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Title: How and why law is conventional
Author: Coffey, J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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Contemporary legal philosophers generally agree that the content of law is dependent in some way on the practices of law-applying officials. They agree further that these practices are governed by norms, and that officials ascertain the content of these norms, at least in part, by reference to past official behaviour. These theoretical commitments are specifications of the truism that the content of law is somehow dependent on social practice. However, in spite of the normative significance that these specifications attach to behavioural facts, they do not add up to the idea that the norms that govern official practice are, to some extent, conventional. To say that these norms are conventional is to make the further claim that officials participate in a structure of interaction wherein they attach normative significance not only to past official behaviour but also to present and future official behaviour. Most legal philosophers assent to these further conventionalist commitments. However, this support is not quite universal. The present dissertation will seek to enter these philosophical disputes by advancing a defence of conventionalism that addresses the following set of questions. (1) Why are legal conventions at the level of the norms that govern official practice necessary to law? (2) How should we conceive of the structure of these conventions? (3) Do the normative attitudes and values of citizens necessarily impose any substantive constraints on the content of legal conventions? I will argue that legal conventions at the level of the norms that govern official practice are necessary in order to render law capable of realizing one of its essential purposes, namely, the guidance of citizens’ conduct. I will argue further that legal conventions are best thought of in terms of David Lewis’s concept of coordination convention.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available