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‘Abduction of Europa’ (Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Amsterdam - 1632 - fragment)

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Taking Rights Seriously: Ronald Dworkin dies at 81 (December, 11 1931 - February, 14 2013)

By Marc de Werd 
Justice in the Amsterdam Court of Appeal in the Netherlands and editor of this blog

American philosopher and constitutional law expert Ronald Dworkin, a liberal scholar who argued that the law should be founded on moral integrity, has died at the age of 81. His theory of law as integrity, in which judges interpret the law in terms of consistent and communal moral principles, especially justice and fairness, is among the most influential contemporary theories about the nature of law. Dworkin advocated a "moral reading" of the United States Constitution, and an interpretivist approach to law and morality. 



Dworkin's theory is 'interpretive': the law is whatever follows from a constructive interpretation of the institutional history of the legal system. Dworkin argued that moral principles that people hold dear are often wrong, even to the extent that certain crimes are acceptable if one's principles are skewed enough. To discover and apply these principles, courts interpret the legal data (legislation, cases etc.) with a view to articulating an interpretation that best explains and justifies past legal practice. All interpretation must follow, Dworkin argues, from the notion of "law as integrity" to make sense.

Out of the idea that law is 'interpretive' in this way, Dworkin argued that in every situation where people's legal rights are controversial, the best interpretation involves the right answer thesis. Dworkin opposed the notion that judges have a discretion in such difficult cases. Courtesy

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