An evaluation of Ronald Dworkin's hermeneutical theory of law

Paolo Giuseppe Annino, Fordham University

Abstract

The goal of this dissertation is to explore and evaluate Ronald Dworkin's hermeneutical theory of law. I argue that Dworkin 's theory of law is a "hermeneutical theory." I justify my classification and show how Dworkin's theory fits in the contemporary debates in hermeneutics and how it contributes to these debates. I relate Dworkin's hermeneutical theory to the works of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jurgen Habermas.^ I thematize the dialogical and reconstructive nature of Dworkin's hermeneutical theory, and I argue that Dworkin's hermeneutical theory has the resources to respond to the fundamental charges of solipsism (e.g., Jurgen Habermas, Klaus Gunter and Frank Michelman) and of misunderstanding the relation of law and literature (e.g., Richard Posner).^ I also relate Dworkin's hermeneutical theory to the law and literature movement in legal scholarship, and I argue that legal interpretation is a form of story-telling.^ I illustrate my interpretation by discussing several landmark U.S. decisions, Brown v. Board of Education (which desegregated public schools), Griswold v. Conn. (which articulated the right to privacy), and Texas v. Johnson (which found flag-burning constitutional). I also discuss a landmark South African judicial decision, The State v. T. Makwanyane and M. Mechunu (which found the death penalty unconstitutional). ^

Subject Area

Law|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Annino, Paolo Giuseppe, "An evaluation of Ronald Dworkin's hermeneutical theory of law" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9730083.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9730083

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