Defeasibility of Legal Reasoning and the Special Nature of Legal Normativity

A special feature of law is that justifications of judicial judgments are not conclusive. This can be seen from the fact that in the law it is always possible to refute or challenge the application of a legal rule R in terms of a justified exception. There are innumerable exceptions to legal rules.
The core concern of the project was to deepen our understanding of legal normativity through an analysis of the contestability of legal justifications. A specific focus was the analysis of the question of the relationship between contestability and indeterminacy. Does the fact that the exceptions cannot be enumerated also mean that the situation is normatively indeterminate?
The project was a contribution to the study of the normativity of normative orders and, in particular, to the partial question as to whether normative orders are subject to an incessant process of revision.
The project was conducted in the context of the dissertation of project collaborator Michel de Araujo Kurth and with the close support of PIs Marcus Willaschek and Klaus Günther. The basis was provided by a bibliography compiled in advance on the theme of contestability. Twice a year the results were presented and subjected to critical discussion in Marcus Willaschek’s research colloquium. At a meeting in March 2015, some of the sub-questions of the project were examined by renowned legal and moral philosophers. An essay by the project collaborator presenting the results of the project and an essay by Günther also appeared in an anthology.
Based on an analysis of legal contestability, the project was able to distinguish between two levels of justification judgments: a “rule level” and a “substantial justification level.” Analysis of the relationship between these two levels enabled the development of a new approach to answering the question of the relationship between indeterminacy and contestability. According to this approach, contestability and legal indeterminacy are mutually exclusive, because contestability means specifically that a judgment is accorded greater weight at the substantive level of justification than at the level of rules, and thereby implies normative determinateness.

The most important events of this project:

Workshop: Defeasibility in the Law (organized by Marcus Willaschek, Klaus Günther and Michel de Araujo Kurth, with Lectures by PD. Carsten Bäcker, Prof. Ruth Chang, Prof. Jonathan Dancy, Dr. Susanne Mantel, Prof. Josep Joan Moreso, Prof. Matthias Klatt, Prof. Andrei Marmor, Prof. Marcus Willaschek, Andreas Müller M. A., Michel de Araujo Kurth M. A.), Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders", Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, March 12–13, 2015.

Panel: “Legal Indeterminacy in International law and Contemporary American Constitutional Law” (organized by Michel de Araujo Kurth), Graduate Conference of the Cluster of Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders”, Praktiken der Kritik (Practices of Critique), Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders", Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, December 6, 2013.

 

The most important publications of this project:

Willaschek, Marcus (2013): Defeasibility in Philosophy, Knowledge, Agency, Responsibility, and the Law, Sonderheft der Grazer Philosophischen Studien (special issue of Grazer Philosophischen Studien), ed. by: C. Blöser/M. Janvid/H.O. Matthiessen/M. Willaschek, Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2013.

Willaschek, Marcus/C. Blöser/M. Janvid/H. Matthiessen: “Introduction“, in: C. Blöser/M. Janvid/H.O. Matthiessen/M. Willaschek (eds.): Defeasibility in Philosophy. Grazer Philosophische Studien 87, 2013, pp. 1–8.

Willaschek, Marcus: “Strawsonian Epistemology. What Epistemologists can learn from ‘Freedom and Resentment’”, in: Defeasibility in Philosophy. Grazer Philosophische Studien, 87, C. Blöser/M. Janvid/H.O. Matthiessen/M. Willaschek (eds.), 2013, pp. 99–128.

Willaschek, Marcus: "Moral ohne Sanktion? Anmerkungen zu Julia Hermann und Mario Brandhorst“, in: E. Buddeberg/A. Vesper (eds.): Moral und Sanktion. Eine Kontroverse über die Autorität moralischer Normen, Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2013.

de Auraujo Kurth, Michel: “Selected Thematic Bibliography of Work on Defeasibility in Philosophy and Related Disciplines”, in: Grazer Philosophische Studien, 87, 2013, pp. 217– 257.

 


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