Law and Philosophy

, 30:453 | Cite as

Implications of Indeterminacy: Naturalism in Epistemology and the Philosophy of Law II



In a circulated but heretofore unpublished 2001 paper, I argued that Leiter’s analogy to Quine’s “naturalization of epistemology” does not do the philosophical work Leiter suggests. I revisit the issues in this new essay. I first show that Leiter’s replies to my arguments fail. Most significantly, if – contrary to the genuinely naturalistic reading of Quine that I advanced – Quine is understood as claiming that we have no vantage point from which to address whether belief in scientific theories is ever justified, it would not help Leiter’s parallel. Given Leiter’s way of drawing the parallel, the analogous position in the legal case would be not the Legal Realists’ indeterminacy thesis, but the very different position that we have no vantage point from which to address whether legal decisions can ever be justified. I then go on to address the more important question of whether the indeterminacy thesis, if true, would support any replacement of important legal philosophical questions with empirical ones. Although Ronald Dworkin has argued against the indeterminacy thesis, if he were wrong on this issue, it would not in any way suggest that the questions with which Dworkin is centrally concerned cannot fruitfully be addressed. The indeterminacy thesis is a bone of contention in an ordinary philosophical debate between its proponents and Dworkin. Of course, if the determinacy thesis were true, no one should try to show that it is false, but this triviality lends no support to the kind of replacement proposal that Leiter proposes. I conclude with some general reflections on naturalism and philosophical methodology.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and School of LawUCLALos AngelesUSA

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