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Title: Making a difference : the use of meta-ethics in adjudication
Author: Smith, Dale
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2004
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Moral philosophers have long debated whether moral utterances can be objectively true or false (or objectively valid or appropriate). Many legal philosophers have also participated in this debate (which I shall call 'the meta-ethical debate'). Recently, however, there has been a trend among legal philosophers - led by Ronald Dworkin and Jeremy Waldron - towards regarding the meta-ethical debate as irrelevant to the adjudication of legal disputes (and possibly to legal practice and theory more generally). This thesis explores the reasons underlying this trend, and argues that the trend is misguided. After outlining several versions of objectivism and anti-objectivism, and arguing that there is a genuine debate between these positions, I seek to establish the relevance of those positions to adjudication in two ways. Firstly, I consider the arguments offered by Dworkin and Waldron to show that the truth or falsity of moral objectivism is irrelevant to adjudication. I seek to show that both Dworkin's and Waldron's arguments fail to establish the irrelevance of the meta-ethical debate. Secondly, I seek to trace the implications of the meta-ethical debate for a particular issue relevant to adjudication - namely, the legitimacy of judicial review. I argue that, while both objectivists and anti-objectivists can regard judicial review as legitimate, one's meta-ethical position should affect one's attitude towards judicial review in a variety of sometimes subtle ways. I conclude that the truth or falsity of moral objectivism does have implications for adjudication, although those implications are not as great as has been suggested by some opponents of the trend towards regarding the meta-ethical debate as irrelevant to adjudication. In doing so, I seek to tread a middle path between the two most popular views of the relationship between the meta-ethical debate and adjudication - that the former is either irrelevant to the latter or else has radical implications for it.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available