetheran analysissuch as one findsin the final

45 PT p.50.
46 PT 139.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 405

chapterof TheConcept ofLaw can successfullybe used in defendingagainst


Twining'sobjections.
Twiningalso describesthe developmentofviewson theverypossibility
and importanceofgeneralversusparticularjurisprudencein theworksof
authors such as Bentham,Austin,Holland, Hart and Dworkin.In Twin-
ing's view,generaljurisprudence strivesto account for the general fea-
turesof all legal systems,whileparticularjurisprudenceattemptsto artic-
or
ulate, defend, critiquethe theoreticaland normativecommitmentsof
a particularlegal systemwithitsdistinctivestructureand laws.According
to Twining,Englishpositivismsince Benthamhas placed considerableem-
phasis on general jurisprudence, despite the concerns of Pollock and
Buckland thatsuch an overly-abstract approach was detrimentalto legal
education. TwiningfollowsPollock and Buckland in arguingthatgeneral
jurisprudenceencourages an approach to the studyof lawwhichis expos-
itory,ahistorical,decontextualizedand uncritical.This is amplyillustrat-
ed, in Twining'sview,bythe generallegal theoriesof Hart and, somewhat
surprisingly, Dworkin.The jurisprudentialtheoriesof Hart and Dworkin
are oftendistinguishedin termsof theircommitmentto general versus
particularjurisprudence respectively.Hart is characterizedas offeringa
descriptive,general jurisprudence,while Dworkinis thought to be de-
fendingparticularjurisprudence,thatis, ajurisprudence about, and pur-
sued fromthe insider'sperspectiveon, the normativecommitmentsof a
particularlegal system,in thiscase, the Americanone. In Twining'sview,
thiscommon wayof contrastingHart and Dworkinis seriouslymisleading
ifonlybecause Dworkin'scentralideas have 'general,ifnot universalsig-
nificance'and Hart's 'focusand agenda forjurisprudencewerequite nar-
row.'47
One can agree withTwiningthatmanyaspects of Dworkin'stheories
have general, if not universalapplication. But it is important,neverthe-
less, to keep firmlyin mind Dworkin'sfundamentalclaim thatthe insid-
er's perspectiveis the onlycoherentperspectivefromwhichlegal theory
can be done; and the insider'sperspectiveis thatof a participantin a par-
ticularlegal systemwho offersan interpretive account of his own legal sys-
tem. Dworkin'smeta-theoreticalclaims about how legal theorymust be
done are universal;but the claims of a legal theoryare not. They are in-
sider's claims which originatefromand are about a particularlegal sys-
tem. As forHart, we can agree thathis theoreticalconcerns mighthave
been narrowin one sense: he was not out to constructan historical, norma-
tiveor interpretive
theory,eitherabout legal systemsin generalor about any

47 PT 138, 139.

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406 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

particularlegal system.Rather his aim was to constructan enlightening


descriptive/explanatory account of the general featuresof legal systems.
But in another,more importantsense, Hart's theoreticalconcerns were
anythingbut narrow.The scopeof his theoryis nothingless than most if
not all legal systems.As Hart explains in the Postscriptto The Conceptof
Law, his 'aim ... was to providea theoryof whatlaw is whichis both gen-
eral and descriptive.It is generalin the sense thatit is not tied to any par-
ticularlegal systemor legal culture,but seeks to give an explanatoryand
clarifying account of law as a complex social and politicalinstitutionwith
a rule-governed ... aspect.'48
PhilipRobertsbeginshis 'Observationson Methodin Legal Theoryand
Linguistics'withtheremarkthat"Legal Positivism'is a termwhichhas been
used to describea familyofdifferent theoriesoflaw.'49His aim is to unravel
some of thedifferent of
types positivism bydistinguishing different levelsof
commitmentto (whatwe earlier called) the Neutral DescriptionThesis.
Robertsstartsout withan interesting discussionofhow theconceptofdeep
structurecan be used to explicateKelsen'spure theoryoflaw.He thenpro-
videsan accountofhowthefurther Chomskiandistinctionbetweencompe-
tence and performance,originallyintroducedas an analogybyRawlsin A
Theory of ustice,has since been utilizedin studiesof ethicsand rationality.
For our purposes,Roberts'mostinteresting discussionconcernswhat,fol-
lowingQuine, he calls 'threegradesof normative involvement towhichthe-
ory [of law] can be committed.'50 These threegrades of commitment mark
threedifferent of
ways understanding the NeutralDescription Thesis.
Neil MacCormick once characterised legal positivism '... minimally as
insistingon thegenuinedistinctionbetweendescriptionofa legal systemas
it is and normativeevaluationof the law whichis thusdescribed.'51Never-
are fullyaware thatlaw is fundamentally
theless,positivists a normativeaf-
fair.Law is thoughtto create obligationsand rights,and necessarilyto in-
volve its participantsin processes of justification.As Roberts notes,
positivistsattemptto recognizethisnormativity withoutjeopardizing their
commitmentto the NeutralDescriptionThesis. They attemptto do so by
'treatingnormativityas an objectofstudywithouttakingon a normativeap-
proach As Hartwould have said, one describes,fromthe ex-
themselves.'52
ternalpointofview,whatitmeans to have an internalpointofviewtowards

48 TheConcept ofLaw,2nd ed., 239.


49 PT, 77.
50 PT p.89. C.f. Quine, 'The Three Grades of Modal Involvement'in The WaysofParadox,
(Cambridge,MA: HarvardUniversity Press,1976).
51 PT 77, quotingMacCormick,LegalReasoning and LegalTheory,
supra n. 28.
52 PT, 89.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 407

law. This firstgrade of normativeinvolvementin no wayjeopardizes the


NeutralDescriptionThesis,unless,as some theorists would insist,theexter-
nal pointofviewis a myth.53
A second grade of normativecommitmentoccurs where one offersa
theorywhichprovidesa certainsortofguidanceto thoseinvolvedin a rule-
governedactivity but whichin no wayaddressesthe moral or politicalcor-
rectnessof theguidancethusoffered.The guidanceprovidedis like thead-
vice a pro-choiceatheistmightgive to a Catholic friendwho is puzzled
about what,as a Catholic,she oughtto do. The atheistmightadviseagainst
an abortionwithouttherebycommittingherselfto the correctnessof that
particularmoralstance.Legal theorieswhichoccupythisstageofnormative
commitment are,accordingto Roberts,'descriptive-normative theor[ies].54
They do not merelydescribe,in general,whatitis toadopt an internal(nor-
mative)pointofview;theyattemptto describewhat,froma particularinter-
nal pointofview,participantsoughtto do. It is in thissense thatone might
advisea Frenchcitizenthatshe is obligatedto assistaccidentvictimsifshe
is in a positionto do so. One mightoffersuch advice even ifone believed
thatgood Samaritanlegislationis morallyunjustifiableor had no viewon
the matter.Again, thereare thosewho willdeny the veryintelligibility of
supposing thatsuch advice could be offeredwithoutmoral commitment.
Accordingto thesetheorists, one can no moreinterpretthelawsofa partic-
ularlegal systemwithoutmoralcommitment thanone can theinterpretthe
general phenomenon of law and its 'internalpoint of view' withoutsuch
commitment.But mostpositivists would denythatthisis impossible.
According to Roberts there is a thirdgrade of normativeinvolvement.
Here
a theory connects
explicitly withsomeformofmoraland politicalargumentation.
For a theoryof law,thismeansproviding a unifiedtheoryof lawthe normative
component ofwhichis 'embedded'ina moregeneralpoliticaland moralphiloso-
phy.Thisthirdgradeofnormative involvement
fora theory
isnowfartoo 'impure'
forpositivists
to tolerate,
sinceitmeansabandonment ofthestrict the-
separation
sis.55

It is farfromclear thatpositivists
are necessarilybarredfromthisthird
level of commitment. Althoughit is truethatmanypositivists, the present

53 In effect,thisis Dworkin'scriticismof Hart'smethodinjurisprudence.In insistingthat


legal theoryis necessarilyinterpretive,
and thereforepursued formthe point of viewof
an internalparticipantwho mustnecessarilyattemptto place the object of studyin its
bestmorallight,Dworkineffectively denies the possibility
of thisfirstgrade of normative
commitment.
54 PT, 90.
55 PT, 90.

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408 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

author included, explicitlyargue againstadopting thislevel of moral in-


volvementin defendinga theorylikepositivism, thereare manyotherswho
are happyto occupyitsground.Defendersof EthicalPositivismprovidean
obviousexample. And thereare thosewho attemptto argue forExclusive
Positivismon explicitlymoral grounds.Recall once again MacCormick's
moralisticcase foramorallaw.We woulddo wellhere to heed FiiBer'swarn-
ingabout theperilsofconfusingtheobject-leveland meta-levelclaimsofle-
The separationoflawand morality
gal positivists. called forbysome positiv-
istsat theobject-level(e.g. Exclusiveand EthicalPositivism)isverydifferent
fromthe separationof moral argumentsfromconceptual theoriesof law
called forat the meta-levelbysome positivists.
A main themeof thisreviewessayis thatconfusionabounds iftheorists
failto appreciatethe wide varietyof verydifferent thesesforwhichpositiv-
ismcan be takento stand,and theverydifferent kindsofargumentspositiv-
istsput forwardin defendingtheirtheories.One who seekssupportforthis
contentionwill find ample evidence in Stephen Guest's 'Two Strandsin
Hart's Theoryof Law: A Commenton thePostscriptto Hart's TheConcept of
Law.' Guest's analysisof Hart's Postscriptascribesto Hart viewswhichhe
neitherdid offer,would have offered,nor should have offered.A thorough
analysisoftheflawsin Guest'sanalysisrequiresmorespace thanthepresent
formatallows.I shall have to restcontentwitha discussionof one central
themein Guest's account: the supposed moral natureof Hart's theoryof
law.
Guest begins by observingpositivism'sappeal among law students.He
furtherobservesthat
thesestudentsunderstandthattheythinkof law,as an unanalysedmatteroffact,in
the wayHart describes.He saysthatwe naturallydrawa distinctionbetweenour
judgmentsof law and ourjudgmentsof morality, thisnaturalfactbeing discerned
bya close examinationofour linguisticpractices.His 'essayin descriptivesociology'
(so famouslyreferredto in thePrefaceto his TheConcept ofLaw) describes
thewaywe
talkabout law and, therefore,
the waywe both thinkand engage in the practicesof
law.56
But these students,Guest goes on to suggest,'also understandthat,inde-
pendentlyof the facttheythinkthatlaw and moralityare different in the
waylegal positivismsupposes, it is a good thingto thinkin thisway.'57Further-
more, it is Guest's contentionthat Hart shared this understandingwith
Guest'sstudents.DespitewhatHartasserts,hisessayin descriptivesociology
is in actualfacta thorough-going
Dworkinianinterpretation.The reasoning

56 PT p.29.
57 Ibid.

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THE MANYFACESOF LEGALPOSITIVISM 409

leading up to this startlingconclusion reveals the extent of Guest's misun-


derstanding of Hart and the positivisttraditionof which he was the most so-
phisticated defender.
Guest acknowledges the aim of some positiviststo remain at what is es-
sentially the firstor second level of Robert's grades of normative involve-
ment. In the view of these theorists,

... a theoryof law is about 'law' and anytheoryshould be an explanationat a suffi-


cientlyhighlevel (employingbreadthplus an economyof concepts) of whatthelaw
is.There are people who findthattheycan makethefirstleap - understandlawde-
scriptivelyas a normativeenterprise- but not understandtheorisingas a normative
enterprise.58

According to Guest, it is natural to read Hart in such a way. But '[i]f we leap
to Chapter 9' of The ConceptofLawwe see Hart acknowledging that '[p]lain-
lywe cannot grapple adequately withthisissue ifwe see it as one concerning
the proprieties of linguistic usage.'59
Hart clearlyoffersmore thana descriptiveaccount of the law ....For whathe must
be offering are moralviewswhichjustifyhisaccordingmoralpriority overotherpos-
sible conceptionsoflaw and thesejustifications
mustbemoralones.I am in no doubtthat
thisis whathe does ... first,
byopenlyinvestinghiscentralset ofelementsconstitut-
ing lawin termswithcharacteristicsshowingthemoralsuperiority ofa societywhich
has adopted a set of ruleswhichallowforprogress... forefficient handlingof dis-
putes ... and rulesthatcreatethe possibility
of publiclyascertainable- certain
- cri-
teriaof whatis to countas the law."o
Guest's final step is to link Hart's methodology with Dworkin's.
To cut a long storyshort:ifHart is talkingmorals,we can join the argumentfrom
morals ... It also means, I think,thathe has conceded thattheoriesof law are, in
Dworkin'sextremely wide sense, interpretive.61
The inferences contained withinthis line of reasoning are astonishing. Ifwe
are to accept Guest's account we must accept that Hart did the following:
(a) Inferred from the proposition that linguistic analysis is insufficientfor
legal theory that more than a descriptive account of the law is re-
quired;
(b) Inferred from the factthat more than a descriptive account is required
that one must defend a legal theoryby showing that it is morally supe-
rior to its rivals;

58 PT p.30.
59 Ibid.,quoting TheConcept
ofLaw,p.209.
60 Ibid.
61 Ibid.

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410 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

(c) Believedthatthewayto demonstratethathisconceptionoflawis mor-


ally superiorto its rivalsis to show the moral superiority of a society
which adopts Hart's fundamentalsecondaryrules of recognition,
change and adjudication;
(d) Offereda defenceof his wider,positivist concept of law whichin fact
transforms itintoa Dworkinian fortheimpositionof state
justification
coercion; and finally,
(e) That he did so despiteexplicitlysayingin the Postscriptthatthiswas
notwhathe was doing.
Let's look at each of thesein turn.In responseto (a), one need onlysay
thatHartwas notfoolishenough to believethattheonlykindofdescriptive
theoryone mightofferis one 'concerningthe proprietiesof linguisticus-
age.' As Hart has alwaysmade plain,his aim was to use linguisticanalysisas
one of many tools for developinga descriptive/explanatory, conceptual
theoryof law.That is why,forinstance,he repeatedlybalked at anysugges-
tionthathis theorybe viewedas a semantictheory.His theorywasintended
to be descriptivesociology, not descriptivelinguistics.
Regarding(b), it mustsurelybe noted thatthereare countlessalterna-
tivesto linguisticanalysisof legal terminology overand above theoriespur-
portingto establishthe 'moralpriority'of one conceptionoverthe other-
whateverthatcould possiblymean. There is thereforeno reasonat all to be-
lievethatHartsawhisrejectionoftheformeras a sufficient methodin legal
theoryas entailinga commitmentto the latter.
That havingbeen said,thereare some groundsforascribingto Hart- at
least in his earlydays- theviewthathis conceptionof lawcould be defend-
ed on moralgrounds.In 'Positivism and theSeparationofMorals,'Hart fol-
lowed Benthamin suggestingthatpositivism, in contrastwithnaturallaw
theory,allows us to avoid the extremesof anarchistor reactionarythink-
ing.62The formeramountsto 'mischievousnonsense'63whilethelatter'sti-
flescriticismat itsbirth.'64MacCormickechoes Benthamand Hartwhenhe
argues thatnaturallaw theoryenables statesand governments to 'manipu-
late the idea of law.' 'The argumentof last resorthere is an argumentfor
the finalsovereignty of conscience,and how bestto preserveit.'65
Such a defenceofpositivism, whichI haveelsewherecalled 'Bentham's
causal-moralargument',clearlyviolatesthe neutralrationale thesis.It is

62 See 'Positivismand the Separationof Law and Morals',supra n. 5.


63 JeremyBentham,'AnarchicalFallacies',in 2 TheCollectelWorks Bentham,
ofJeremy (Lon-
don: Bowringed. 1843).
64 'Positivismand the Separationof Law and Morals',supra n. 5.
65 MacCormick,'A MoralisticCase forAmoralisticLaw?', 20 ValparaisoLaw Review,no. 1
(1985), 10.

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THE MANYFACESOF LEGALPOSITIVISM 411

also invalid.But puttingthatparticularissue aside, it mustbe noted the


respectsin whichHart's defence of positivismchanges in his laterworks.
In The ConceptofLaw the argumentsin favourof positivismno longer in-
clude a causal-moralargumentin favourof a conceptual theory.66Nor,
contraryto Guest,do theyinclude the clearlyinvalidargumentthatposi-
tivismis superiorto naturallaw theorybecause it givesus rightanswersto
the moralquestionssurroundingRadbruch'sgrudgeinformer.Hart's aim
was not to defend positivismbyarguing'thatpositivismsettlesthe moral
issue of whata legal systemshould do witha grudgeinformerbetterthan
naturallaw.'67Ratherhis claim was thatpositivismfacilitatesclearer think-
ing about that issue. It reveals the complexityof the various moral and
practicalquestionsto whichthe issue givesrisebetterthan theorieswhich
attemptto paper themoverwithsloganslike 'an unjustlaw is not a law at
all'. Such slogans encourage the viewthatpunishingthe informerwould
simplybe an instanceof bringinga criminaltojustice. As Hart saysin a
passage cited byGuest as evidence of Guest's (skewed) interpretation,'A
Concept of law whichallowsthe invalidity of law to be distinguishedfrom
its immoralityenables us to see the complexityand varietyof these sepa-
rate issues;whereasa narrowconcept of law whichdenies legal validityto
such rules may blind us to them.'68Deontic logic helps clarifycomplex
moralquestions;itis notforthatreason a moraltheorywhichtellsus what
to do. Likewise,commendinga legal theorybecause ithelps clarifyand re-
veal the complexityof certainmoralquestionsis decidedlydifferent from
commendinga theorybecause it somehowprovidesus withthe rightan-
swers.
Proposition (c) calls fora numberof responses.First,Hart's observa-
tions about the 'defects' of uncertainty,inefficiency, and immunityto
change inherentin pre-legalsocieties are byno means intended to show
the 'moral superiority'of legal over pre-legalsocieties. As Hart makes
abundantlyclear on countless occasions, cures for these defectsare of-
ten purchased at a heavymoral cost. These are costswhich it mightwell
be prudentfora societynot to pay. In anyevent,thereis a second point
to be made here. The defectsoutlined by Hart are not obviouslymoral
defects,and so their alleviation need not be viewed as an instance of
moral progress.Finally,Guest has here clearlydemonstratedthe perils

66 In a privatecommunication,Hart acknowledgedthat'Positivismand the Separationof


Law and Morals' contained a causal-moralargumentfor positivism.He also acknowl-
edged thathe came to see the invalidity
of attemptingto defenda descriptive/explana-
tory,conceptualtheoryon such moralgrounds.
67 PT, 36.
68 PT 38, citingTheConceptofLaz~ 208.

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OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL
412 UNIVERSITY

of ignoring the distinctionbetween object-leveland meta-levelclaims.


Let us assume, for the sake of argument,that Hart meant to argue for
the moral superiorityof legal societies in which one findsfundamental
rules of recognition,change, and adjudication. Let us furtherassume
thatHart's argumentsare persuasive.It in no wayfollowsfromthe moral
superiorityof such a societythatHart's descriptive/explanatory theory is
in some waymorallysuperior to natural law theories. There is also no
reason at all to believe thatHart thoughtit did. And withouta verygood
reason to ascribe such a fallacyto Hart, the principleof charitydemands
thatwe not saddle him withsuch a view.
This leavesus with(d) and (e). As Guesthimselfacknowledges,Hartex-
plicitlyrejectsthesuggestionthathis descriptive/explanatory theoryof law
is a Dworkinianinterpretive theoryoflaw.He further rejectsthesuggestion
thatDworkinianinterpretation is theonlyformwhichlegal theorycan take.
The same is trueof thesuggestionthatthisis theonlyvaluableformoflegal
theory.Hart explicitlysaysthathis theoryis descriptive,explanatory,and
conceptual,and he explicitlyembracesthe neutraldescriptionthesis.He
does so whilerecognizingthatevaluative(but notnecessarilymoral) factors
can playa role in descriptivetheorieswhichremainneutralin the relevant
sense. In lightof theabove observationsof Guest'smistakes,we have ample
reason to takeHart at hisword.

IV TheAutonomy
ofLaw

TheAutonomy ofLaw is a collectionof essaysbylegal philosopherson a wide


range of topicsall havingto do, in one wayor other,withthe natureand
plausibilityof legal positivism.For the mostpart the essaysin thisvolume
are considerablyricherand moresophisticatedphilosophicallythanthe ar-
ticlescontainedin Positivism Today.And unlikethelatter,whose articlesare
almostexclusively criticalofpositivism,TheAutonomy ofLaw containsseveral
articleswhichdefendthe theory.Some authorsattemptto correctmiscon-
ceptionsconcerningthenatureand theoreticalcommitments ofpositivism,
whileothersaim to develop new,sophisticatedversionsof positivism.The
criticalarticlespursue threebasic themes:thatpositivismis hopelesslycon-
fusedand/or misguided;thatit is trivial;and thatitscentralclaims are in
factfullycompatiblewithnaturallaw theory.
KentGreenawalt's'Too Thin and Too Rich: DistinguishingFeaturesof
Legal Positivism'combinesmanyof the themesmentionedin the preced-
ing paragraph.The classicdebate betweenpositivismand naturallaw has,
in Greenawalt'sview,become trivial.In responseto criticismsof theirview,
modern positivists have developed elaborate theorieswhose richnessand
depth have been purchasedat a substantialcost. '[W] hat actuallydividesa

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 413

plausible modern legal positivismfromplausible competingviewshas be-


come too thinto have greatimportance.'69Both positivists and theirrivals
agree thatunjustlawscan neverthelessbe validlaw;thatsomethingofmor-
al value is to be foundin everylegal system, whetherit be Hart's minimum
moral content,Fuller's internal'morality',or the virtuesassociated with
the rule of law; thatmoralitydoes figurein legal decisions,even in whatwe
have been calling determinationsof law; and thatmoral criteriaforlegal
validityare both conceptuallypossible and existentwithinmodern legal
systems.With respect to this last claim, Greenawalt observes that
'[a]lthough some positivists [theExclusivePositivists]
mayclingto theidea
thatmoraljudgmentis separatefromlegal criteria,mostpositivists do not
denyeitherthatthe twomayintertwine or thatthispossibility
is realized in
modern legal systems.'70 In otherwords,mostmodernpositivists embrace
the conceptual and descriptiveversionsof InclusivePositivism.Given this
convergencein viewsbetweenpositivists and theirrivals,and the factthat
criticsof positivismoftenutilizecaricatureswhichignore the richnessof
modern positivism, it is Greenawalt'sbeliefthat'perhapswe could reduce
the confusionsand misconceptionsthatattachto thatlabel and see more
clearlysubstantialissues about law and about courtsthatinterpretlaw' if
we did awaywiththe theoryaltogether.We may'do betterto discussissues
on theirown,not relyingso much on labels thatnow mislead and irritate
more than theyclarify.'71
Despite theabove,Greenawaltgoes on to displaya sympathetic appreci-
ation forwhatis in factdistinctive about positivism.At the heartof positiv-
ism is the propositionthat law is determinedby 'social facts.'Positivists
agree that these social factscould be factsabout the community'smoral
convictions(itspositivemorality)and thatas a matterof social fact,moral
factorsoftendo figurein legal decisionswhichare discretionary and there-
forelaw-creating. Exceptforthosewho defenditsexclusivevariety, defend-
ers of positivismeven agree thatfromthe point of viewof an externalob-
serveror outsider (i.e. fromHart's externalpoint of view) we can offer
descriptionsofthelawwhichare based on our ownfactualbeliefsabout the
moral beliefsof the system'sparticipants(i.e. thosewho have Hart's inter-
nal point of view) and our beliefsabout how theyare likelyto apply their
system'ssubstantivemoral criteriaof legal validity.But it is Greenawalt's
viewthatthe moralfactorswhichparticipantsuse in determinationsof law
are not alwaysreducible to social factswhich the externalobservercan
recordin his externaldescriptionof law.

69 AofL,1.
70 AofL,17.
71 AofL,24.

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414 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

[P]artofthelawis thetechniques ofinterpretation judgesusetodecidemorecon-


cretelegalissues.Everyjudge hasat leastslightlydifferenttechniquesofinterpreta-
tionfromeveryother... The techniques eachjudge usesto interpret willinclude
elements thatdo notreston agreement, authoritative statement,oranyothersocial
facts... [A]s importantas conventionaland other'socialfact'aspectsmaybe, the
lawis notwholly reducible tosocialfacts... lawis notseparablefrommorality.72
Greenawalt'saccountofthediversity and richnessofpositivistviews,and his
attemptto articulatewhatitis thatunifiesthem,are bothclear and enlight-
ening. His analysishelps positivistswardoffcertainstraw-man attacksrest-
ing on caricatures.And he has leftitsproponentswitha seriouschallenge.
It is notenough to saythattheidentification ofvalidlawsrestson something
likean agreed,social ruleofrecognitionand thatlawis,in thatsense,a mat-
terof social factswhichcan be describedwithoutviolatingthe NeutralRa-
tionaleand NeutralDescriptiontheses.73 Ifthereare no agreed methodsor
conventionsbywhichdeterminations ofthemoralcontentofsome of these
lawscan be distinguishedfromdiscretionary appeals to morality,then the
positivist mustaccept 'the truththatwithinsystems of lawsome officialstyp
icallydecide whatthe law is on the bases thatreach beyondsocial facts.'74
The challenge for the positivistis to develop a theoryof interpretation
whichacknowledgestheseaspectsofjudicialreasoningwhilepreservingthe
positivistinsightthat,in the end, the existenceand content of lawsis heavily
dependent on social facts.
R. George Wright,in 'Does PositivismMatter?',also pursues the line
thatpositivismis trivial.'[T] he debate overlegal positivismturnsout not to
be distinctly related,logicallyor in any otherinteresting way,to much of
genuine philosophicalor practicalsignificance... [itis] to a surprisingde-
gree ... jurisprudentially and practicallymarginal,isolated,inconsequen-
tial, and sterile.'75In supportof this troublingconclusion,Wrightdocu-
mentsthe lack of any 'interesting'relationshipsbetweenlegal positivism
and questionssuch as whetherthereis a generalprimafacieobligationto
obey the law;whethercivildisobedience is everjustifiedmorally;whether
judges should apply seriouslyimmorallaws; whetherthere can be evil,

72 AofL,22, 23 & 24.


73 In an earlier piece, Greenawaltseriouslychallenged this aspect of positivistjurispru-
dence byarguingthatthereis no identifiablerule of recognitionin the Americanlegal
system.The existence of validlawsin the UnitedStatesis thereforenot reducibleto social
facts.See his 'The Rule of Recognitionand the Constitution',85 MichiganLaw Review
(1987), 621. The presentpiece furthers thisline ofattackbysuggestingthatthereare no
identifiablesocial rulesof interpretation
in termsofwhichthe content of theserulescan be
determined.
74 AofL, 24.
75 AoJL,57.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITVISM 415

thoughvalid, laws; and whetherethical principlesare 'objective'. On all


these importantquestionslegal positivists divide,some agreeingwithan-
swersprovidedbysome naturallawyers,and some not. Of particularinter-
esttoWrightis thelatterquestion:theobjectivity ofmorals.Wrightbelieves
thatthereis a 'superficialanalogybetweenthedebate overlegal positivism
and over the relationshipbetween 'is' and 'ought' but that this 'hardly
guarantees that the two debates will be equally consequential.'76I must
confessI failto see whya positivistwouldwantto drawan analogybetween
Hume's distinctionand legal positivism,but Wrightthinkshe should. In
any event,Wrightdoes come to the rightconclusionon this:anydefence
oflegal positivism whichdrawssupportfromthissupposed analogyiswhol-
lyinconsequentialbecause, as Wrightobserves,'legal positivismis compat-
ible witha wide rangeof meta-ethicalviews.'77
Wrightis correctto observethelack of directconnectionbetweenpos-
itivismand the moral and meta-ethicalquestionshe outlines.That one is
a positivistdoes not in itselfmean that one has ready made answersto
them.Whether,as a result,positivismis trivialand of no consequence, de-
pends, however,on one's aim in articulatinga philosophicaltheoryabout
law. If one's aim is to defenda versionof ethicalpositivism,according to
which determinationsof law ought never to depend on moral factors,
then one's theoryhas tremendouspracticalinterest.It supportsthe crea-
tion of a particularkind of legal systemwithparticularkindsof laws. But
ethicalpositivismis not Wright'starget.The targetis positivismin itscon-
ceptual and descriptiveforms.Yet even here one must take issue with
Wright'sutterdismissalof positivismas of no interestor value. Manywho
defend theirconceptual or definitionalversionsof positivismon moral
groundsquite obviouslybelieve thatthereis much at stakein the sound-
ness of theirtheoreticalaccounts.Whetheror notwe agree withthevalid-
ityof his approach to legal theory,it remainstrue,afterall, thatBentham
believed thatnaturallaw doctrineleads to anarchismand thatpositivism
supportsrecognitionof the propositionthatwe mightsometimesbe mor-
allyobligated to obey lawswithwhichwe morallydisagree. Hart,who did
not share Bentham'salarmism,neverthelessthoughtthathis positivistac-
count facilitatesclear understandingof Wright'squestions,even though
he would be the firstto admit that the account provides no answersto
them.
The above pointsall concernwhatWrightwouldcall the'practical'value
of positivism.But it is importantto recognizethattriviality
is a functionof
the particularinterestsof the audience to whichone's account is directed.

