Virtue and objectivity in legal reasoning

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

In this chapter, the author defends the virtue approach to legal reasoning against the familiar objection that such an approach introduces subjectivity into legal decisions. In response to this challenge, the author argues that the mainstream consequentialist and deontological theories of legal reasoning endorse a 'methodical' conception of objectivity that consists of impersonal methods that render certain properties of subjects largely irrelevant for evaluating legal argumentation. By contrast, a virtue approach to legal reasoning puts forward a novel 'dialectical' conception of objectivity that sees subjectivity (of the right kind) as contributing to objectivity rather than threatening it. This novel, agent-centred conception explains the epistemic status of legal judgments as a function of the subjective qualities of legal decision-makers while preserving the virtues of the methodical conception such as impartiality, the absence of bias and arbitrariness, and the sensitivity to respond appropriately to reasons. However, unlike the methodical conception, the judge of the virtue-centred picture is embodied, affectively loaded and contextually situated. Finally, to address the possible objection of relativism, the author argues that objective pluralism, rather than relativism, is the best explanation that allows us to understand the plurality of answers that the virtuous judge can validate as a standard of legal reasoning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationObjectivity in Jurisprudence, Legal Interpretation and Practical Reasoning
EditorsGonzalo Villa-Rosas, Jorge Luis Fabra-Zamora
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9781803922638
ISBN (Print)9781803922621
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • virtue
  • objectivity
  • relativism
  • ambivalence
  • disagreement
  • methodical objectivity


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