The Nature and Value of the Rule of Law
Guest lecture on July 19, 2023, 6:15 pm
Guest lecture by Gerald J. Postema, PhD (Boshamer Distinguished Professor em. of Philosophy, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) | Date, time: Wednesday, July 19, 2023, 6:15–8:00 pm | Venue: University of Freiburg, Lecture room 1010, University building I | Guests are welcome!
– in cooperation with the Department of Political Science and Philosophy of Law at the University of Freiburg –
The rule of law, once widely embraced and emulated, now faces serious threats to its viability. To get our bearings we must return to first principles. Law’s Rule: The Nature, Value, and Viability of the Rule of Law articulates and defends a coherent, comprehensive, and compelling conception of the rule of law and defends it against serious challenges to its intelligibility, relevance, and normative force. In this lecture, Postema will sketch the basic outlines of this conception and the values it serves. The rule of law’s ambition, he will argue, is to provide protection and recourse against the arbitrary exercise of power using the distinctive tools of the law. Law provides a bulwark of protection, a bridle on the powerful, and a bond constituting and holding together the polity and giving public expression to an ideal mode of association. Two principles immediately follow from this core: sovereignty of law, demanding that those who exercise ruling power govern with law and that law governs them, and equality in the eyes of the law, demanding that law’s protection extend to all who are bound by it. Animating law’s rule, the ethos of fidelity commits all members of the political community to take responsibility for holding each other accountable under the law. The moral foundation of this demanding ideal lies in a commitment to common membership of each person in this community, recognizing their freedom, dignity, and status as peers. The lecture will consider the relationship between democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and will conclude with thoughts on some of the most serious threats to the viability of law’s rule.
Gerald J. Postema has published extensively in legal and political philosophy and ethics. He earned his BA degree from Calvin College (1970) and PhD (1976) from Cornell University. He began his teaching career at Johns Hopkins University (1975-1980). Until his retirement in 2019, he taught philosophy and law at UNC-CH, since 1996 as Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. On October 24, 2016 he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Athens, Greece. Earlier (2013-14) he served as Arthur L. Goodhart Distinguished Visiting Professor of Legal Science (Cambridge University) and Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He received the George J. Johnson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts and Humanities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012. He is a former Guggenheim Fellow, Rockefeller Fellow (Bellagio), Medlin Fellow (National Humanities Center), Fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies, and Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute (Florence). On February 20, 2014, he delivered the prestigious Boutwood Lecture at the University of Cambridge.