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The Nature of Law and Potential Coercion

Woodbury-Smith, Kara

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This paper argues for a novel understanding of the relationship between law and coercion. It firstly refutes Kenneth Himma’s claim that the authorisation of coercive enforcement mechanisms is a conceptually necessary feature of law. It then claims that the best way to understand the law is as coercion‐apt. The “coercion‐aptness” of law is clarified, in part, by appealing to an essential distinction between law and morality: Whereas it can be reasonable for the law to appeal to coercive means in order to motivate compliance, it seems decidedly unreasonable for morality to do so.


Woodbury-Smith, K. (2020). The Nature of Law and Potential Coercion. Ratio Juris: An international journal of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, 33(2), 223-240.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jul 3, 2020
Publication Date 2020-06
Deposit Date Jan 22, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 7, 2020
Journal Ratio Juris
Print ISSN 0952-1917
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 223-240


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (102 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance online version © 2020 The Authors. Ratio Juris published by University of Bologna and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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