Hart and Kelsen on International Law

Event date
29 April 2021
Event time
12:45 - 14:00
Oxford week
TT 1
Online Zoom Event
Professor David Dyzenhaus

If you wish to participate in this (remote) seminar, RSVP is necessary. Please complete the form before noon Wednesday 28 April (please note that if you register after noon, a link cannot be sent to you).  Prior to the Thursday seminar, you will be sent a zoom link to join

In the recent resurgence of jurisprudential interest in international law, HLA Hart’s theory of law occupies centre stage and doctrinal public international lawyers usually adopt his theoretical vocabulary, in particular his account of the rule of recognition, when they feel the need for some theoretical tools. This is a puzzle because Hart saw philosophy of public international law as peripheral to the main task of jurisprudence—to analyze the ‘distinctive structure of a municipal legal system’—and deemed its study ‘only a relatively small and unimportant part of the most famous and controversial theories of law’. In addition, his own analysis of public international law is widely considered problematic. But while Hart is thought not to have been quite on his game when it came to public international law, it may seem that his is the only game in town when it comes to the place of such law in a general theory of law. I argue that it high time that jurisprudence returned to Kelsen, unhindered by Hart’s distortion of Kelsen’s central ideas, not least because Kelsenian legal theory shows us the benefits of reversing the order of argument about public international law. Instead of, first, constructing a theory of the law of a national legal order and, second, asking whether public international law is law in its light, we should see that understanding the legality of international law illuminates how philosophy of law might productively address some of its central problems. I examine these issues through the lens of the debate about whether the relationship between public international law and national law should be understood as ‘monists’ or as ‘dualists’ urge.

David Dyzenhaus is a University Professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of Toronto, currently a Guggenheim Fellow and a visiting fellow at All Souls. He has just completed The Long Arc of Legality: Hobbes, Kelsen, Hart (Cambridge, forthcoming).

The PIL Discussion Group hosts a weekly speaker event and is a key focal point for PIL@Oxford.  Due to the current public health emergency, the PIL Discussion Group series will be held remotely for Trinity 2021. Speakers include distinguished international law practitioners, academics, and legal advisers from around the world. Topics involve contemporary and challenging issues in international law.  The speaker will commence at 12.45 and speak for about forty minutes, allowing about twenty-five minutes for questions and discussion. The meeting should conclude before 14.00. 

PIL Discussion Group Convenors: Xiaotian (Kris) Yu and Natasha Holcroft-Emmes

The group typically meets each Thursday during Oxford terms. 

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Found within

Public International Law