An Account of Legal Obligation
Start date: Feb 1, 2015,
End date: Jan 31, 2017
"This research project addresses an important legal issue, that of legal obligation. The notion of legal obligation features centrally in legal practices and studies, since law and obligation are widely regarded as closely connected by virtue of the authoritative structure of law.Now, any explanation of legal obligation aspiring to some degree of comprehensiveness must explain both the nature of the obligatory force of law and its foundation. That is, an account of legal obligation has to elucidate both what enables the law to hold us bound to do anything and why legal requirements should be taken to be binding. In working toward an explanation of legal obligation, thus, we must operate on two levels, identifying on the one hand a concept of legal obligation, and on the other the basis of the obligatory force of law. This two-pronged exploration sets up a number of questions for us to address: in conjunction with the definitional question “What is legal obligation?”—or “What do we mean by obligation and how does it apply to legal contexts?”—we must also ask “Why ought one to do what the law requires?” and “Whence does the obligatory force of legal requirements come?” or, stated otherwise, “What makes the law binding?”These are the questions around which the project is framed: they are tackled by working together into a coherent whole a theoretical investigation and a practical one. Each feeds into the other, since the very concept of legal obligation is clarified by showing how obligation makes its way into the practices out of which law is made, a process through which we can show what the obligation-imposing capacity of law rests on and where it comes from. In this way we can arrive at a comprehensive conception of legal obligation—the ultimate aim of this project—that attacks the problem in a systematic fashion."
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