76 AofL,68.
77 Ibid.

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OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL
416 UNIVERSITY

In the presentcase, the audience need not be judges who are puzzled over
how theyshould respondto an immorallawor an act of civildisobedience,
or citizenswhowantto knowwhethertheyshouldaccept a moralobligation
to obey thelawsoftheirownparticularlegal system.The audience could be
otherphilosophersand theoristswhose puzzlementlies in the verynature
of law,legal systemsand legal reasoning.That a philosophicaltheoryabout
the natureof law does not entailanswersto specific,practicalmoral ques-
tionsneed in no waydetractfromitsphilosophicalsignificanceforsuch an
audience. A theorywhichattemptsto enrichour understandingof law by
revealingand systematizing our theoreticaland conceptualcommitments
concerning law and itsrelationshipto morality, forceand so on, can be of
greatphilosophical interest to such an audience. To suppose otherwisewould
be on a par withrejectingquantummechanicsbecause itfailsto tellour lo-
cal mechanic,Tony,how bestto fixour carburettor, or rejectingthe value
ofAristotle'smetaphysics because itfailsto informus about the differences
betweenapples and bananas. Philosophicalenlightenment is worthyin its
own right,as wellas fortheclarityit can provideforthosepuzzled bymoral
questions.That a theorywhichclarifiesquestionsfailsto answertheseques-
tionsis no reason to rejectthe theoryas trivial.
Manywho claimthatpositivism is lackingin theoreticaland practicalim-
portance share Greenawalt's belief thatthereis little,ifanything, whichdis-
tinguishes modern positivism from natural law theory. Those attractedby
thisline ofargumentwillfindsupportin RobertGeorge's 'NaturalLaw and
PositiveLaw' andJohnFinnis''The Truthin Legal Positivism.'Bothwriters
are concernedto stressthat'lawis a culturalobjectthatis createdfora mor-
al purpose.'78Bothagree withtheExclusivePositivist Raz that"'The identi-
ficationof the existenceand contentof law does not requireresortto any
moralargument."'79 Furthermore, bothagreewiththecentralclaimsofeth-
ical positivismthat:
constitution-makers havea moralresponsibilitytoestablishsourcesoflawwhichcan
be identified
without resorttomoralargument, andjudgesandothersubjectshave
a moralresponsibility to defer(withinlimits)to suchsources.Whenthesources
yieldno determinate solutionall concerned havetheresponsibility ofsupplement-
ingthesourcestofillthegapbya choiceguidedbystandards offairnessand other
morally trueprinciples and norms, wherepossiblebystandards whichalreadyhave
currency inthecommunity andlendmoralforcetothosepartsofpositive lawwhich
aremorally acceptable.80

78 AoJL,
330.
79 Finnis,AofL,204 quotingRaz 'The Purityof the Pure Theory',in RichardTur and Wil-
liam Twining(eds.), EssaysonKelsen(Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press,1986), 81-2.
80 Finnis,AofL,204-5.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 417

But whatabout lawswhichactuallydo providea determinatesolution,but


appear to violate the naturallaw? Surelythese are invalidand judges are
free,indeed obligated,by naturallaw to disregardthem entirely.Not so.
Consider thefollowingobservationsmade byGeorge:
To theextentthatjudgesare notgivenpowerundertheConstitution to translate
principlesofnaturaljusticeintopositivelaw,thatpoweris notone theyenjoy;nor
isitone theymayjustlyexercise. Forjudgestoarrogate
suchpowertothemselves in
defianceoftheConstitution isnotmerely forthemtoexceedtheirauthority under
thepositivelaw;itis to violatetheverynaturallawinwhosenametheypurport to
act.81
On theseaccountsof naturallaw theory,thereis farless dividingpositivism
fromits traditionalrivalthan one mightinitiallyhave thought.Neither
George nor Finnisaccepts that'an unjustlaw is no law at all'. Neitherac-
cepts thatunjustlawsmay,in virtueof theirinjustice,be disobeyedor not
applied byjudges. And neitheraccepts thatdeterminations of law can de-
pend on moral factorsotherthan those recognized in conventional rulesof
recognition and So
interpretation. what is left?
What does distinguishposi-
tivismfromtheso-callednaturallawtheoriesofFinnisand George?The an-
swer,I believe,can be foundin thefollowingobservation:
Thoughhumanlawisartefact andartifice,
andnota conclusion frommoralpremis-
es,bothitspositing
andtherecognitionofitspositivity cit-
(byjudges,professionals,
izens,andthencebydescriptive
andcritical
scholars)cannotbe understood without
referencetothemoralprinciples
thatgroundandconfirm itsauthority
orchallenge
itspretention.82
In otherwords,the distinctionseems to lie in the modernnaturallawyer's
rejectionof thepositivist's NeutralDescriptionThesis.Accordingto Finnis,
one cannot understand law independentlyof the moral principleswhich
ground and confirmitsmoral authority. A morallypurposivepracticelike
lawcannotbe understood,and hence properlydescribed,withoutseeing it
as conceptuallylinkedto thepursuitofmorallyvaluablepurposes.Law may
not alwayssucceed in achievingitsmorallyvaluablepurposes,but one can-
not understandit withoutconceivingof it as somethingwhichnecessarily
attemptsto do so. Ifthisis correct,one's attemptto describelawis inevitably
infusedwithits moral evaluation.Of course,one who sees the pursuitof
morallyvaluable proposes as partof our veryconceptionof law can go on
consistently to add thatthe achievementof such purposesrequiresthe ex-
istenceof a systemmodelled on Raz's ExclusivePositivism. His pointwould

81 AofL,332.
82 Finnis,AofL,205.

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OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL
418 UNIVERSITY

remain,however,thatone cannotunderstanda systemmodelled in thisway


withoutunderstandingit as a requirementof the naturallaw.
Understoodin some such a wayas this,the classicdisputebetweennat-
ural lawyersand positivists does not concern the contentand structureof
actual legal systems,or the obligationswe have under law. Neitherdoes it
concernthepossibility thatlawnecessarily has moralvalue. BothFinnisand
MacCormickbelievethatlaw necessarilydoes have some moralvalue. Mac-
Cormicksuggeststhat'the stateofaffairsbroughtabout bytheexistenceof
institutional and authoritative law is one whichmaywell be judged to have
value froma moralpointofview.I judge itso myself, as maybe obvious.'83
What dividesMacCormickand Finnisis not whetherlaw,forsome reason,
necessarilyhas some moralvalue. Rather,whatdividesthemis the possibil-
ityof conceivingof law independentlyof itssupposed moral purposes or
any moral values it necessarilyinstantiates. According'tomost (if not all)
positivistsone can so conceive law; hence the neutraldescriptionthesis;
hence thepossibility ofa wickedlegal system.Once thedescriptiveand con-
ceptualversionsofInclusivePositivism are recognizedas consistentwiththe
positivisttradition,and once the correspondingversionsof ExclusivePosi-
tivismare seen to be consistentwithmodernnaturallaw theories,one gets
a clearerpictureofwhereinlies themoderncontroversy. Whetherthatcon-
troversy is thereforetrivialdepends on one's viewsabout thevalue of philo-
sophical enlightenmentforits own sake, and forthe sake of the clarityof
thoughtitcan bringto the resolutionofthedifficult moralquestionsposed
by the existenceof law. From myown pointof view,I findthesequestions
fascinating. But thenI like hamburgerstoo.
One of themostvaluablearticlesin TheAutonomy ofLaw is Klaus FiiBer's
carefullycrafted'Farewellto "Legal Positivism": The SeparationThesis Un-
ravelling.'Among FilBer'sachievementsis his clear demonstrationof the
manydifferent thingspeople mean when theyspeak of the positivist's'sep-
arationthesis'.As we noted above, thereis oftenconfusionbetweenclaims
about laws,on theone hand,and claimsabout thecriteriafordefinitionsor
theoreticalaccountsof law,on the other.The formerinclude object level
claimslike the 'Fallibility
Thesis,' that'law does not necessarilyhave (posi-
tive) moralvalue,' whilethe latterinclude meta-levelclaimslike the 'Neu-
tralRationaleThesis,'that'the rationaleforthedefinitionofbasicjuridical
expressionsshould be morality-free.'84
Drawingattentionto theprofoundconfusionsevidentin debates about
legal positivismis onlyone ofFfiBer'saccomplishments. He also showshow
debatesin legal theoryoftenignoretheverydifferent approachesa theorist

83 AoJL,
182.
84 AoJL,
122& 134.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 419

mighttaketo thestudyoflaw.Depending on whethera theorist'sapproach


is 'epistemological,''sociological,' 'normative,''hermeneutical,'or some-
thingelse entirely, or whetherone is a conventionalist or essentialist(FiiBer
is the latter)concerningthe natureand analysisof conceptslike 'law,' one
willviewcertaintypesof argumentand certaincriteriaof theoreticalade-
quacy as eithervalid or misguided.In Fii3er'sview,debates betweenmod-
ern positivists and anti-positivists
oftenreduce to differences overwhathe
calls 'criteriaforadequate conceptformation.'85
FiBer notes the tendencyof some positiviststo defend positivismon
moralgrounds.We have alreadynoted the causal-moralargumentsof posi-
tivists like MacCormick,Bentham,and possiblyearlyHart. On thiskind of
argument,it maybe recalled,(conceptualor descriptiveversionsof) natu-
ral law theoryare rejectedbecause theysupposedlylead to anarchistor re-
actionarythinking.86 Recall MacCormick'sargumentthatnaturallaw theo-
ryenables statesand governments to 'manipulatethe idea of law' and that
the 'argumentof lastresorthere is an argumentforthefinalsovereignty of
conscience,and howbestto preserveit.'87Positivists who pursuethisline of
argumentdo not suggestthattheiropponent's theoriesprovidevalid theo-
reticalsupportfor anarchismor reactionarytheory.In other words,the
claim is not thatthese theoriesin some wayfollowfromnaturallaw theory
and are in some wayfalsifiedbypositivism. Ratherthe claim is thatnatural
law thinkingwillcausallylead people to anarchistor reactionarythinking
and behaviour.Positivism, by contrast,is thoughtto encourage a healthy
middleground:a waryacceptanceoflaw'sauthority. A crucialpointhere is
thatthesupposed causal effects ofpositivism and naturallawtheorydepend
on theconceptualmistakesofthepeople who buyintothetheories.Neither
thetheoreticaladequacyofthetheories,nor thetheoreticalacceptability of
their implicationsare in question when these argumentsare mounted.
Rather,we are being asked to rejecta philosophicaltheorybecause people
mightbe led to screwup in applyingit. This is not an acceptable basis for
rejectinga philosophicaltheory,unless theaim is to provideaction-guides,
as one mightdo in developinga model penal code or a professionalcode
ofethics.But thisis not theaim ofpositivists, or ofnaturallawtheorists. And
so we are leftwiththefollowingquestion:
... whyshoulda theorist be responsibleforthemistaken conclusionswhichcol-
leagues and otherpeople tend todraw from thetheorist's
own stipulations,provid-
ed thetheorist hastakenenoughpainstoprevent themfromdoingso?In thefield
ofscholarly endeavour, a validmoralprinciplemight be thatweshouldavoidwhat

85 AofL, 146.
86 For an argumentthattheyin factdo not,see Inclusive 95-8.
LegalPositivism,
87 MacCormick,'A MoralisticCase forAmoralisticLaw?',supra n. 65, 10.

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420 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

can be called'negligently definitions.'88


persuasive ButI thinkitis evidentthatsci-
entific
discourse wouldbreakdownifone accepteda ruleofstrict here.89
liability
FiiBer'squestionis applied to stipulativedefinitionsof law.But it can easily
be extended to conceptual versionsof Inclusiveand ExclusivePositivism
and theirtraditionalrival,naturallaw theory.
In 'Positivismas Pariah',FredSchaueralso considersthenature,and the
theoreticaland practicalvalue, of positivism.Schauer's sympathetictreat-
mentof positivismcontainsa numberofinsightswhichthoseconcerned to
attackpositivismas an amoral,immoralor trivialdoctrinewould do well to
considerseriously.Schauer'sexpressedaim is to addresstheview'nowwide-
lyheld byAmericanlegal academics,thatlegalpositivism is eitherthe cause
of or the appropriatename forthe overwillingness of legal officialsto sus-
pend moraljudgmentsand thusto applyand enforcebad laws (or to apply
and enforcelawsbadly)just because theyare the law.'90In Schauer's view,
'only a distortedversionof legal positivismwithscant historicalor philo-
sophical provenance fitsthe current American caricature ...'91 '[T] he rela-
tionship between this conception of positivismand the positivismof
Bentham,Austin,Kelsen, Hart,and Raz is not much closer than the rela-
tionshipbetweenthe banksin whichwe depositour moneyand the banks
thatlie beside our rivers.'92
Furthermore,'legal positivismas traditionally
understoodis bestseen not as a cause of theproblemof excesscompliance
but as a potentialsolutionto it.'93
In defendingtheseconclusions,Schauer showsa keen awarenessof the
richnessof thepositivisttradition.He notes,forexample,thedifference be-
tweentheconceptualand descriptive versionsofpositivism,
as wellas thedif-
ferencebetweenthe Inclusiveand Exclusiveformsof the theory.Schauer
sees meritin theconceptualversionofInclusivePositivism and setsout to de-
fenditbydevelopingwhatappearsto be a hypothetical versionof thecausal-
moralargumentassociatedwithHart,Benthamand MacCormick.It is hypo-
theticalbecause itscentralclaimis thatifoneweresceptical,or wishedto re-
main neutral,about themoralvalue of existinglegal institutions,
and thusifone wantedthemaximum amountofmoraldistance fromexisting
social
institutions,
includingbutnotlimitedtolaw,thenonewouldwanttoassurethatthe
tolocatethoseinstitutions,
ability forthepurposeofapplying
precisely somesceptical

88 FiiBerclaims to have drawnthisphrase (loosely) fromStevenson'sEthicsand Language


(New Haven: 1944), 210.
89 AofL,140.
90 AofL,32.
91 AofL,32.
92 AofL,44-5.
93 Ibid.

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THE MANYFACESOF LEGALPOSITIVISM421

acidtothem,wasnottainted
bytheendorsement
thatscepticism
strains
toavoid.In
otherwords,ifone werea sceptic,thenone wouldwantto be a positivist.94
Schauer is fullyawareofthemoralnatureofthisargument.He fullyaccepts
'the propositionthatthe definitionof law is a matterof choice ratherthan
discovery, and thatmoralfactorsloom large in makingthatchoice.95'I am
actuallyattemptingto arguesubstantively and notjustlinguistically thatitis
morallyvaluable to recognizethe distinctionbetweenthe is and the ought
thatlies at the heartof thepositivist tradition.'96
Thusthemoralquestionisnotoneaboutthemorality ofa definition,perse,butrath-
er aboutthemoralconsequencesofa societyhavingthisratherthanthatunder-
standingof some social phenomenon, presupposing that,as is oftenthe case,
different of
understandingcomplex socialphenomenamayinfluence a widerange
ofquiteconsequential decisionsabouthowsomesocialinstitution willoperateand
develop.Justas itprobably makesa differencewhether wedefine (andtherefore un-
derstand) alcoholismas a oras a moralflaw,
disease orwhether wedefinesexuality
as a preference
oras an orientation,
so toomight itmakea genuinemoralandsocial
differencewhether we define(and therefore understand) theinstitution oflawin
onewayratherthananother.97
I fullyagreewithSchauerthattheadoptionofa theoryoflawcan havesignif-
icantpracticalconsequences.These are in additionto thepurelytheoretical
interestof the theoristin developinga philosophicallyenlighteningtheory.
For instance,ifajudge wereto acceptExclusivePositivism, thenhe mightbe
led, to interpreta document like the Canadian Charterof Rightsand
Freedoms,or thedue processclause of theAmericanConstitution, in a par-
ticularway.He mightbe led to some versionof originalismbecause of his
(mistaken)beliefsthatdeterminations oflawcan neverhingeon moralques-
tionsand thatdiscoveringthe intentionsof long-deadlegislatorsis a purely
factual,non-moralmatter.But,once again,theimportantconsequencesofa
theory'sadoption should not be confusedwithan argumentin itsfavour.
That thereare significant consequencesattachedto the answerwe giveis a
reason to getit right,not a reason to accept one answeroveranother.That
weviewalcoholismas a diseaseor moralflawcan,as Schauerpointsout,have
significantsocialconsequences.Thisshouldlead us tosearchcarefully forthe
natureand causesofalcoholism,because a good deal can depend on our un-
derstanding ofthematter.Butwhatgood woulditbe to 'define'or 'conceive'
ofalcoholismas a moralflawifin factitwasverylargelya matterofbiology?

94 AofL.,46.
95 AofL,34.
96 AofL,45.
97 34.
AoJfL,

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422 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

Neil MacCormick's'The Conceptof Law and TheConcept ofLaw' is a re-


visedversionofhisHartLecture,deliveredin OxfordUniversity on May11,
1993. It 'commemoratesa greatjurist and philosopher'.98MacCormick's
lecture highlightssome of the key elementsof Hart's analyticjurispru-
dence, elementswhichrevolutionizedthefieldof legal philosophyand set
thestagefordecades offruitful debate about thenatureof law.In MacCor-
mick'sview,the startingpointfordiscussionof Hart's monumentalcontri-
butions to analyticjurisprudence'has to be in one of the focal ideas of
Hart's legal positivism, thatof the conceptualdistinctionbetweenlaw and
morality.'99 In his typically clear,systematic and engagingmanner,MacCor-
mickoutlinesthreesalientpointsof thisdistinction.He begins by noting
thatlaw is institutional, authoritative, and heteronomous.'The law speaks
through institutional agencies', and these agenciesspeak withan authority
which'enables themto settledeterminaterulesforpracticalhuman guid-
ance.' Their authority is 'establishedwithina systematic hierarchy'and 'en-
ables themto settledeterminaterulesforpracticalhumanguidance.' In the
spiritof Hart's doctrineof the minimumcontentof naturallaw, MacCor-
mickgoes on to add that:
It isimportant to humansto havesomewayofdoingthis,fortheyhavetoshareso-
cialspaceandmustco-ordinate theiractivities
andachievemutual forbearances and
setup reliableframeworks forsomesortsofinterpersonal co-operation. The very
features thatsetup contrasts between itandmorality arevitalfeatures totheseends.
Butthesefeatures do entailthat,inmatters oflaw,eachindividual is nota finalau-
thority coequalwithevery other.Thatis,lawisheteronomous.?00
With the institutional, authoritativeand heteronomouscharacterof law,
MacCormickcontrasts'the personal and controversial, discursiveand the
autonomouscharacteressentialto morality.'101
... lawisauthoritativewheremorality iscontroversialandpersonal;lawisauthorita-
tive,settling
questions byactsofauthority, wheremorality isdiscursive, alwaysopen
to freshargument on equal termsbyan interested participantin thediscourse; fi-
nallylawisheteronomous, binding usfrom without,wheremorality isautonomous,
bindingus byourownreflective judgment andwill.102
MacCormick claims that the conceptual distinctionhe outlines is be-
tween law and 'autonomous morality'.Professionalethics,such as one

98 AofL,163.
99 AofL,163.
100 AofL,170. For Hart'sdoctrineof the minimumcontentof naturallaw,see The
Concept
of
Law ch. 9.
101 AofL,164.
102 Ibid.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 423

findsarticulatedin a corporationscode of ethicalconduct is, like law,in-


stitutional,authoritativeand heteronomous.
Having thusdistinguishedthe core elementsof Hart's conceptual ver-
sion of theseparationthesis,MacCormickgoes on to discussthemeritsand
shortfalls ofHart's accountof them.Concerningthe institutional aspect of
law, MacCormickendorses the view of Sartorius,Raz, and Schauer that
Hart's analysisof rules mustbe modifiedin wayswhich Hart himselfac-
knowledgedin Essayson Bentham and EssaysinJurisprudence and Philosophy.
Here rules are representednot as patternsof behaviourtowardswhichin-
dividualsshare an internalpointofviewbut ratheras 'peremptoryreasons
foraction.'103As forthe heteronomouscharacterof law,Hart's keynotion
of 'acceptance also needs to be reviewed.'104 It needs to be replaced witha
much richeraccount than can be generatedfromthe simple, relatively
unanalyzednotion of acceptancefromthe internalpoint of view.An indi-
vidual's 'stance towardslaw containsat leastthreeelements.'"05These are:
first,theextentto whichtheindividualendorsesthecontentof a particular
law,saya lawagainstmurder;second,theextentto whichtheindividualac-
cepts its enactmentbyan authorityas constituting a reason foraccepting
the law as binding,apartfromanyquestionas to itscontent;and third,the
extent to which the individualendorses the application of sanctionsfor
breachesof the rule.Withinthesethreedimensionsa rangeof different at-
titudesof acceptance are possible.
MacCormick'sstrongestcriticismof Hart's theoryconcernshis account
of the authoritative natureof legal systems.
The authoritative natureof law
is established,accordingto Hart, by the union of primaryand secondary
rules. More specifically, it is broughtabout by the union betweenprimary
rulesof obligationand fundamentalrulesofrecognition,change and adju-
dicationwhichbringintoexistencethestructures ofauthoritative lawschar-
acteristicof modernlegal systems. The mostimportantrule,forHart's pur-
poses, is the rule of recognition.'A legal systemis ... representedto be a
rule of recognitionand thewhole structuredsetof primaryand secondary
rulesthatare validbyitscriteriaof recognition.'"06
MacCormickexpressesserious doubts about the rule of recognition,
Hart's mostfamoustheoreticalconstruct.He is impressedby the workof
Greenawaltand thelateFrankDowrickin having'shownhownear-impossi-
ble itis to assembleand rankunequivocalcriteriaofvalidityor unitaryrules

103 See Hart,Essayson Bentham: and PoliticalTheory


Jurisprudence (Oxford:Clarendon Press,
1982) and EssaysinJurisprudence
and Philosophy(Oxford:ClarendonPress,1983).
104 AofL,164.
105 Ibid.
106 AofL,
179.

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424 UNIVERSITYOF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

of recognitionforsuch salientinstancesof legal systemsas the law of the


United StatesofAmericaor thatof theEuropean Union.'107There are also
'problemsof individuation'.How manyrulesdoes it take to create a set of
judicial and legislativeinstitutions,
and whatrole willbe played by Hart's
secondaryrulesof change and adjudication?These 'mustexhibitbewilder-
ingmultiplicityor bewilderingcomplexity,
or both,leaveaside theproblem
of separatingthemofffromthe rule of recognition.'108 To this,MacCor-
mickadds:
Whenone examines thefoundational instrumentsofstatesandtrans-statal
commu-
one seesa striking
nities, fact.Aboveall,theyareconcerned toestablish
andformal-
lyempowermaininstitutions
of centralgovernment... Such instruments
falla long
wayshortof layingdowncompleteor comprehensive criteriaof validity
forthe
wholeensembleofthelegalsystem. Andyettheyareextensiveand complexinstru-
ments,noteasilyconceptualized
as amountinginanycasetoa single"ruleofrecog-
nition".109
If these foundationalinstruments
cannot be conceived as a single rule of
recognition,thenwhatmustwe suppose is goingon whentheyare adopted
and followed?
The answerseemstometobe thattheremustbe an ongoingcustomor practiceof
treatingthefoundationalauthorizations as an in-some-waycoherentorderofvalida-
tionoflegal acts,and hence ofpracticesofrecognitionofotherlegal sourcestreated
as bindingby dulyauthorizedinstitutions, especiallycourtsof law ... Not recogni-
tion,but the competenceto determinelaweitherlegislatively orjudicially,is funda-
mentalto a constitutionallegal order.110
I mustconfessthatI failto followthethrustofMacCormick'scritique
of Hart'sruleof recognition. If hisaim is to followthelead of Greena-
walt and Dowrick in rejectingtheplausibility oftherebeinga singlerule
ofrecognition operativein modern legalsystems, particularly
systemsof
a federalnature,thenwe maygranthispoint.Buthispointis morethan
this.It is thatthefoundational rulesofrecognition mustbe replacedby
rulesofauthorization. The foundational rulesarenot,as Hartthought,
rules of recognition whichset criteriaforvalid laws. Rathertheyare
rulesofauthorization whichcreateauthoritative individualsand bodies

107 AofL,180. Greenawalt'sargumentis foundin 'The Rule of Recognitionand the Consti-


supran. 73;and 'Hart'sRuleofRecognition
tution', and theU.S.',RatioJuris1 (1988)
40. Dowrick's appearedin 'A ModeloftheEuropeanCommunities'
critique LegalSys-
tem',Y.B. Eur.L. 3 (1983), 169-237.
108 AofL,180.
109 AofL,180-1.
110 AofL,181.

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THE MANYFACESOF LEGALPOSITIVISM425

of individuals and empower them to make laws. 'Not recognition,but


the competence to determinelaw eitherlegislativelyorjudicially,is fun-
damental to a constitutionallegal order.'111
MacCormickmaybe rightthatthe primarymeans of identifying law is
via the authorizationof special bodies of individuals.But I fail to see how
thisendangersHart's theory.Recall thefirstruleofrecognitionintroduced
in TheConcept ofLawu.WhateverRex decreesis law.Here thecriterionofva-
lidityis thewordof Rex,who in virtueof thisrule recognizinghis authority
and thusthe authority of his pronouncementsis empoweredor authorized
to make law.AuthorizingRex to make law is in thisinstanceequivalentto
establishinga criterionforvalidlaw.I see no reasonwhythe same mightnot
be truein the more complexworldof modernlegal systems.
Like MacCormick, JulesColeman setsout to furtherdevelop the no-
tion of authoritycentralto the positivisttraditioninheritedfromHart.
An explicitdefenderof the conceptualversionof Inclusive Positivismor
'incorporationism',Coleman's aim in 'Authorityand Reason' is to recon-
cile thisparticular
brandofpositivism
with'a Razianconceptionoflegal
authority.'Coleman's previous defences of Inclusive Positivism"2 have
'focusedalmostexclusively on itsconceptionsoflegalityand validityand on
the role the rule of recognitionplaysin determiningboth.' This new de-
fence 'switchesfocusto the conceptof authority.'113
Coleman setsthestageforhisreconciliationbysketching, in his typically
systematic, clear and insightful manner,the theoreticalterrainin whichhis
theoryoperates.He notes,forexample,thatDworkinand Raz are 'in fun-
damental agreementabout the character,if not the truthof legal positiv-
ism.'114That is,bothidentify withthe conceptualversionof
legal positivism
ExclusivePositivism. In contrast,Coleman notes,'Raz and I agree about the
truthof legal positivism but not itscharacter.'115
Raz is an ExclusivePositiv-
ist,Coleman an InclusivePositivist. Coleman also remindsus of his earlier
claim thatthe rule of recognitioncan be thoughtto servemetaphysical, se-
manticor epistemicfunctions.It is the latterwhichmainlyconcernsCole-
man. He urgesthat'we need to distinguishbetweentheepistemicconcepts,
validationand identification.'116 The validationfunctionof the rule of rec-
ognition lies in its establishingcriteriaenabling the relevantofficialsto
judge the validity officialactions,includinglegislation.In Coleman's
of

111 Ibid.
112 'Negativeand PositivePositivism',
See specifically, supra n. 18.
113 AofL,288.
114 AofL,290.
115 Ibid.
116 AofL,291.

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426 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

view,Hart also intendshis ruleofrecognitionto enable ordinarycitizensto


identifythe lawswhichare (held to be) bindingon them.This identifica-
tionfunctionofHart'sruleofrecognitionrequireseasyidentification ofval-
id laws,and is inconsistentwithcriteriawhichmake referenceto conten-
tious standardsof morality.Were fulfilment of the identification function
essentialto theexistenceofa ruleofrecognition,thenDworkin'sargument
thatpositivismis inconsistent withmoralcriteriain the rule of recognition
would be sound. Positivistswould be committedto Exclusivepositivism
whichrestricts the rule of recognitionto pure pedigreecriteria.117
But 'we have no reason to believe thata rule of recognitionmustserve
an identification function.The rule of recognitionis fundamentally a vali-
dation, not an identificationrule; and a validationfunctionimposes no
such [pure pedigree] constraint.'118 Coleman's reasonsforthisconclusion
lie in his fundamentaldistinctionbetweenthe conceptsof legalityand au-
thority. Iflegalityis to exist,theremustbe a convergentpracticeof officials
identifying, as validlaws,standardswhichsatisfy agreed conditionsforvalid-
ity.'[I]s there a binding standard or set of standardsthatjudgesand other
relevantofficialsfollowin the relevantwaysto determinethevalidityof of-
ficialactions?If thereis, then the communityhas a rule of recognition;if
not,the communityhas no rule of recognition.If it has no rule of recogni-
tion,ithas no law.'119" Of courseifthisstandardor setofstandardsto which
the relevantofficialsappeal invokesmorality, then the identification func-
tion could not be satisfiedbyit. Indeed thereis reason to thinkthatunder
theseconditionstherecould not be a ruleof recognitionat all. '[A] rule of
recognitionwhich incorporatedmoralityinto law would create disagree-
ment and divergence.'120 Disagreementwould frustrate the identification
function, and divergence threatensthe very existence of the rule of recog-
nitionitself.Givenitsnatureas a social rule,divergenceseems to eliminate
the convergencenecessaryforthe veryexistenceof a rule of recognition
whichis supposed to existwithinthe convergentpracticesof the relevant
community.
It is Coleman's contention,however,that divergenceis not in fact a
problem. Contraryto Dworkin'sinfluentialview that Hart's social rules
cannot withstandthe existence of divergentviews about their require-
ments,Coleman believes that '[d]isagreement about what falls under a

