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Neil MacCormick, Practical Reason in Law and Morality
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Law, Department of Law.
2009 (English)In: Ethics, ISSN 0014-1704, E-ISSN 1539-297X, Vol. 120, no 1, 192-197 p.Article, book review (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

This book by the late Neil MacCormick is the fourth and last in a series ‘Law, State, and Practical Reason,’ which began with Questioning Sovereignty: Law, State and Nation in the European Commonwealth [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999], and continued with Rhetoric and the Rule of Law: A Theory of Legal Reasoning [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005] and Institutions of Law: An Essay in Legal Theory [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007]. The central question dealt with in the book is “Can reason be practical?”, and MacCormick’s answer to this question is “loudly affirmative” (209). In thus defending the existence of practical reason, MacCormick goes against two of the greatest figures in twentieth century legal philosophy, viz. the legal positivists Hans Kelsen and Alf Ross, and possibly also against a third great figure, viz. the legal positivist H. L. A. Hart.

In this short review, I offer a quick overview of MacCormick’s main line of argument, and consider in a little more detail what I take to be MacCormick’s central claim, viz. that the solution to the “riddle of practical reason” is to be found in (what MacCormick calls) the Smithian categorical imperative, that is, Kant’s categorical imperative supplemented with Adam Smith’s idea of an impartial spectator. I argue, very briefly, that MacCormick’s central claim is not as clear as it might be, and that in any case it is not really plausible.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 120, no 1, 192-197 p.
Keyword [en]
Practical Reason, Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, the Categorical Imperative, Moral Constructivism
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-111939OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-111939DiVA: diva2:283955
Book ReviewAvailable from: 2010-01-02 Created: 2010-01-02 Last updated: 2011-04-19Bibliographically approved

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