Law and Philosophy

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 385–413 | Cite as

International Law, Institutional Moral Reasoning, and Secession

  • David LefkowitzEmail author


This paper argues for the superiority of international law’s existing ban on unilateral secession over its reform to include either a primary or remedial right to secession. I begin by defending the claim that secession is an inherently institutional concept, and that therefore we ought to employ institutional moral reasoning to defend or criticize specific proposals regarding a right to secede. I then respond to the objection that at present we lack the empirical evidence necessary to sustain any specific conclusion regarding an international legal right to secession. Specifically, I argue that we ought to adopt a precautionary approach, and that such an approach justifies giving no weight to promoting political self-determination per se when considering whether to reform international law governing secession. I conclude with several reasons to think that even a remedial right to unilateral secession will detract from, not enhance, the international legal order’s ability to promote peace and human rights.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Department, Program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law (PPEL)University of RichmondRichmondUSA

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