Western Law

February 2017

Ludvig Beckman, “Legal Power and the Right to Vote: Does the Right to Vote Confer Power?,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 5-22.

It is widely believed that voting rights confer power to individual voters as well as to the collective body of the electorate. This paper evaluates this notion on the basis of two conceptions of political power: the causal view, according to which power equals the ability to exert causal effect, and the legal view, according to which power equals the legal ability to produce legal effect. The proposition defended is that causal conceptions of power are unable to account for the view that voting rights confer power to either individuals or collectives. In particular, the theory according to which the powers conferred by the vote equal the probability of being decisive or “pivotal” in elections does not justify the ascription of power to voters. It does not because the probability of being influential is not a valid interpretation of power as the capacity to mobilize sufficient causal effect to determine an outcome. In addition, causal conceptions of power are unable to recognize the people as the unique owner of political power. The powers exercised by the members of the electorate appear to be just one among several causes that contribute to determine electoral outcomes. In the end, the legal analysis of power proves superior. Power in a democracy is placed with the people as a legal category vested with the legal capacity to revise the legal relationship between individuals and the state.


Alexander Brown
, “The ‘Who?’ Question in the Hate Speech Debate: Part 2: Functional and Democratic Approaches,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 23-55.

This two-part article addresses the “Who?” question in the hate speech debate: namely, which characteristics, social identities or statuses should or should not be treated as protected characteristics within a body hate speech laws? Using United Kingdom incitement to hatred laws as a focal point, the article outlines and critically appraises five broad approaches to specification. Part 1 deals with consistency specification, which highlights norms of consistency both within incitement to hatred law itself and in relation to other laws, practical specification, which focuses on the ostensible goals or apparent aims of incitement to hatred laws, and formal specification, which looks at the formal qualities of the characteristics themselves and to the different forms of people’s relationships with those characteristics. And Part 2 considers functional specification, which concentrates on the underlying or real functions, purposes or objectives of incitement to hatred laws, and democratic specification, which appeals to democratic procedures as well as to democratic values, norms and principles that speak to the proper scope of incitement to hatred laws. Along the way I shall also critically assess a range of substantive arguments about which particular characteristics should or should not be covered by incitement to hatred laws given the aforementioned approaches. My main conclusion shall be that each of the approaches has its strengths and weakness and that, partly because of this, no single approach is adequate by itself as a tool for specifying the proper scope of incitement to hatred laws, but also, by the same token, no approach should be ruled out entirely. Instead, the best strategy is one that combines together all five approaches in reasonable ways given the law, the characteristic and the context.


Tanzil Chowdhury
, “Time Frames and Legal Indeterminacy,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 57-76.

A consensus has long been established that adherents of the Critical Legal School (and to a lesser extent, Legal Realism) exaggerated their claims of law’s indeterminacy. This paper however, attempts to resurrect the indeterminacy debate by articulating, developing and elevating a particular strand of it; namely, the use of unrestrained time frames in factual construction. This claims that factual construction in adjudication is, in part, contingent on the time frames adopted—though absent some metaprinciple on whether to adopt broad or narrow time frames—indeterminacy rears its head. The paper primarily argues that time frame indeterminacy is important as it actually underwrites the attacks levelled by both Critical Legal Studies (CLS) and American Legal Realism (ALR) on legal liberalism. It nourishes ALR critiques by enriching the strict and loose articulations of precedent authored by Karl Llewellyn, and also connects some of the definitive themes that underline the CLS literature, specifically the rules-standards and free will-determinism contradictions in legal liberal discourse.


Sean Coyle
, “Natural Law and Goodness in Thomistic Ethics,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 77-96.

The purpose of the essay is to recover a correct conception of natural law and goodness in the ethics of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It suggests that the dominant interpretation of Thomism known by legal philosophers—that of John Finnis—is importantly at variance with Aquinas’s true account. Against the dominant interpretation, a true account of natural law must (i) differentiate between natural law and ethics in the full sense (moral theology), and (ii) interpret references to human good as references to virtuous goodness rather than non-moral goodness. The main body of the essay explores the place of these concepts in Aquinas’s account of ethics.


Benjamin Ewing
, “Conventionality, Disagreement, and Fidelity,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 97-123.