117 For an extensivediscussionof Dworkin'sargumentconcerningthe positivist's commit-


ment to a rule of recognitioncontainingonlypure pedigree criteriaof validity,
see my
Inclusive Legal Positivism,pp.174-190.
118 AofL, 292.
119 AofL,294.
120 AofL,295.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 427

rule is perfectly compatiblewithagreementabout whatthe rule is. The so-


cial rule thesisrequiresthe latterformof agreementor convergence,not
the former.'Judgesmay'convergeon the same rule of recognitionat the
same timethattheydisagreeabout whatthe rule validates.'121 Coleman is
certainlycorrectthat,in manyinstances,people can disagreeabout what
fallsunder a rule while agreeingabout what the rule is. This is obviously
truewhenrulesexistin writtenform,or bywayofauthoritative pronounce-
ment.But itis not abundantlyclear how thisis possiblewhentherule exists
withinand because of theconvergingbehaviourand attitudesof thosewho
use themand to whomtheyapply.Where thereis no canonical expression
of the rule,it is difficult
to understandhow the rule could be said to exist
ifthe requiredbehaviourand attitudesdo not exist.How can a social rule
of recognitionexistwhen thereis no convergentpatternof behaviourex-
emplifiedin acts of identifying valid law?Perhaps the pointis thatthereis
indeed (largely)convergentbehaviour,but different accountsor interpre-
tationsof what that behaviouramounts to and correspondingdisagree-
mentsabout penumbralcases,just as theremightbe different accounts of
whatthewordsof a canonical statementof a rule amount to and disagree-
ments about what it requires in borderline,penumbral cases. Whether
such an analysiscould be developed in a systematic wayis an interesting
question.It is a virtueof Coleman's argumentthathe bringsthispossibility
to our attention.
Accordingto Coleman, the possibilityof disagreementover what the
rule of recognitionestablishesas valid law poses no more difficulty forthe
InclusivePositivist thanthepossibility ofdivergence.And thisis because the
rule of recognitiondoes not in factserve an identificationfunction.Al-
thoughColeman agreeswithHart thatthevalidationfunctionis essentialto
a rule of recognition,he denies the claim thateasyidentification of law by
citizensis also a functionwhichtheruleofrecognitionmustserve.The law's
authority requireseasyidentification, but not itsveryexistence,whichis all
thatthe rule of recognitionis intendedto establishand explain.
Wehavetodistinguish between theconditions oflegality
andauthority.Legalityre-
quiresa ruleofrecognition as a validationrule.Authoritymayrequirethattherebe
a rulebywhichindividuals can reliablyidentifywhichofa community's normsare
itslaw.Butthatruleneednotbe a ruleofrecognition or thesamerulethatjudges
applyin determining thevalidityofrulessubordinate totheruleofrecognition.122

121 AofL,296. For Dworkin'sclaim thatHart's account of social rules is flawedbecause it


does not allowforsubstantive disagreementconcerningthe rule'srequirements, see Tak-
supra n. 1, ch. 3. For a responseto Dworkin'scritique,see P. Nowell-
ingRightsSeriously,
Smith,'Dworkinv. Hart Appealed: A Meta-EthicalInquiry',13 Metaphilosophy,no. 1
(1982), 1.

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428 UNIVERSITYOF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

To illustratehis point,Coleman has us considera verysimplelegal system


whosestandardoflegal validity, i.e., ruleof recognition,is:WhateverDwor-
kinsaysis law.In such a system, however,themostreliableruleforidentify-
ing the law might be: Listen to Raz; he knowswhatthelawis. That Raz iden-
tifiesR as a law does not make R law.WhatmakesR law is Dworkin'ssaying
it is. But Raz's wordis nevertheless'the mostreliableindicatorofwhatthe
law is -especially whenwhatDworkinsaysis not alwayseasilyaccessible to
ordinarycitizens.'123 Or philosophers,I mightadd.
Coleman's attemptto separaterulesof recognitionfromrulesof identi-
ficationis intriguing, and mayoffera promisingroutefortheInclusivePos-
itivistin answeringDworkin'scharge thatpositivists are restrictedto pure
pedigree criteriaforvalidity.'24However, one is leftwitha hostofquestions.
Firstand foremostwould be: Whatwould an identification rule look like in
a real,complexlegal systemsuch as one findsin contemporary Westernso-
cieties?Would itmake referencetowhattheSupremeCourtsaysis law?But
theyare oftensilenton much of the law.Would it make referenceto what
lawyersgenerallysay?Or to whattheauthorsofstandardlegal textssay?But
theselawyersand legal theoristsoftendisagreejust as much as ordinarycit-
izens do about whatthelaw requires.Would itmake referenceto whatPro-
fessorColeman saysthelaw is?An intriguing possibility:but even Professor
Coleman would be forcedto admit,eventually, thateven he doesn't always
get thingsright!Yet whateverforma rule of identification mighttake,we
seem to be leftwitha more fundamentalquestion. If the validationrules
themselvesdo not generallyprovideeasy,agreed answersto questionsofva-
lidity,then how are identificationrules,which are intended as guides to
theseanswers,to servetheirfunction?Ifwhatis to be identified- validity-
is difficult, ifnot impossible,to determinewithanydegree of certaintyor
precision because of the inherentuncertainty (perhaps even indetermina-
cy) of the validitycriteria themselves, then any rule whichattemptsto iden-
tify valid legal standards willsuffer from the same degree ofuncertainty and
possiblyindeterminacy. In Coleman's imaginarysociety, Raz may have a
for
special facility determining Dworkin's meaning. But it is difficultto see
on whatbasisone could tell- exceptbyaskingDworkinwhetherRaz always
or usuallygetshimright.But whomdo we ask ifwe wantto tellwhetheran
identification rulein a realsocietygetsitright,i.e. actuallysucceedsin iden-
tifying the standards valid according to the criteriaof validitycontained
withina rule of recognition?If we oftendon't knowwithcertaintywhat

122 AofL,293.
123 Ibid.
124 For a different
defenceof the claim thatpositivist's
are not committedto pure pedigree
criteriasee myInclusiveLegalPositivism,
especiallypp. 117-123,182-190.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 429

those standardsare, thenit is difficult to see on whatbasiswe couldjudge


success. If the validitycriterionwere:Whateverthe Supreme Court saysis
law,thenof course therewould be a wayto get an answerto our question.
We couldjust ask theCourt'smembers,justas we would ask Dworkinabout
Raz's special skillin Coleman's imaginarysociety.But the SupremeCourt's
wordis notwhatdeterminesthevalidity oflawsin westerndemocracies.The
Supreme Court'swordis an authoritative accountofwhatthelawis accord-
ing to criteriawhichthey,along witheveryoneelse in thesystem, attemptto
applyinjudgingvalidity. It is truethattheirauthoritative
opinionsconcern-
ing validitycannotusuallybe ignored.It is equallytruethattheiropinions
cannot usuallybe overturned,except bylegislatorsor the Supreme Court
itself.But it remainstruethata Supreme Court'sdecisionon whatthe law
is does not (usually)makeit the law.
As noted above,Coleman's main aim is to reconcileInclusivePositivism
with a Razian conception of authority.The latter is characterized succinctly
as follows:
In short:thereare timeswhen each of us willdo betterfollowingthe law than we
would actingdirectlyon thebasisofrightreason.Typically,theseare cases involving
coordinationand uncertainty.The claimto legal authority
[whichis essentialto law]
is based on the thoughtthatthe reasonslaw providesreplace the reasonsthatoth-
erwiseapplyto us because actingon theformerwillenable us morefullyto comply
withthedemandsofthelatterthanwe willbe actingon thebasisofthemdirectly.'25

Raz, of course, argues that this account of authoritypresupposes Exclusive


Positivism.126Although he disagrees, Coleman is sensitive to the reasons be-
hind Raz's position on this issue. Among these is the claim that citizens
would not be able to identifythe authoritative reasons established in laws,
and therefore be able better to act in accordance with right reason, if the
validityand content of those laws - i.e. legal determinations - hinged on the
controversial moral considerations the laws were intended to settle. In re-
sponding to this argument, Coleman once again draws upon his distinction
between rules of recognition and rules of identification.
For thereto be law theremustbe a validationrule- one thatis as broad as [Inclu-
sivePositivism]allows.For law to be authoritative,
however,theremustbe an iden-
tificationrule - one thatmaynot be so broad. There is a problem for [Inclusive
Positivism]only ifthose two rules mustbe identical.They need not be, however,
and oftentheyare not ... Since mostordinarycitizensare able to determinethe law
thatbinds them,whereasfew,ifany,are able to formulateor statethe prevailing

125AofL,
305.
126 That the authorityof law is compatiblewithInclusivePositivismis among the central
claimsof InclusiveLegalPositivism.
See especiallypp.123-141.

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430 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

ruleofrecognition, thattheruleofidentification
itis unlikely is theruleofrecog-
nition.127
Withoutan idea ofwhata real ruleofidentification mightlook like,itis dif-
ficult,of course, to determinewhetherthisis as an adequate response to
Raz's chargeof inconsistency.
Near the end of his paper, Coleman turnsto a slightlydifferent aspect
of theauthority oflaw.It is not enough,he contends,to saythattheauthor-
ityoflawdepends on itsefficacy in leadingus to act in accordancewithright
reason.It also depends on whetherthelaw,in so faras itis a public,reason-
givingpractice,sufficiently embodies the moral principlesof equalityand
autonomy which are presupposedin any'social or public practiceof giving
of
reasons, offering justificationswhichwithstandpublic scrutiny.'128 If this
is right,thenthe questionarises:Do we have here a fusionof moralitywith
lawwhichthreatensColeman's positivism? The answer,ofcourse,is thatwe
do not.First,naturallawtheoryclaimsthattheembodimentofcertainmor-
al ideals is essentialto the veryexistenceof law. This is not trueon Cole-
man's account. 'Autonomyand equalityare requirediflaw is to be author-
itative.Theyare notrequiredbytheconceptoflegalityitself.'Second, these
moralideals are not law owingto theirtruthas moralprinciplesbut rather
because theyare presupposedbythepublic practiceofgivingreasons.
... in naturallaw,itisthetruth ofa moralprinciplethatdetermines itsstatusas law.
In myview,themoralidealsofequality andautonomy arepartofthelawonlyifwe
takelawtobe a framework within whichindividuals can discusswhatis tocountas
good or rightreasonforthem.It is nottheirtruthas moralprinciples thatmakes
themlaw;rather, itisthefactthattheyarepresupposed bytherelevant publicprac-
tices.129

We have,then,no more threatto positivism thanHarthad whenhe defend-


ed his minimumcontentof naturallawon roughlysimilar'transcendental'
grounds.
AmongColeman's principalaimsis to reconcilea Razian conceptionof
law'sauthoritywithdisagreementsoverdeterminations oflaw.In 'Law's Au-
tonomyand PublicPracticalReason', GeraldPostemagivesus reason to be-
lievethatsuch a reconciliationcannotbe accomplished.His argumentpos-
es a dilemma.The defenderof thereconciliationmusteither:(a) refinethe
account of authorityto fitcertainagreed factsabout legal practice,or (b)
attemptto characterizethoseagreedfactsin such a wayas to savehisRazian
accountofauthority. In thefirstinstance,lawis robbed ofitsmediatingrole

127 AofL,308.
128 AofL,
313.
129 AofL,314.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 431

in our practicalreasoningand we no longerhave an explanationof 'whyit


is important
to have it.'130In thelattercase, we end up witha highlyimplau-
sible account of legal practice,of 'howlawworks.'131
Postema'sdilemmaapplies to anytheoryaccordingtowhichone oflaw's
principalaimsis to servethemediatingrole ofwhichRaz providestheclear-
est and most sophisticatedelaboration.It applies to any theorywhichac-
ceptswhatPostemacalls 'The AutonomyThesis' accordingto which
legalreasoningis a viableandvitalformofpublicpractical
reasoning thatis ableto
servethetaskassignedtoitbecauseofitsautonomy frommoralandpolitical reason-
ing.Thisautonomy consists,
roughly,in thefactthattheexistence,content, and
force
practical of the norms from which legalreasoningproceedsare determined
bycriteriathatmakeno essentialreference to considerations
ofpoliticalmorality,
andso legalreasoning canproceedentirelywithout engaginginarguments ofpolit-
icalmorality.132
On the Razian conceptionof law's authority, itsautonomyis establishedby
threecore elements.Accordingto the 'LimitedDomain Thesis,'lawdefines
a limiteddomain of practicalreasons or normsto whichofficialsand citi-
zens can bothappeal. The 'Pre-emptionThesis' statesthatthe reasonswith-
in law's limiteddomain functionas pre-emptive, or exclusionary,reasons
foraction.That is,theyfunctionas reasonswhichexclude decidingand act-
ing on reasonslyingoutsidelaw's limiteddomain.And finally, we have the
'Sources Thesis,' thedefiningtenetofRaz's ExclusivePositivism, according
to which membershipin law's limiteddomain of pre-emptivereasons or
norms is a functionof non-moral,factualcriteriahavingto do withthe
norm'ssource.
Accordingto Postema,thereis a long-standing traditionofacceptingthe
AutonomyThesisso understood,a traditionwhichstretchesfromCicero to
Raz and includes theoristsas different as Aquinas and Bentham,Hobbes,
Pufendorf,Locke and Hume, Hart,Raz, MacCormick,and JohnFinnis.133
In so faras Hart at least is an InclusivePositivist,
we mighttake issue with
Postema'slist.But he is rightto note that'the AutonomyThesis is not ex-
clusivelya Positivist
doctrine,'even ifit is not truethatall positivists
accept
it.
It is Postema'scontentionthatthe AutonomyThesis is seriouslythreat-
ened by an agreed factabout legal practice:'that appeals to distinctively
moral or evaluativeargumentcommonlyoccur in legal practice.'134As

130 AofL,
88.
131 Ibid.
132AofL,
80.
133 AofL,
80.
134 AofL,94.

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432 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

Postemapointsout,'it is notuncommonforcourtsto appeal to non-source


based principlestojustifyinterpretations thatset aside the settledor plain
meaningofstatutes,and tojustify distinguishing (modifying or narrowing),
or even overruling, establishedprecedents.'135 In otherwords,judicial rea-
soning ofteninvokesnormsother than those source-based,pre-emptive,
and exclusionaryrulesthefollowingofwhichis essentialto the Razian con-
ceptionoflawand itsauthority as capturedbytheAutonomyThesis.Hence
Postema'sdilemma.A defenderoftheAutonomyThesismusteithermodify
the thesisto fitthepractice,or providean accountofthepracticewhichfits
the thesis.It is Postema'scontentionthatneitheroptioncan succeed. If the
thesisis modifiedto allowsome measureofmoraland evaluativeargument
to figurein legal reasoning,then the mediatingfunctionof law is threat-
ened. Ifthemediatingfunctionoflawis to be maintained,and commitment
to all threecore elementsoftheAutonomyThesisis to be affirmed, thenwe
have equally unpalatable consequences. Since much of the reasoningin
whichcourtsengage seems to invokemoral and otherevaluativeconsider-
ations,we willbe forcedto saythatmuch ofwhatgoes on in decidinglegal
cases is not reasoningaccordingto law.We willbe forcedto saythatitis es-
sentiallymoral reasoningwhich creates new law based on the contested
moral considerationswhichlaw is intendedto replace. In otherwords,we
willbe forcedto agree withRaz that'in some legal systemscourtshave dis-
cretion[to create new law] in every case,easycases as well as so-calledhard
cases.'136It is unlikelythata theoristwillwishto accept an interpretation of
legal reasoningaccording to whichit seldom occurs whenjudges decide
cases. Mostaccept thatjudgessometimesmake newlaw,butfeware willing
to accept a conceptionof law accordingto whichthisis whattheydo most
of the time.
It is crucialto observethatPostema'scritiqueapplies mostobviouslyto
ExclusivePositivism.Commitmentto the latterforcesone to say that any
appeal to a moralreasoncannotbe withinthedomain ofreasoningaccord-
ing to law,but mustinsteadbe discretionary. But to the extentthatone al-
lows,as the InclusivePositivist does, thatmoralfactorscan figurein deter-
minationsof law,in decisionsabout whatthe law is and means,one avoids
thisundesirableconsequence. This manoeuvrerequires,of course, rejec-
tion of Postema'sAutonomyThesis. The InclusivePositivistwillbe happy
to accept two of its components,the Limited Domain and Pre-emption
Thesis,buthe willwishto rejectthethird,theSourcesThesis.The manoeu-
vre also requiresa different account of law's authoritythan is providedin
the Razian conception.This accountwillhave to explain not only'how law

