This is the third event in our "Law and Pragmatism" series, which began in November 2023 with the aim of acquainting legal scholars and professionals with cutting edge philosophical scholarship in the field of American pragmatism. Special thanks to Professor Joshua Nichols (McGill Law) for working with us to organize these lectures.
The specter of skepticism haunts the philosophy of law (or at least, there is a neighborhood of that bustling city demarcated by a dominating concern with that potentially destructive apparition). The engagement of early modern philosophy with skepticism traced out an arc, from the epistemological skepticism from which Descartes recoiled to the more radical semantic skepticism that Kant was concerned to forestall. Where Descartes's inquiry into the conditions of the possibility of empirical knowledge could take for granted the subject's grasp of ideas that at least purported to represent how the objective world actually is, Kant dug deeper to investigate what is required to make intelligible the contentfulness of concepts in any sense that includes their objective representational purport. The sort of skepticism in the philosophy of law that I am concerned with here is also a specifically semantic skepticism. While there are legitimate epistemological questions about the practices and procedures by which various participants seek to know what the law is, the issues I am addressing are a matter rather of the intelligibility of the determinate contentfulness of the concepts that articulate laws. It is a mark of the distinctiveness of the realm of law that any semantic skeptical threat to the intelligibility of legal concepts as determinately contentful carries with it a collateral threat to the ontological status of legal statuses such as obligations and rights, which are instituted by laws.
February 14, 2024, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm