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Principled and Pragmatic Theories of Legal Reasoning
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Law, Department of Law.
2003 (English)In: Festskrift till Åke Frändberg / [ed] Anders Fogelklou, Torben Spaak, Uppsala: Iustus förlag, 2003, 235-262 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this essay, I develop a distinction between what I shall refer to as principled and pragmatic theories of legal reasoning. Crudely put, principled theories stress the importance of consistency and coherence, claiming that the judge must decide the case before him in accordance with a legal norm that explains and justifies past decisions and that he is also willing to act on in the future. In other words, the principle of universalizability plays a central role in principled theories. Pragmatic theories, on the other hand, emphasize the importance of attention to context and practice and of instrumentalist thinking, arguing that judicial decision-making ought to be eclectic and piecemeal, and focus more on results than conformity with norms. I think of these two types of theory as ideal-types. They offer a conceptual, not a normative, ideal against which we may measure existing theories. On this analysis, principled theories are more or less principled depending on how they understand and employ the principle of universalizability, which principle applies both to the holding (the ratio decidendi) and to the arguments supporting the holding. Pragmatic theories are more or less pragmatic depending on the extent to which they take into account contextual features and involve instrumentalist thinking, which parameters apply on the same two counts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Iustus förlag, 2003. 235-262 p.
Keyword [en]
Legal reasoning, pragmatism, universalization
National Category
Law and Society
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-81436ISBN: 91-7678-506-8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-81436DiVA: diva2:109351
Available from: 2006-08-21 Created: 2006-08-21 Last updated: 2013-11-22Bibliographically approved

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