135 AofL,99.
136 Ibid.,quotingRaz, 'Facing Up', 62 SouthernCaliforniaLaw Review(1989), 1204.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 433

works,but also and more importantly, explain whyit is important to have


it.'137
This is not theplace to providesuch an account.But perhapswe can say
thismuch.First,itmaybe partof theveryraisond'etre oflaw to help us solve
'social co-operationproblems.' But helpingto solve a problemis not identi-
cal withactuallysolvingit forus. It is certainlynot identicalwithproviding
pre-emptive or exclusionaryreasonswhicharewhollyautonomousfromthe
backgroundconsiderationswhichprompttheircreation.There maybe a
hostofalternative waysin whichlawscan affect, forthebetter,our practical
reasoning, a host ofalternative
ways in which laws can servean authoritative,
mediating role. Second, thereis littlereason to believe thatallowingmoral
factorsto enterlegal argumentwillinevitably lead to completefrustration
of the law's taskof helpingto solvesocial cooperationproblems.Were any
appeal to 'broad principlesofjustice,rights,liberty, and social policyabout
which theremaybe deep disagreementin the community'allowed, then
perhapswe would be forcedto agree thatlaw could not possiblyserveany
sortof mediatingfunction,let alone the functionRaz ascribesto it.138But
itis notuncommonforlegal systems to severelyrestrictappeals to such prin-
ciples in a of For
variety ways. instance,courtsoftenclaim thattheywillnot
disturba precedentor agree to a newor unusualreadingof a statuteunless
failureto do so would resultin 'graveinjustice,'or in 'absurdity'or 'moral
repugnance,'the implicationbeing thatmere injustice,inconvenienceor
unreasonablenesswillnot do. Third,and finally,thatit is partof law's task
to help solvesocial coordinationproblemsdoes not mean thatthisis law's
onlytask,or even a taskwhichis a sinequa nonof legality.Consider,forex-
ample,theInclusivePositivist Hart,whoinsistedthatlawsshould sometimes
remainflexiblein theirapplication.Hartarguesquite convincingly thatthe
possibility of our blindlycommitting ourselvesto undesirableresultsin un-
anticipatedcases is oftena sufficient reason forframinglegal standardsin
loose, open-texturedtermslike 'fair,''reasonable,' and 'foreseeable.'Now
if the avoidance of unintendedresultswhichare unfairand unreasonable
servesin the mind of a positivist like Hart as a sufficientreason to recom-
mend thedeliberateframingofruleswhoseapplicationsometimesrequires
appeal to the backgroundissueswhichlaw is intendedto help settle,then
it is clear thatnot all defendersof positivism viewthe strictmediatingrole
Raz ascribesto lawas ofoverridingconcern.Ifso, thentheInclusivePositiv-
isthas the resourcesto escape the hornsof Postema'sdilemma.
The concept of authorityalso figuresprominentlyin Philip Soper's
'Law's NormativeClaims.'Soper's aim is to showthatlaw'snormativeclaims

137 AofL,88.
138 AoL, 102.

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434 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

are not those typicallyassigned to it by modern positivistslike Raz and Cole-


man; that these claims are much weaker than a claim to Razian authority;
and that the paradoxical view,widely shared among modern positiviststhat
law's normative claim (to authority) is almost alwaysfalse, can therefore be
avoided. According to Soper, the law's essential normative claim, one which
distinguishes it from Hart's gunman writlarge, is the claim to justice not to
authority.The law claims not that it has Razian authority,and that its pro-
nouncements thereforecreate content-independent, fullyexclusionary rea-
sons with which citizens are under strictobligation to comply. Rather, the
law makes only a claim to justice, that its decisions and actions are morally
defensible 'by reference to its own conception of how state power should be
used.'139
The law insiststhatitslegal normisjust, and thatit has the rightto create and en-
forcesuch normsforthe community.Because the law believesthe norm isjust, it
also believescitizensshould complyforthatreason - the content-basedreason. If
one askswhetherthe law also expectsobedience, even ifthe normturnsout to be
wrong,the responseis likelyto reflecttheodd natureof the question.140
So the law believes its pronouncements are just, and that it has the right to
decide and enforce its decisions. And although it does not claim a rightto
compliance grounded on a claim to Razian authority,it nevertheless ex-
pects voluntarycompliance with its pronouncements. Whether, in addition
to all this,a particular legal systemalso has Razian authority,even though it
does not necessarily claim it, is a question which Soper leaves very much
open.
... to "demote"theclaimsofthestatebyabandoningtheviewthatlawnecessarilyor
even typically
claimsauthority does notentailgivingup on the questionofwhether
the lawdoes in facthave such authority.
Quite thecontrary:the argument... simply
restoresthatquestion to the positionit has alwaysoccupied - a matterof concern
primarily formoralphilosophy(not forbald assertionbythe law) and, of course,a
matterof concernforanyconscientiouscitizen.141
'If the duty to obey exists, it is probably the result of a theorybased on the
respect that is owed the state ...' 142
There is much in Soper's paper that will be of serious interest to both
positivistand anti-positivistalike. Anti-positivistscan invoke Soper's argu-
ment as follows:An essential tenet of modern positivismis that law necessar-
ilyclaims authority;thisclaim to authority,which is integral to the positivist's

139 AofL, 221.


140 AofL, 237.
141 AofL,
240
142 AofL,239.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 435

theoreticalaccountof thenatureoflaw,is notin factone whichthelaw typ-


icallymakes;thereforepositivism mustbe rejected.Positivists,on the other
hand, are likelyto respondin one of twoways.Those who are prepared to
giveup neithertheclaimto authority nor the Razian conceptionof author-
ity,willlikelyappeal once again to Raz's reasonsforbelievingthatwe mis-
conceivelaw's role in our practicalreasoningifwe viewit as claimingany-
thingless than strongRazian authority.They mightalso invokestandard
argumentspurportingto showthatthe rightto rule entailsthe rightto be
obeyed,withitscorrelativeobligationto obey.
But thereis a second line of responseopen to the positivist. Instead of
defendingthe propositionthatthe law necessarilyclaimsRazian authority,
a positivistcan defendthe propositionthatthe authority whichlaw neces-
sarilyclaimsis not Razian authority. Indeed, thereis good reason to think
thatrecognizingthe 'authority'oflawmaybe nothingmore thanrecogniz-
ing Soper's claimtojustice:thatthelawhas therightto decide and enforce
itsdecisions,decisionswhichit claimsto be justified.143
Rejectingthe propositionthatthe law necessarilyclaimsRazian author-
ityis,ofcourse,notsomethingthatRaz himselfwouldwantto do. In his 'In-
tentionin Interpretation,' Raz sets out to providefurthersupportforhis
theorythatlaw necessarilyclaimsauthority byshowingwhatit is to respect
the authorityof legislation.Accordingto Raz, respectforthe authorityof
legislation,and thusthe law ofwhichit is a principalvoice,requiresa par-
ticularapproach to its interpretation, thoughthisapproach is consistent
witha wide rangeof interpretive practices- a pointto whichwe willreturn
later.More specifically, acknowledging theauthoritativestatusoflegislation
requiresadherenceto theintentionsof thelegislators.One does not follow
legislationin recognitionofitsauthority, unlessone respectswhatRaz calls
the 'standardintentionof thelegislator.'144
It is, of course,a familiarthemeinjurisprudencethatthe intentionsof
legislatorsshould in some waybe respected.But Raz putssome interesting
twistson thisfamiliarstory.For one thing,his aim is not to develop an ar-
gumentin politicalmorality leading to theconclusionthatjudgesoughtto
respecttheintentionsof legislatorswhentheyinterpretand attemptto fol-
low legislation.Rather,his aim is to show thatjudges cannot help but be
guided bylegislators'intentions.To theextentthatajudge attemptsto fol-
low legislationhe must,as a matterof conceptualnecessity,respectthe in-
tentionsof thelegislator.Ifthejudge does not do so (and accordingto Raz
sometimeshe ought not to because legislationis not alwaysauthoritative,
even thoughit necessarilypurportsto be) then he therebyfailsto follow

143 For an firststep towardsan analysisalong theselines,see Inclusive 129-41.


Positivism,
144 AofL., 274.

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436 UNIVERSITY
OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

legislation.His decisionwillbe based on somethingotherthan the law es-


tablishedin legislation,thatis,establishedin the intentionsof thelawmak-
ers.
In Raz's view,
whatever -realorsupposed-ofentrusting
thejustification powerstoany
law-making
institutions
theywillnotmakesenseunlessthelawsmadebythoseinstitutions
are
the lawstheyintendto make ... It makesno sense to giveany person or body law-
makingpowerunless it is assumed thatthe law theymake is thelaw theyintendedto
make. 145

In characterizingthe natureof thisargumentforwhathe calls theAuthor-


itativeIntention Thesis, Raz writes:'It is an argument about what the courts
have no choice butdo, about whattheycannotfailto do so longas theyfollow
Where necessityreignsconsiderationsof moral and politicalde-
legislation.
have
sirability no role to play.'146So Raz's argumentfortherole ofintention
in interpreting authoritative legislationis conceptual not moral. This fea-
tureof the argumentdistinguishesit frommanyotherargumentsof a de-
cidedlymoralnaturepurportingto showwhyjudges should (not must) re-
spectlegislators'intentions.
So whatare theintentionswhichmustbe followediftheauthority ofleg-
islationis to be respected?First,thereis thestandardintentionwhichis nec-
essarilypresupposedin anyact oflegislationand whichmustgovernthe in-
terpretationof the act and itsproductsifthe authority of the legislatorsis
to be respected.Briefly, thisis the intentionthatone's textbe 'understood
as such texts,whenpromulgatedin thecircumstances in which[it] is prom-
ulgated, are understood in the legal cultureof [one's] country...'147 Ac-
cording to Raz, thisintention is necessarilypresupposedin anyact of legis-
lation, in so far as a legislativeact is an attemptto control,or at least
influencein some way,some aspect of the law.Even more importantly, the
standardintentionrequiresno specificknowledgeof how one's legislation
willbe understood,and thereforeno knowledgeof whatpreciselyone has
done in introducingthe standardone did. It is possiblefora legislatorto
have Raz's standardintentionwithouthavingthe foggiestidea of the con-
tent,specificor otherwise,ofthelawhe has authoritatively introduced.Nor-
mally, of course, legislatorshave some idea whatthe content of theirlegis-
lation happens to be. This is because theywillhave knowledgeof whatit is
theywill normallybe understood as saying,given the circumstancesin
whichtheysaid it.And itis preciselyforthisreason thattheysaid whatthey

145 AofL, added.


258,emphasis
146 AoJL, added.
249,emphasis
147 AofL,267.

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THE MANYFACESOF LEGALPOSITIVISM437

did. But it is importantto be clear thata legislatorcould have the standard


intentionand yetbe completelyin ignorance,or in error,about the mean-
ing and effectofwhathe has introduced.
It is a decided virtueofRaz's theorythat,in sayingthattheintentionsof
legislatorsnecessarilycountin determiningthe law,he is not therebyfalla-
ciouslyidentifying the meaningof legislationwiththe mentalstatesof leg-
islators,withwhatthe legislatorsactuallyhad in mind when theyenacted
thelegislationtheydid. Legislation,on Raz's model,has a kindofautonomy
whichit lacks on manyintentiontheories.He does not share the concern
of thosewho fearthatfailureto tie themeaningof legislationto whatlegis-
latorsactuallyhad in mindwilllead to rampantjudicialactivism.Raz's the-
oryrespectsthe conceptualdistinctionbetweenwhata piece of legislation,
as a public documentintendedto guide people's activities, means and what
itsauthorsmighthavemeantor intendedbyit.Of course,more oftenthan
not the twocoincide:whatthe legislatorsmeantis almostalwayswhattheir
legislationmeans.But Raz is quick,and surelyright,to add thatthe twoare
not identical,regardlessofwhethertheone (meaning) is almostinvariably
coextensivewiththe other (whatwas meant).
So all acts of legislationnecessarilyexpressRaz's standardintention.In
mostcases,of course,legislatorswillalso havewhatRaz calls 'furtherinten-
tions,'about whattheirwordsmean or about the objectivesof theirlegisla-
tion.It is trueas well thatin some systems of law an interpreter'sappeal to
such intentionsmaybe legallyrequiredby the accepted conventionsgov-
erninginterpretation. But Raz's thesisis thatthese furtherintentionsare
not required,as a matterof conceptualnecessity, fora successfulact of leg-
islationto occur.Consequently,appeal to further intentionsis not required
conceptually in the interpretation of such acts or theirproducts.There is
nothinginconsistentin supposingthatan interpreter might,in the appro-
priatecircumstances, be permittedor requiredto ignorefurtherintentions
in interpreting legislation.He willbe requiredto do so iftheconventionally
accepted canons of interpretation bar interpreters fromappealing to such
intentionsin determiningthemeaningoflegislation.Anything in addition
to the standardintention(necessaryforan act of legislationto occur) and
thevariable,contingentconventionsof interpretation to whichthatstand-
ard intentionmakesimplicitreference,is irrelevantin determiningthe law
towhichauthoritative actsoflegislationgiverise.These conventionsmayre-
ferthe interpreter to furtherintentions,but thentheymaynot.
There is much ofvalue in Raz's theoryofinterpretation - muchwhichI
havehad to ignoreforpurposesof thisessay.Ifsuccessful,itmanagesto iso-
late an intentionwhichnecessarilymust,in all cases, be respectedin inter-
pretinglegislation.And it does so withouttherebysuffering the innumera-
ble difficulties normallyencounteredbyintentiontheories.We need notbe

