6 Ratio Juris 1 (1993)

handle is hein.journals/raju6 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Ratio Juris. Vol. 6 No. 1 March 1993 (1-15)

On the Autonomy of Legal



Abstract. The paper argues that reasoning according to law is an instance of moral
reasoning. Several ways of understanding this claim are distinguished. A number of
arguments to the effect that because of the internal logic of the law, or the special skills
it involves legal reasoning should be seen as immune to moral considerations are
rejected. Nevertheless, the paper affirms the relative and limited autonomy of legal
reasoning, and the sui generis role of doctrine in it which is manifested in the many
cases in which the moral considerations pertaining to the case underdetermine its

Is legal reasoning sui generis? Or is it just ordinary reasoning applied to law?
Some have alleged that ordinary logic does not apply to legal reasoning. That
it obeys the rules of a special logic. Others have suggested that there is a
special legal logic which applies to legal reasoning in addition to ordinary
logic. These suggestions have been rebutted often before. Logic is universal
and encapsulates (some of) the presuppositions of thought and communica-
tion. What is special to the law is its subject matter not its logic. When I ask
whether legal reasoning is sui generis I do not mean to doubt that it is subject
to the same rules of reasoning as other areas of thought and discourse. The
question as here understood is about the autonomy of legal reasoning in its
use of its specific material. Legal reasoning is a species of normative
reasoning. It concerns norms, reasons for action, rights and duties, and their
application to general or specific situations. Does the fact that legal stand-
ards, legal rules, legal rights and duties feature large in legal reasoning mean
that they and no other normative or evaluative considerations feature in it?
In particular the question is: If legal reasoning turns on legal reasons is there

* This paper was read at CIRFID, The Center for Research into Philosophy of Law and Legal
Computer Science of Bologna University (Italy) on occasion of the first Ratio Ju ris Seminar, held
in Bologna on 18 March 1992.
 Basil Blackwell Ltd. 1993, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 IJF, UK and 238 Main Street. MA 02142, USA.

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