The Force of Law: Anything Special?

One of the traditional main tasks of general jurisprudence has been to explain the distinctive demands that the law makes of us; recently, however, several prominent authors have argued that there isn’t anything distinctive about legal normativity - the purpose of this PhD project is to adjudicate this foundational dispute. 

Start date
1 July 2021
36 months
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey, Project-led Studentship Award.
Funding information
  • Full UK/EU tuition fee covered 
  • Stipend at £15,285 p.a. (2020/21) 
  • RTSG of £1,000 p.a. 
  • Personal Computer (provided by the department) 


Traditionally, one of the main tasks of general jurisprudence has been to explain the distinctive demands that the law makes of us. Recently, however, several authors have argued that there isn’t anything distinctive about the way in which the law gives us reasons to act. The law, it is argued, simply affects us in a variety of ways, each of which is shared with many other phenomena – ranging from etiquette to games to parental directives. Some even go so far as to claim that there isn’t really much interesting work to be done in this area of legal theorizing at all. The purpose of the proposed project is to adjudicate this foundational dispute. 

The first component of the project is to compile an overview of the various jurisprudential approaches to the issue of “legal normativity”, focusing on developments in the past hundred years or so. The second component is to thoroughly map out the recent challenges to the project of explaining the normativity of law. The third – and main – component is to develop the best possible response to the (strengthened) sceptical challenge and to evaluate whether and to what extent it succeeds. 

The supervisors for this PhD project are Dr Hrafn Asgeirsson and Dr Kenneth Ehrenberg, Co-Directors of the Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy. Dr Asgeirsson is Reader in Philosophy and Law, and author of The Nature and Value of Vagueness in the Law (Hart Publishing) – his main interests lie in philosophy of law, philosophy of language, and metaethics. Dr Ehrenberg is Reader in Public Law and Legal Theory, and author of The Functions of Law (OUP) - his primary interests are in general jurisprudence, especially jurisprudential methodology, legal ontology, legal authority & normativity, and legal validity. 

For more information, visit the Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy. 

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold at least a 2:1 Bachelors degree along with a Masters or JD degree at a minimum of a merit level in Law, or another relevant discipline, from an approved university. 

If you are unable to offer these qualifications, you may still be considered for admission if you hold a first-class Bachelors degree in Law, or another relevant discipline, from an approved university, or a professional or other qualification deemed to be appropriate and equivalent. 

Available to UK and EU students.

IELTS requirements: 7.0 or above (or equivalent) with 6.5 in each individual category. 

How to apply

To apply for this studentship: 

  1. Firstly apply for the Law Phd Programme 
  2. During your application, please mention your desire to apply to this studentship in order to be considered.  
  3. When the system asks you to add your ‘Research Project’ please copy and paste the project description previously provided under the ‘About’ tab.  

Please provide a 1-2 page cover letter, addressing why you would like to take on this project and how it fits with your skills and background. 

Interviews will be held shortly after the application deadline. 


Application deadline

Contact details

Hrafn Asgeirsson
30 AB 05
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 682854

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