Implicit Law and Adjudication in Hard Cases

Guest Lecture

  • Date: May 11, 2022
  • Time: 05:00 PM - 07:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Prof. Dr. Kevin Toh
  • Kevin Toh is the Professor of Philosophy of Law at the Faculty of Laws, University College London. He was previously an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, San Francisco State University, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Indiana University in Bloomington. He has also held visiting positions at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Texas School of Law, and University College and the Centre in Ethics and Philosophy of Law at the University of Oxford. Toh is the author of numerous articles in philosophy of law, ethics, and constitutional theory, and is a co-editor of Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays in Metaethics and Jurisprudence (OUP 2019).
  • Location: Freiburg – via Zoom (link see below)
  • Host: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law
  • Contact:
Interpretive practices of courts and other adjudicative bodies indicate that the law of any community comprises not only (i) an explicit part that consists of enactments, judicial decisions, and settled legal practices, but also (ii) an implicit part which judges rely on in adjudicating novel issues not addressed by any part of the explicit law. Legal positivists have in general been resistant to recognizing implicit law, while natural law theorists have conceived implicit law in moralized terms. Both views appear to be discredited when checked against considered interpretative judgments. This lecture broaches a new way of conceiving implicit law by exploiting two analogies: (i) an analogy between implicit law and implied fictional truths – i.e. what are true in a work of fiction but are not explicitly specified as such by the author or artist; and (ii) an analogy between the interpretive principles that we rely on to generate implied fictional truths (what are often called “principles of generation” in philosophical aesthetics), and the principles that we rely on to construct counterfactual scenarios for a variety of purposes – e.g. in explaining and predicting each other’s thoughts and behavior, in our backward-looking moral emotions such as regret and relief. The two aforementioned analogical arguments suggest that the principles we rely on to generate implicit law are deep-seated and fundamental features of our psychological makeup. The overall implication that this paper teases out is that the implicit law of any legal system is neither a set of moral principles as natural law theorists argue, nor a set of principles that we agree on or manufacture as legal positivists conceive laws in general. Instead of being a product of human making, the implicit law of any legal system is likely a product of human makeup.
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