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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 1, Issue 3, Fall 1994

Deirdre Golash
Pages 15-21
DOI: 10.5840/pcw19941315

Pluralism, Integrity, and the Interpretive Model of Law

In Law’s Empire, Ronald Dworkin argues that the choice between conflicting interpretations of law is, and should be, influenced by the aspiration to “integrity,” that is, the construction of law as a coherent whole, as though it were the product of a single author. I argue that, particularly under conditions where opinion on relevant issues is significantly divided, the search for a single coherent explanation of law may be seriously misleading. The idea of integrity is a principled basis for legal interpretation only where there is an underlying unity, rather than an underlying plurality. Dworkin suggests that there is a basis for striving toward such unity, and for an obligation to obey the law, in our “associative” obligations to fellow members of our political community. I argue that such obligations, to the extent that they exist, are too weak to provide an adequate basis for a moral obligation to obey the law.