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438 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

concerned to providea theoryabout how to go about identifying specific


and general intentions,or a theorypurportingto showwhich must take
precedence when the twoconflict.We also avoid collapsingthe distinction
between the meaning of legislation(an essentiallypublic matter)on the
one hand; and whatthosewho introducedit mighthave meant or had in
mind when theyintroducedthe legislationtheydid (an essentiallyprivate
matter),on the other.This is a crucialdistinctionand it is quite a feat to
have preserveditwithinthe confinesof an intentiontheory.
Yet anotherdecided virtueofRaz's theoryis thatitaccommodatesa wide
varietyof interpretive practices,withoutbeing completelyvacuous.A diffi-
cultyencounteredbyanytheoryof legal interpretation is thatinterpretive
practicesseem to varyfromone systemto the next,and fromtimeto time
withinone and thesame system.Sometimesliteralismseemsto be thedom-
inantpracticeof the day,whileat othertimesjudges spurnliteralmeaning
in favourof purpose or general intent.Conventionsseem (at least some-
times) to dictatewhichapproach is appropriatein the circumstancesand
judges are admonishedforfailingto observethem.Lord Denning,forex-
ample,was constantly criticizedforviolatingaccepted canons ofinterpreta-
tion in favourof his own highlyliberal,purposiveapproach to legal inter-
pretation.A theorywhich is able to accommodate variable interpretive
practices,while explainingwhyit is not true thatjust anythinggoes, has
much to commendit- and Raz's theorydoesjust that.The standardinten-
tion,itwillbe recalled,is alwaysto introducelegislationwhichmeans what
it willnormallybe takento mean giventhe canons of legal interpretation
prevailingat the timeof enactment.As theseconventionsvary,so too will
the meaningofwhatis enacted and the means bywhichone is to discover
thatmeaning- i.e. discoverthelaw establishedbylegislativedirectives.
So in manyrespectsRaz's theoryis a highlyattractive account of legal
interpretation, at leastas it applies to actsof legislation.Nevertheless,I am
notcertainthatitis consistentwithhis commitment to ExclusivePositivism.
Briefly,if the prevailingconventionsof interpretation make referenceto
moral considerations,thendeterminations of law,necessarilyinvolveus in
moral considerations,a possibility whichthe conceptualversionof Exclu-
sivePositivism necessarilydenies. But theprevailingconventionsgoverning
the interpretation of legislationoftendo seem to make referenceto moral
considerations.Consider, for example, Judge Parke's statementof the
'golden rule' in Beckev. Smith(1836) thata statuteis to be interpretedin
accordance withitsplain meaningunless this'leads to [any] manifestab-
surdity or repugnance.'In determiningthecontentofthestatuteone must,
accordingto thisconvention,ask whetherthestatute,so interpreted, leads
to repugnance.But is thisnot a moral question?If so, then accordingto
Raz's accountof thestandardintention,the contentof law in thisinstance

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 439

depends on moralfactors.Consideras wellcases likeRiggsv. Palmer, where


the followingobservationsweremade:
Itisa familiar
canonofconstruction thata thingwhichiswithintheintentionofthe
makersofa statute is as muchwithinthestatuteas ifitwerewithin
theletter;and a
thingwhichis withintheletterofthestatuteis notwithinthestatuteunlessitbe
within theintentionofthemakers.
Itwastheintention ofthelaw-makers
thatthedoneesin a willshouldhavethe
property givento them.Butitnevercouldhavebeentheirintention thata donee
whomurdered thetestator tomakethewilloperative shouldhaveanybenefitunder
it.148

Notice twoimportantpointsabout thesepassages.First,thejudges did not


viewthemselvesas determiningwhetherto ignoreor change the NewYork
statutes.Nor was theirquestionwhethersuperiorprinciplesof law override
thestatutesand so thestatutesneed notbe followedin thiscase. Theirques-
tionwas how to interpretthe statutetheywerebound to apply,how to de-
termineitsmeaningor content.Secondly,partof theiranswerto thatques-
tion seemed to invoke evaluativefactors,probably moral ones. Their
questionwas not whetherthe legislatorsdidinfactintendto allow murder-
ersto inherit.Rathertheirquestionwaswhetherthelegislatorspossibly could
haveintendedsuch a result.The answeris thattheycould not have,and the
obviousreasonis a moralone: itwouldbe grosslyunjustand morallyrepug-
nant to allow such a consequence. It is forthisreason thatthe statutewas
interpretedso as to exclude murderersfrominheriting.Morality,then,
helped to determinethe contentof law.
Appeals to the intentionsof the law-makersare, of course, often
couched in such terms.The questionis almostneveran historicalone: rath-
er thequestionis whetheritis reasonableto thinkthatpersonsin a position
oflegislativeauthoritycould haveintendeda resultwhichtheyno doubt did
not in factcontemplate.The assumptionis thatlegislatorsdo not intendto
cause injustice,moral repugnanceor absurdity.Their legislationis there-
foreto be read in lightof thisassumption.In otherwords,the contentof
law is determinedin part by standardsof moralityand rationality. It may
wellbe thatlegislationshould alwaysbe read in thisway,on theassumption
thateverylegislatorintendsto avoid bringingabout injustice,absurdityor
moral repugnance.If so, thenRaz's theorymaybe in even deeper trouble.
It maybe in theverynatureoflegislation,as a voluntary, purportedlyration-
al act intendedto effecta morallyand rationallyacceptable change in the
legal statusquo, thatit manifestthisintention.If so, thenwe would be re-
quired to modifythe standardintentionso as to reflectthisfact.But then

148 115 NY 506, 22 NE 188 (1889).

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440 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

moral factorswould necessarilyfigureas conditionsforidentifying the con-


tentoflaw (at leastlegislation)- something,I takeit,no defenderofExclu-
sivePositivism would wishto accept.Whethera defenderof InclusivePosi-
tivismcould live with this consequence is another interestingquestion
whichI willnot here explore.I have mydoubts.
So itseemsthatRaz's Authoritative IntentionThesisleads to the conclu-
sion thatmoralfactorsoftendo playa rolein identifying thecontentoflaw:
eitherbecause theaccepted conventionsto whichtheessentialstandardin-
tentionnecessarilyappeals make thisso, or because it is in theverynature
of an intentionallegislativeact thata legislatorintendnot to bringabout
morallyrepugnantor irrationalresults.In eithercase, ExclusivePositivism
has a seriousproblem.
Perhapswe should add one finalpoint.In mostsystemsoflaw thereis a
hierarchyofbindinglegal standards.In commonlawsystems, constitutional
law takesprecedence over statutory law whichitselfnormallytakesprece-
dence overcommonlaw rulesand principles.In such systemsit is, presum-
ably,theintentionofall law-makers thattheirlegislationnotviolatethecon-
stitution.This intention,I wouldhazard to say,is necessaryin anysystemin
whicha constitutionplaces constraints on validity.Now if,as appears to be
the case in theUnitedStatesand Canada, theconstitution places moralcon-
straintson thevalidityofsubordinatelegislation,we seem again to have yet
anothercase wheremoralreasoningmaybe necessaryto determinethe in-
tentionsof legislatorsand thereforethe contentof law. Canadian legisla-
tion must,forexample, alwaysbe interpretedso thatits applicationdoes
not violatethe equalityclause of the Canadian ConstitutionAct.And it is
reasonable to assume thatParliamentalwaysintendsits legislationto be
read in thatway.Ifso, we have anothercase wherefollowingthe intentions
of the legislatorsinvolvescourtsin examiningmoral factors,in this in-
stance,thenatureand requirements ofequality.We also havereason to pre-
ferInclusivePositivismoveritsExclusiverival.

V TheLegalTheory
ofEthicalPositivism

Accordingto Tom Campbell,positivists have been gettinga good deal of


bad presslately.This is owing,in no smallmeasure,to the positivists
them-
selveswho are oftenreluctantto acknowledgethe moralbases of theirthe-
ories,preferring insteadto characterizethosetheories,and the arguments
in theirfavour,as morallyneutralin variousways.As a result,Campbellcon-
tends,thesepositivists haveinadvertently
deprivedthemselvesofthestrong-
estargumentsat theirdisposal.Theyhavealso opened themselvesup tomis-
characterization, to varioustrumpedup chargesof theoreticalnaivet_ , and
to the complaintthat,in arguingforthe separationof law and morality,

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THE MANYFACESOF LEGALPOSITIVISM441

they are advocatingan amoral or immoral doctrine. Positivism is now


'generallytakento be theview thatthe concept of law can be elucidated
without referenceto morality'and thatit is the duty ofjudges to make
determinationsof law without recourse to moral arguments.'49The
formeris thoughtto be theoretically naive or amoral,while the latterhas
been condemned as an immoraldoctrineencouragingblind deferenceto
legal authority.We have seen in some detail above the varietyof shapes
thesechargeshaveassumed.We havealso seen themanywaysin whichpos-
can and have responded.These include,forexample,Coleman's at-
itivists
temptto distinguishquestionsof legalityfromquestionsof law's authority,
MacCormick'sattemptto providean explicitly moralisticcase foramoralis-
ticlaw,and claimsbyvariouspositivists thattheirtheoriesoflegalityare con-
sistentwithany numberof theoriesofjudicial obligation.Campbell's re-
sponse to the calumnyin whichpositivismhas been cloaked is to follow
MacCormickin offeringan explicitlymoralisticcase forpositivism.His ar-
gumentis, however,cruciallydifferent fromMacCormick'sin one keyre-
spect.Whereas MacCormickfollowsBenthamin constructing moral argu-
mentsforseparatinglawand morality at theconceptualor theoreticallevel,
and indirectlyat thelevelof legal practice,the directand immediatetarget
ofCampbell'sargumentis legal practiceitself.Campbell'sintentis to sketch
and defenda thoroughly normativetheory,not about thebestwayin which
to conceive
or describe
legal practice,butratherabout theshape thatour legal
practicesoughtto take. '[T] he organisingand motivating forceof LEP[the
Legal Theoryof EthicalPositivism]is a substantivepoliticalviewabout the
moralsignificanceof the positivist visionof whata good legal systemlooks
like and how it contributesto ajust, effective
and democraticpolity.'150
In Campbell's view,the ideal to whichlegal systemsought to aspire is
Raz's ExclusivePositivism.
Ifajurisprudential theoryis one whichjudgesshouldfollowand legislators should
ratherthanone thatissimply
facilitate, conceptually or descriptivelyaccuratewith
respect tocurrentpractice,thenRaz'ssourcesthesis canbe takentoencapsulate the
which
possibilities Ethical
Positivism positsas an aspirationalmodel.
The grandtaskofEthicalPositivism istoprovidea moraljustification foradopt-
ingthisconception oflawas theone on whichto baseourpreferred legalsystems.
Clearly sucha positionpresupposes theseparability thesis,foritestablishesthatthe
EthicalPositivist's
objectivemakes sense, but added to theconceptual of
feasibility
theenterprise isthejustificatory
taskofestablishing itsdesirability
andgathering em-
piricalevidencetodemonstrate thatitis,toa sufficient extent,a realisable
ideal.'51

149
150 LE,,1.
LER 2
151 LER85.

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442 UNIVERSITYOF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

LEP is, therefore,'a highlypolitical theoryof law', a 'moral theoryabout


the exercise of political power.' 152Campbell thus defends what he calls the
'prescriptive separation thesis,' according to which the identification and
application of law ought to be kept as separate as possible from the moral
judgments which go into the making of law.'153While the separation thesis,
or what Campbell prefers to call the 'separability thesis,'154may be seen as
a distinguishingfeature of legal positivism,'it is to misunderstand its import
ifwe take it to mean that Positivistsdo not have moral and political reasons
for favouring the adoption and guiding use of this analytic doctrine.'155
Campbell seems happy to acknowledge that, at some level or other, Inclu-
sive Positivism provides the best account of our conceptual commitments.
However, he goes on to add,
... the motivationbehind theanalyticpointis to preparetheconceptualgroundfor
the viewthatno legal systemoughtto permitmorallyexplicitor othercontroversial
standardsbeingused to establishtheexistenceoflawor determineitsimplications.
We maylabel thisthe 'prescriptive separationthesis'.
The prescriptive
separation thesis - theviewthatlawand moralsoughtto be sep-
arate at the pointof application- is not,of course,establishedbyconceptualanaly-
sis,anymorethanitisdisprovedbyempiricalevidence.It is,however,made possible
bysuch analysis,
fortheseparability
thesissuppliesthesemanticschemewithin
whichtostatetheprescriptive thesis.156
separation
Campbell thus accepts the conceptual versionof InclusivePositivism.
He is also happyto accepta descriptive
versionaccordingtowhich,as a mat-
terof observablefact,legal determinations oftendo relyon moral consid-
erationsand actual legal systemsroutinelydo permitjudges to exercise
freshmoral judgments in deciding legal cases. 'LEP does not deny the real-
itythat specific rules are often absent or ignored, or that there are systems
in which judges are encouraged to take rules as no more than tentative
guidelines...'157But,he adds, such statesof affairs'are to be portrayedas
unwarranteddeparturesfromthe positivist model and deplored as unethi-
cal derelictionoflegislativeandjudicial duty.'158In otherwords,withinthe

152 LFE 2 & 58.


153 LEP,3.
154 Campbell distinguishesbetweenthe separationthesis,according to which determina-
tionsof law can neverdepend on moralfactors,and theseparability thesis,accordingto
whichsuch determinations can but need not depend on moralfactors.Exclusivepositiv-
istsinsiston the separationthesis,whileInclusivePositivists
opt forthe separabilitythe-
sis.
155 LEI) 69-70.
156 LEP 71.
157 LEP,7.
158 LEP,7.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 443

positivist's theory lie the resources for detailed moral arguments establish-
ing that,in practice, systemsof law ought to be modelled on Raz's Exclusive
Positivism.
It is not Campbell's aim to argue that LEPis 'the dominant form of Legal
Positivism,either historicallyor contemporaneously.' 59 Nor is it his inten-
tion to deny that positivismis 'standardly defended on conceptual and em-
pirical rather than evaluative grounds.'160 Nevertheless, Campbell con-
tends, 'the moral arguments for Legal Positivism are ... there in the
tradition and are often openly declared.'161 His aim is to expose
... the frequentlysubmergedmoralgroundsof Legal Positivism... Bringingwhatis
oftenthehidden moralagenda ofall Legal Positivisms can be moreinteresting than
taking them at theirconceptual or scientific
face value. This is particularly ifwe
so
examine the ideological or legitimating functionsof manyLegal Positivisms which
flourishon the perhaps disingenuousassumptionthatwhatought to be the case
about law actuallyis so as a matterof naturalmeaningor fact:a characteristic posi-
tivistexample ofarguingfromoughtto is,whichmaybe called thenormativefallacy.
In thisway,the hidden agendas of Legal Positivists are readilyviewedas malign,if
not dishonest,devicesthroughwhichthe role of lawyersand legal academics,to say
nothingof the absolutepowerof thestate,is beingfalselylegitimated.162
Having thus set the stage for his defence of LEP,Campbell goes on to de-
scribe in some detail what he calls 'the paradox of politics'. This is 'the ten-
sion between the societal need for centralised coercive authority and the
dangers involved in any human beings having such power over others.'163
The paradox is tragic, Campbell contends, because both the need for and
the dangers inherent in government stem from the very same features of
the human condition. These are 'the vulnerabilityof individuals and small
groups in situations where scarcity,or perhaps human nature itself,gener-
ates the drive to dominate and control others. 64This tragic situation is ex-
acerbated by 'contemporary uncertainties over the objectivityof values in
general and the perhaps related incapacity to agree as to the basic terms of
social existence in pluralistic societies ...'165 The paradox of politics, then,
is that we need Razian authorityto remove us from the state of nature, but
this same authority puts us at risk of domination and control by those in
whose hands we place this authority.According to LEP, the only means of