Legal philosophers have taken what Ronald Dworkin called "theoretical disagreement" or disagreement about the "grounds of law," to be of jurisprudential interest because of its putative incompatibility with legal positivism. The first aim of this article is to reframe theoretical disagreement as part of a broader challenge for all jurisprudential theories, positivist or not: how to refine and reconcile three theses that should appear plausible, important, and in tension. (1) Conventionality: the content of the law is determined, presumptively if not definitively, by meta-rules of law whose status as meta-rules arises from a consensus among relevant legal actors to treat them as having that status. (2) Disagreement: judges have theoretical disagreements about the law-i.e., disagreements about such meta-rules of law as legal interpretive methods, which they do not attempt to resolve merely by reference to explicit or implicit empirical consensus. (3) Fidelity: judges' theoretical disagreements can be in good faith, reasonable, and legally resolvable. The article's second ambition is to synthesize a broad range of jurisprudential writing pertinent to conventionality, theoretical disagreement, and judicial fidelity to law, in order to bring forward a potential reconciliation of all three that gives each one its due. Law and the requirements of judicial fidelity can be broadly conventional yet subject to reasonable, genuinely "theoretical disagreement" insofar as they are determined not only by contingent empirical truths about convergent practice but also by non-contingent conceptual truths about law's nature and distinctive virtues. Unlike accounts of theoretical disagreement developed by theorists attacking or defending legal positivism, the view of theoretical disagreement I sketch here is ecumenical. It is compatible with accepting or rejecting legal positivism-though not on all positivists' or all non-positivists' terms.


David Frydrych
, “Rights Modelling,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 125-157.

This paper has four aims. First it distinguishes two kinds of philosophical accounts of the ‘formal’ features of rights: models and theories. Models outline the ‘conceptually basic’ types of rights (if indeed a given model deems there to be more than one), their differences, and their relationships with duties, liabilities, etc. Theories of rights posit a supposed ultimate purpose for all rights and provide criteria for determining what counts as ‘a right’ in the first place. Second, the paper argues that Monistic rights models (ones positing only a single basic type of right) are under-inclusive. They wrongly exclude and cannot explain relevant data, i.e., ordinary and legal linguistic practices. The third aim is to show that certain Pluralistic models are over-inclusive in terms of what they count as ‘rights’. Fourth, the paper begins to touch upon, but does not provide, criteria for determining what counts as ‘a right’. Two candidate factors will be addressed.


Binesh Hass
, “The Methods of Normativity,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 159-186.

This essay is an examination of the relationship between phenomenology and analytic method in the philosophy of law. It proceeds by way of a case study, the requirement of compliance in Raz’s theory of mandatory norms. Proceeding in this way provides a degree of specificity that is otherwise neglected in the relevant literature on method. Drawing on insights from the philosophy of art and cognitive neuroscience, it is argued that the requirement of compliance is beset by a range of epistemological difficulties. The implications of these difficulties are then reviewed for method and normativity in practical reason. A topology of normativity emerges nearer the end of the paper, followed by a brief examination of how certain normative categories must satisfy distinct burdens of proof.


Ofer Malcai & Ronit Levine-Schnur
, “When Procedure Takes Priority: A Theoretical Evaluation of the Contemporary Trends in Criminal Procedure and Evidence Law,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 187-213.

Current legal trends tend to obscure the sharp distinction between substance and procedure. This tendency is manifested, inter alia, as a growing dependence of procedural norms in substantive law; greater flexibility of procedural norms; and growing judicial discretion to deviate from procedural rules. In order to evaluate these contemporary trends, we provide a theoretical analysis of the basic relationships between procedural norms and substantive legal outcomes. This framework reveals the moral commitments underling these modern trends as opposed to the moral foundations of the traditional view that legal decisions should be made under rigid procedural constraints. Focusing on criminal evidence law, the proposed theoretical framework is applied to some of the ongoing legal debates, such as about the admissibility of evidence seized in violation of rights, the exclusion of statistical and character evidence, and the flexibility of the reasonable doubt standard of proof.


Greg Simmons
, “Free Will and Law: Toward a Pragmatic Approach,” Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence, Vol. XXX, No. 1 (February, 2017) pp. 215-231.

Despite its profound significance for notions of legal responsibility, the courts and legal system have tended to avoid direct engagement with the philosophical problem of free will. Focusing on mental illness and the criminal law, I advance here a naturalistic approach that builds on the work of P. F. Strawson, one I believe offers a pragmatic basis from which to address the contradictions and challenges present when folk wisdom, science, philosophy and the law intersect. In this way, I contend that moving dialectically between a reflexive engagement with extant practical attitudes to freedom and the empirical investigation of the participant/object divide affords the opportunity to develop more rational and humane legal and social responses to both the mentally disordered and broader population.