The real standard picture, and how facts make It law: a response to Mark Greenberg

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Mark Greenberg has attempted to refute what he regards as a popular metaphysical thesis about how law is constituted. He calls it the “Standard Picture,” and it includes a “Communication Theory.” His own “Moral Impact Theory” of law is built partly on that attempted refutation. I defend positions that are very close to the Standard Picture and Communication Theory, albeit different in important respects. In particular, they are not primarily metaphysical theses, although they have metaphysical implications. They are actual fundamental doctrines of constitutional law in Anglo-American legal systems, which I call Legislative Supremacy and Legislative Intention. I argue that: (a) these doctrines, and their metaphysical implications, vindicate much of the Standard Picture, and explain why so many theorists have been attracted to it; (b) the doctrines are inconsistent with Greenberg’s Moral Impact Theory; and (c) the best theory of what makes them part of the law is legal positivism: in other words, facts about legal practices make them law. In arguing for (a) and (b), I examine in detail and respond to Greenberg’s account of the legal principles and practice of statutory interpretation. I distinguish between three kinds of interpretation: clarifying, supplementing and rectifying. In arguing for (c), I contend that legal positivism satisfies Greenberg’s (questionable) insistence that any metaphysical account of what constitutes law must satisfy a “rationality requirement.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-211
Number of pages49
JournalThe American Journal of Jurisprudence
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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