Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Thomas Bustamante (Minas Gerais) – Fish vs Dworkin (Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy seminar)

2 November 2022, 4:00 PM6:00 PM GMT


The Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy invites you to a seminar to be delivered by Thomas Bustamente (Minas Gerais).

About the Speaker:

Thomas Bustamante is Professor of Legal Theory at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil; Research Productivity Fellow of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development


The ‘Fish-Dworkin debate’ was a turning point in Dworkin’s philosophy of law, which provides the background of Law’s Empire. Before encountering Fish, Dworkin believed legal philosophy combines a conceptual and a normative part, but these parts could still be distinguished. This picture changed when he introduced the metaphor of the ‘chain novel’: legal judgments are now presented like ‘thick ethical concepts’ in Putnam’s sense. This shift brought Dworkin to Fish’s province, since both can be classified as philosophical pragmatists. They accept what Brandom described as ‘fundamental pragmatism’, since they suppose that to understand a practice one requires a special know-how or practical ability. They accept, further, a ‘normative pragmatism’, i.e., that we resort to implicit norms to determine what counts as a reasonable interpretation within a practice. What distinguishes them is the character of these implicit norms: Fish subscribes to a version of the ‘belief-desire’ model of cognition and believes the implicit norms embedded in social practices are only ‘instrumental norms’, whereas Dworkin eschews any kind of instrumentalism. Nonetheless, Dworkin can still be classified as a pragmatist (in a wider sense) because he believes the norms that determine the right way to interpret a legal concept are drawn from the same practice they are aimed at interpreting. Legal principles, in Dworkin’s terminology, are norms implicit in social practice that play the role of providing a rational structure to distinguish between correct and incorrect applications of a set of norms. It is the possibility of inconsistency between implicit norms and the interpretive judgments we make in an interpretive community that accounts for the possibility of legal mistakes, regardless of whether these mistakes are made by a single agent or by the interpretive community to which we belong.

Paper is available at THIS LINK. Pre-reading optional.

We do hope you will join us in person. But if that proves impossible, please join us online at THIS LINK.


Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy, University of Surrey School of Law
View Organiser Website


Surrey Centre for Law & Philosophy, University of Surrey School of Law
Frank Whittle Building, 5th Floor
Guildford, GU2 7XH United Kingdom
+ Google Map
View Venue Website

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.