Can Raz’s Pre-Emption Thesis Survive under a Dworkinian Theory of Law and Adjudication?


  • Thomas Bustamante Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais



Raz, preemption, Dworkin, normative positivism, normal justification thesis


Margaret Martin’s Judging Positivism provides one of the best reconstructions and one of the most intriguing criticisms ever raised to Joseph Raz’s influential jurisprudence. In one of the central moves of her argument, Martin challenges a central tenet of Raz’s jurisprudence, which is the attempt to combine the preemption thesis with the normal justification thesis. While the former requires citizens and officials to exclude from deliberation any first-order reason for action a person may have, the latter invites considerations of legitimacy that cannot be assessed with independence from the first-order reasons the preemption thesis was meant to exclude. In this critical comment, I grant Martin’s critique that these two theses cannot be accepted as conceptual claims. Nevertheless, I suggest that there remains some room to harmonize the two theses if they are accepted on normative grounds. If there is a good normative argument to treat legal reasons as an intermediate level of reasons for action, there may be some circumstantial reasons for treating institutional reasons as preemptive in the sense that Raz defends in his general theory of law.


Bahia, Alexandre Gustavo Melo Franco, Diogo Bacha e Silva, and Marcelo Andrade Cattoni de Oliveira, 2018: O Impeachment e o Supremo Tribunal Federal, 2nd edn. Belo Horizonte: Empório do Direito.

Bentham, Jeremy, 1977: A Comment on the Commentaries and A Fragment on Government, Burns, J.H. and Hart, H.L.A. (eds.). Oxford, Clarendon.

Bercovici, Gilberto, 2015: “Parecer”. Available at, accessed on 22 August, 2021.

Bustamante, Thomas, 2017: “Is Kyritsis’s Interpretive Reply to Positivism Sufficiently Interpretive? An Observation on Shared Authority”. Jurisprudence, Vol 8, pp. 641-652.

_________________, 2018: Em Defesa da Legalidade. Belo Horizonte, Arraes.

Dworkin, Ronald, 1999: “A Kind of Coup”. The New York Review of Books, Jan 24, 1999. Available at, accessed on 22 August, 2021.

Dworkin, Ronald, 2006: Justice in Robes. Cambridge, Mass, Belknap.

Endicott, Timothy, 2007: “Interpretation, Jurisdiction and the Authority of Law”. American Philosophical Association Newsletter, Vol. 6, pp. 14-19.

Martin, Margaret, 2014: Judging Positivism. Oxford, Hart Publishing.

Murphy, Liam, 2014: What Makes Law – An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Neves, Marcelo, 2015: “Parecer”. Available at, accessed on 22 Aug, 2021.

Raz, Joseph, 1986: The Morality of Freedom. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

__________, 2009: Between Authority and Interpretation. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Ribeiro, Ricardo Lodi, 2015: “Parecer”. Available at, accessed on 22 August, 2021.

Roughan, Nicole, 2016: “Book Review: Judging Raz”. Jurisprudence, Vol. 7, pp. 149-157.

Serrano, Pedro, 2015: “Parecer”. Availabe at, accessed on 22 August, 2021.

UOL Notícias, 2019: “Eu jamais apoiei ou fiz empenho pelo golpe, diz Temer sobre impeachment”, 16 Sept. 2019,”, accessed on 22 August, 2021.

Waldron, Jeremy, 2001: “Normative Positivism” in Coleman, Jules (ed.), Hart’s Postscript: Essays in the Postscript to the Concept of Law. Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 411–33.



How to Cite

Bustamante, T. (2021). Can Raz’s Pre-Emption Thesis Survive under a Dworkinian Theory of Law and Adjudication?. Isonomía - Revista De teoría Y filosofía Del Derecho, (55).



Book Symposium