159 LEP 73.


160 Ibid.
161 Ibid.
162 LE, 74-5.
163 LEiF,21.
164 Ibid.
165 Ibid.

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444 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

solvingthe paradox is to have a democratically responsivelegislaturewith


the power to introduceauthoritative directives,coupled witha judiciary
whose functionit is to implementthe democraticwillembodied in those
legislativedirectives.Such a scheme requiresa sharpdivisionof labour be-
tweenthe legislativeand judicial functions,and a correspondingdivision
betweenmoral/politicaland legal reasoning.We ought thereforeto limit
theopportunitiesforjudgesto engage thelegislativefunction.We do so by
creatinglawswhoseimplementation and interpretation call foras littlemor-
al reasoning as possible. Otherwise,as the various criticaltheoristshave
stressed,we will thwartthe verypoint of introducingauthoritativerules.
This is truewhethertherulesare 'coordinationrules,facilitative rules,con-
veniencerules,distribution rules,[or] outputrules.'166In addition,we lose
the 'psychologicalcomfortand securityof regularity and predictableness'
whichrulescan help create,as wellas their'symbolicfunction... as a focus
for community identification and value commitment ...'167 Political power
must'be tamednotonlybydemocraticdecisionmakingbut also bymaking
theoperationof thestatea matterofchoice and applicationof rules,rather
thanan agglomerationof individualcommands...'.168
In illustrationof theperilsinherentin failureto respecttheprescriptive
separation thesis,Campbell considers in some detail, the area of free
speech legislation.He providesa richand instructive analysisofvariousap-
proacheswhichhave been takenin dealingwithfreedomof expressionin
democraticsocietieslike the United Kingdom,the United Statesand Aus-
tralia.In his view,the 'justifying
groundsof freedomof speech are so com-
plex, intertwined and in the end incommensurablethattheyare no arena
forsimple slogans and evidentlegal applicationsof pre-establishedclear
and simple rules.'169Nevertheless,workableruleswhich embodyspecific
democraticchoicescan, and should,be fashionedbylegislators.'[I] tis pos-
sible to findwaysof institutionalising
human rightsconsiderationswithout
makingthe courtsthe primelocus of theirsubstantive articulation.'170
In Campbell's viewwe have a choice. We can endeavourto findappro-
priatewaysofdealingwiththeparadoxofpoliticsbymodellingour legal sys-
tem on Raz's sources thesis,or we can choose insteadto allow determina-
tions of law to depend on the judges' individualjudgments of political
morality. The tragiceffects ofthelatterchoice are ablydemonstratedbythe

166 LEY 51-2.Campbell providesa detailedand enlighteningaccount ofthevarietyof differ-


ent typesof ruleswithwhichlawcan performitstypicalfunctions.
167 LEr 52.
168 LEP 61.
169 LEP 214.
170 LEP, 185.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 445

criticaltheoristswho,Campbellbelieves,willfindan agreeable allyin Ethi-


cal Positivismifonlytheycan overcometheirhostility to positivism.This is,
Campbell believes,a hostility whichis largelygeneratedby the dishonest
pretensionsto neutrality characteristic ofmanypositivist theories.In Camp-
bell's view,'Legal Positivismis the presupposedorthodoxywhichprovides
thestandardbackgroundagainstwhichcriticallegal theoriespresentthem-
selves.As such,Legal Positivism is vulnerableto misrepresentation and car-
icatureswhichserveto highlighttheclaimedsuperiority of itsmore daring
competitors.'171 However,'ifwe dissectthemanyinterwovenstrandsof this
movementit is possible to regardmanyof the powerfulcriticalanalysesof
existing,legal systemsas connected with some underlyingassumptions
about rulesand legitimacy whichconnectwithLEP.... This radicalthemeis,
in itself,compatiblewithprescriptive positivism.'172
The above is but a thumbnailsketchof an elaborate defence of LEP.
Campbell's account has a numberof virtues.He makes abundantlyclear
thatsome positivists do relyon moral argumentsdespite the expliciten-
dorsementbymanyof,e.g., theNeutralRationaleand NeutralDescription
Theses. He providesa clear alternativeto the descriptiveand conceptual
formsof positivism whichcan be validly,and in manyrespectspersuasively,
defended using such arguments.And his moral defence is, to myknowl-
edge, the most sustainedand sophisticatedof its typein the literature.Fi-
nally,Campbelldemonstratesthewaysin whichpositivists mightjoinforces
withcriticaland feministtheorists, despitethefactthatthelatterare among
the harshestcriticsof mainstreampositivism.
Despite itsmanyvirtues,I findCampbell's account troublesomeon at
least twofronts.First,I have reservationsabout the picturehe providesof
thepositivist tradition.As notedabove,Campbellis clear thatTheLegalThe-
oryof Ethical 'does not argue forEthicalPositivismas a matterof
Positivism
historicalexegesisor even as an illuminatingpostfactoreinterpretation of
a greattheoreticaltradition."'73 Furthermore, he denies an intentionto ar-
gue thatLEP'is the dominantformof Legal Positivism,eitherhistorically
or contemporaneously."74 'Legal Positivists
have alwaysbeen keen to deny
thattheirtheoryis morallydeleterious,butmoderncommentatorsare cor-
rectin assumingthatthetheoryitselfis standardly defendedon conceptual
and empiricalratherthan evaluativegrounds.The moral argumentsfor
Legal Positivismare, nevertheless,there in the traditionand are often
openlydeclared.'175And when theyare not,we can neverthelessuncover

171 LEP,78.
172 LEP,247-8.
173 LER 75.
174 LER,73.

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446 UNIVERSITYOF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL

'the frequentlysubmergedmoralgroundsofLegal Positivism... whatis of-


ten the hidden moral agenda of all Legal Positivists...'176 Campbell's aim
is to uncoverand utilize
... theideological orlegitimating
functionsofmanyLegalPositivisms whichflourish
on theperhapsdisingenuous assumption thatwhatoughtto be thecaseaboutlaw
actually isso as a matterofnaturalmeaningorfact:a characteristic exam-
positivist
of
ple arguing from oughtto is,whichmaybe calledthenormative In this
fallacy.
way,thehiddenagendaofLegalPositivists arereadily viewedas malign,ifnotdis-
honest,devicesthrough whichtheroleoflawyers and legalacademics,tosaynoth-
ingoftheabsolutepowerofthestate,isbeingfalsely legitimated.'77
So, positivistsoftenclaim allegiance to the NeutralRationale and Neu-
tralDescriptionthesesbut argue on moral grounds.They also draw,from
the submergedmoralpremisesof theirsupposedlyneutraltheories,moral
conclusionsabout the propermodes of adjudicationand legislation.They
thus leave themselvesopen to variouscharges of theoreticaldishonesty
and/or confusion.Campbell's aim is to expose these submergedmoral
premisesand use them to convertthe supposedlyneutraltheoryof legal
positivisminto an explicitlymoral theorywhichtellsus whatlegal and leg-
islativepracticeoughtto be like.
For reasonssketchedabove,I fullyagree withCampbell thatitis invalid
to defend a descriptiveor conceptual theoryon moral grounds.It is also
invalid,perhapseven disingenuous,to drawmoralconclusionsfromwhatis
depictedas a morallyneutraltheory,defendedon morallyneutralgrounds.
Where I partcompanywithCampbellis overhow bestto respond to these
points.Wishingto keep the moralargumentsand keep the moral implica-
tions,Campbell setsout to convertLegal Positivism intoan explicitlymoral
theoryand to argue thatthepromotionofsucha theoryhas oftenbeen 'the
hidden agenda ofall Legal Positivists.' In myviewitis better:(a) to note and
explain theinvalidity of themoralargumentsofferedbyBenthamand Mac-
Cormickand criticizedbyauthorslikeSoper and thepresentauthor;(b) re-
affirmcommitmentto theNeutralDescriptionand NeutralRationaleThe-
ses and then go on to showhow,nevertheless, moral and otherevaluative
considerationscan playa role in developingessentially descriptivetheories;
and (c) continueto insistthatPositivism is firstand foremosta theorypur-
portingto revealour conceptualand theoreticalcommitments withrespect
to the social practicewe call 'law'. Despite the claimsof itssharpestcritics,
positivismis nota theoryabout howjudges should decide cases or about

175 Ibid.
176 LEP,74.
177 LER 75.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 447

whatkindsof legal standardslegislatorsoughtto introduce,anymore than


it is a theoryabout our moralobligationsunder law. In short,positivismis
not,and has neverbeen conceivedbyitsdefendersas being,a theoryof ad-
judication, a theoryof legislation,or a theoryof compliance.In suggesting
thatit is, or should be so regarded,Campbell does a disserviceto the posi-
tivisttraditionhe wishesto serve.In claimingthattheparticulartheoriesof
adjudicationand legislationhe defendsare rightly viewedas positivist theo-
ries inherentin the positivisttradition,Campbell implicitly denies positiv-
iststhe rightto defend other theoriesof adjudication and legislation.In
suggestingthatthe separationthesisis in factthe prescriptiveseparation
thesis,Campbellencouragesthebeliefthatpositivists are committed,at the
level of legal practice,to theseparationoflaw and moralitytheywishto de-
fendat theconceptualor theoreticallevel.But thereis no reason to believe
thatpositivists are so committed,or thattheirargumentsand theoriesare
bestviewedas leading to such a conclusion.
This bringsme to the second respectin whichI have difficulty withLEP.
Campbell has provideda strongcase forthemoraland politicaladvantages
of systemsof law in whichthe functionof applyingrules to oneself,or to
othersas in the case ofjudges, is separatedfromthe functionof creating
rules.The latteris oftena functionbetterservedbydemocratically respon-
sible legislators.Hence we mustacknowledgethe forceof Campbell's pre-
scriptiveseparationthesis.But as Hartand manyotherpositivists have been
keen to pointout,thisformof separationis purchasedat a substantialcost.
Amongtheseis theblindprejudgingofissueswhichcan veryoftenbe dealt
withfairlyand rationallyonlywhentheyariseat the pointof applicationin
particularcases. The need to promote fairnessand rationalityoften re-
quires, in effect,a mergingof the legislativeand adjudicativefunctions
throughthe enactmentof variablestandardsas opposed to hard-and-fast
rules,or throughtheadoptionof ruleswhichemploytermslike 'fair','rea-
sonable' and 'foreseeable'.Campbellis fullyawareof the 'tensionbetween
theneed forprecisionand theneed forfairness.' 178However, itis clear that
he thinksthatthe formerneed is byfarthe weightierof the two. '[I]f we
take the dominantsocial and politicalfunctionof rules to be action guid-
ing,conductcoordinatingand powercontrolling, thengood ruleswilltend
to fall into the categoriesof clear and specific."'79Legislationwhich em-
ploysmorally-charged termslike 'fair','reasonable' and 'unjust' tendsnot
to be clear and specificand 'representsan understandablebut regrettable
passingof the legislativeburden fromgovernmentsto courts.'180 So does

178 LEP,118.
179 Ibid.
180 LEI, 119.

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OF TORONTO LAWJOURNAL
448 UNIVERSITY

adoption of constitutionaldocuments which empowerjudges to strike


down otherwisevalid legislation'throughthe applicationof abstractand
overridingprinciples,such as freedomof speech."81
Having said all this,Campbell does go on to acknowledgethatsome-
timesthe legislativeburden shouldbe shiftedto courts.Althoughon his
'positivistscheme' theundesirableconsequences ofapplyingrulesin a par-
ticularcase 'should normallybe assessed and alteredlegislatively through
the politicalprocess,'182it is nevertheless'partof [positivist]judicial ethics
to have recourse to consequential absurdityin order to amend evident
meanings ... when the consequences are uncontroversially senseless or
harmful.,'183So utterseparationis not alwaysdesirable,so long as everyone
is clear thatnothingless thanuncontroversial absurdity or harmfulness will
do. Anything less would threaten'the rule of rules.'184
One wonders,however,whetherCampbell has gone farenough in ac-
knowledgingthecompetingvaluesat stakewhensystems vigorously pursue
the prescriptiveseparation thesis.Consider,for example, what is lost if
courtsare prohibitedfromoverridinglegislationthroughtheapplicationof
abstractprincipleslikefreeexpression,equality,or due process.Whatis lost
is an importantpublic platformupon whichordinarycitizenscan affect,
throughmoralargument,theexerciseofpoweroverthembylegal and leg-
islativeauthorities.They lose a public platformon whichtheycan directly
challenge,in an open and oftendramaticway,and on thebasisofimportant
moral rightsexplicitlyrecognizedin theirconstitution, the legal validityof
decisionsmade bytheirlegal and politicalauthorities.The loss of thisplat-
formhas a numberof consequences. For one, it deprivesthe individualof
an importantsource of politicalpower.Withfewexceptions,it is verydiffi-
cultfora dissentingindividualwho believesthatlegislationfloutsconstitu-
tionalvalues to bringabout a desiredchange bylegislators.It maybe not
quite so difficult to convincea court.But perhaps thisis the problem. It
mightbe arguedthatthemorepowerwe giveindividualsto thwartthedem-
ocraticwill,the lesswe can expectthemto accept the authority of theirpo-
liticalinstitutions.And the less we can expect individualsto acknowledge
the authority of theirpoliticalinstitutions, theless likelywe are to reap the
benefitsof the rule of rulesoutlinedso clearlyby Campbell. Perhaps. But
thereare reasonsforthinkingthatthedesiredacceptanceoflaw'sauthority
mightin factbe encouraged byprovidingcitizenswiththe opportunityto
challenge legislationin court on the basis of entrenchedabstractmoral

181 LEP,217.
182 LE, 134.
183 Ibid.
184 LE, 142.

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THE MANYFACES OF LEGAL POSITIVISM 449

rights.A politicalsystemwhichformallyrecognizesits own moral limita-


tions,whichrecognizesthatitslegislatorsandjudges maylegallyerrbyvio-
latingimportantrightsof politicalmoralitycontainedwithinthe constitu-
tion, is one whose authorityis likelyto earn the respect of a morally
enlightenedand sensitivecitizenry.When individualsare shown respect,
theyare more likelyto showrespectin return.Compare an alternativesys-
tem,fullycommittedto theprescriptive separationthesis,whichdenies the
individuala legal platformon whichto challengethe legislativepowersof
itspoliticalauthoritieson groundsof moralrightsembodied in a constitu-
tion.Perhapsitis thissecond systemin whichtheruleofrulesis threatened.
When facedwitha claimto unrestricted authority mostpeople are inclined
to rejectthatclaim and to asserttheirmoralautonomyinstead.Individuals
are preparedto accept theauthority ofothersbut onlyon termswhichrec-
ognize itsreasonableand rightful limitationand providesignificantmeans
forresisting abuses.Ifthisis at all correct,thenwe havegood reason toques-
tion the prescriptive separationthesis,or at least the weightwhichCamp-
bell places on it.This is not,however,reason to questionthe manyformsof
legal positivism withwhichthisthesisoughtnot to be identified.

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