Event Details

A Hegelian Model of Legal Concept Determination: The Normative Fine Structure of the Judges' Chain Novel

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.

Lecture Abstract:

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.




Robert Brandom

Professor, University of Pittsburgh
Bob Brandom works on the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of logic, on German idealism and neo-pragmatism, and on Wilfrid Sellars. His most important books are Making It Explicit (Harvard, 1994) and Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism (Oxford, 2008). His most recent books are Perspectives on Pragmatism (Harvard, 2011) and Reason in Philosophy (Harvard 2009). Bob has given the John Locke lectures at Oxford, the Hempel lectures at Princeton, the Howison and Townsend lectures at Berkeley, a William James lecture at Harvard, and the Woodbridge lectures at Columbia. He has held fellowships at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford and at All Souls College Oxford. In 2002 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2004 he received the Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in the amount of $1.5 million.

Event Date(s):

February 14, 2024, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm

Subscription Form


Protection of Privacy – Personal information provided is collected in accordance with Section 33(c) of the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the FOIP Act) and will be protected under Part 2 of that Act. It will be used for the purpose of managing CCS’ email subscription lists. Should you require further information about collection, use and disclosure of personal information, or to unsubscribe, please contact: Administrator, Centre for Constitutional Studies, 448D Law Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB, T6G 2H5, Tel: 780-492-5681, Email: ccslaw@ualberta.ca. You may unsubscribe from our email lists at any time.
Centre for Constitutional Studies
448D Law Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB T6G 2H5
chevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram