Professor Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco

Research Interests

Philosophy of Tort Law, the nature of legal authority and normativity, theories of intention and practical reason, transnational legal theory, philosophy of action and theory of contract law.

Research Collaborations

University of Birmingham-FAPERJ project on 'Responsibility, Judging and Law'.

 

Prof. Rodriguez-Blanco is happy to receive PhD applications on any of the following topics:

a) Philosophy of Tort Law, e.g. the nature of negligence, theories of responsibility and negligence,  the action/omission distinction, the role of knowledge/ignorance in negligence, causation.

b) Transnational Legal Theory, e.g. the possibility of a transnational rule of law, the role of coercion at the transnational level.

c) Legal Philosophy, e.g. the role of agency in law, the nature of legal normativity.

d) Philosophy of Contract Law, e.g. the role of promises, unconscionability in contract law.

e) Ancient and medieval conceptions of agency to illuminate key aspects of private law.

Teaching

Tort, Contract and Jurisprudence

Departmental Duties

Head of the Law School

Contact Me

E-mail:
Phone: 01483 68 6239

Find me on campus
Room: 38 AB 05

Publications

Journal articles

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V, Zambrano P. (2018) 'One Myth of the Classical Natural Law Theory: Reflecting on the ‘Thin’ view of Legal Positivism'. Wiley Ratio Juris, 31 (1)
    [ Status: Accepted ]

    Abstract

    Much controversy has emerged on the demarcation between legal positivism and non-legal positivism with some authors calling for a ban on the -as they see it- nonsensical labelling of legal philosophical debates. We agree with these critics; simplistic labelling cannot replace the work of sophisticated and sound argumentation. In this paper we do not use the term ‘legal positivism’ as a simplistic label but identify a specific position which we consider to be the most appealing and plausible view on legal positivism. This is the view advocated by Gardner in his paper 'Legal Positivism: 5½ Myths’ (Gardner 2001, 199), where he carefully scrutinises the most convincing and unifying postulates of legal positivism, which he calls “the thin view”. The study shows that this thin view presupposes an empirical conception of action that is untenable and implausible since it makes acts of engagement with the law unintelligible to an observer of such acts. The paper is divided into six sections. §1 aims to give an accurate and charitable explanation of Gardner’s thin view of legal positivism, which includes the possibility of recognising actions of engagement with the law that are inert. Section 2 sets the stage for the critical discussion using the example of a fictional country called DYSTOPIA where King Positus promulgates law with the aim of causing chaos in the activities of the citizens. The question we ask is, ‘What enables an imaginary observer to recognise what Gardner calls ‘acts of engagement’ with the law? In order to provide a plausible answer to this question we argue in sections 3 and 4 both that Gardner’s thin conception of legal positivism presupposes an empirical view of human action and that the sound conception of human action cannot be an empirical one. We use what we call Anscombe’s ‘institutional transparency thesis’ defended in ‘On Brute Facts’ (Anscombe 1958, 69) to show that the intelligibility of human action presupposes an institutional context but does not entail a description of that context. In §4 we stay with the example of DYSTOPIA to show that an imaginary observer cannot know whether or not there is a legal system in DYSTOPIA unless he/she understands the purpose of an institution that has already been learned within an institutional context. This conception of action is purposeful as opposed to empirical. §5 argues that the paradigm or central-case methodology, as opposed to the necessary and/or sufficient conditions methodology

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V . (2016) 'The Why-Question Methodology, The Guise of the Good and Legal Normativity: Replies'. Taylor & Francis Jurisprudence, 8 (1), pp. 127-142.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V . (2016) 'Action in Law’s Empire: Judging in the Deliberative Mode'. Cambridge University Press Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 29 (2), pp. 431-456.

    Abstract

    Dworkin advances the view that judges decide legal cases according to the methodology of constructive interpretation and, hence, in their answer to a legal question judges focus on providing the best possible interpretation of the law in light of the two criteria of fitness with past legal materials and moral soundness. The aim of this constructive interpretative exercise is to justify the coercion of the State. This is key to understanding Dworkin’s criticism of the rule-based account of legal decision-making processes by judges. A trivial implication of this view is that officials and citizens comply with the law because of the justification advanced by judges in their exercise of constructive interpretation. Consequently, neither officials nor citizens comply with the law because they have been coerced or because they have been simply told to do so. It must be questioned, however, whether constructive interpretation really can provide any guidance since officials and citizens have been asked to accept the interpretation of the law put forward by the judges and, arguably, this interpretation is the best possible interpretation of what the law is in a particular case. Moreover, why should officials and citizens accept the indicated interpretation? Do officials/citizens simply accept the justification provided by judges or do they, rather, simply believe that the indicated interpretation is the sound and desirable interpretation of legal practice, and this belief causes the appropriate action? Is this a plausible conception to explain our compliance with legal decisions?

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V . (2016) 'Law and Life in Common. By Timothy Macklem OUP ISBN 978-0-19-873581-60'. Cambridge University Press Cambridge Law Journal, 75 (2), pp. 440-443.

    Abstract

    Macklem argues in his book Law and Life in Common that law and legal systems arise from the interplay between reason, will and imagination. He aims to show that critical theories of law, which construe law as will or power, have an element of truth since their focus on the idea of will or power sheds light on the contingent, open and plural features of the law. He aims to unify a) Raz’s Service Conception of Authority, which is grounded on reason; b) critical theories of law, which focus on will (or power), and c) Dworkin’s constructive theory of law which is built around the idea of imagination. Macklem tells us that unification is possible if we admit that each of these theories is incomplete and if we subsequently use this incompleteness to consider the respective notions each theory is grounded in, i.e. reason, will and imagination, to show how a complete and satisfactory picture of law as social practice can emerge.

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2016) 'Margaret Martin’s Judging Positivism (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2014), ISBN 9781849460996'. Springer Verlag Law and Philosophy, 35 (4), pp. 425-433.

    Abstract

    In her recently published book Judging Positivism, Margaret Martin engages with the entire corpus of Joseph Raz’s legal philosophy and closely scrutinizes the development of Raz’s ideas on the nature of law and legal authority, from his early book Practical Reason and Norms to his later work Ethics in the Public Domain . Martin’s book has much to offer those interested in understanding Raz’s ideas in legal philosophy and the possible interconnections among his very prolific writings in legal philosophy.

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2015) 'The Law and The Right: A Reappraisal of the Reality that Ought to Be by Pattaro Enrico'. Cambridge University Press Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence: an international journal of legal thought, 22 (2), pp. 451-455.

    Abstract

    Rodriguez-Blanco examines Enrico Pattaro’s effort to explain the normativeness or binding force of the law. Pattaro defends the controversial claim that norms are motives of behaviour and provides a rich explanation of how these motives, i.e., beliefs in the human brain, move human agency. In her review, Rodriguez-Blanco challenges Pattaro’s empirical conception of human agency.

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2014) 'Does Practical Reason Need Interpretation? Understanding the Structure of Practical Reason'. Ragion Pratica, 43 (2), pp. 317-341.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2013) 'Reasons in Action v Triggering Reasons: A Reply to Enoch on Reason-Giving and Legal Normativity'. Problema, (7)
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2012) 'Social and Justified Legal Normativity: Unlocking the Mystery of the Relationship'. Wiley Ratio Juris, 25 (3), pp. 409-433.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2012) 'Towards a Concept of Human Rights: Inside and Outside Genealogy'. Franz Steiner Verlag Archives for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, 98 (3), pp. 346-359.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2012) 'If You Cannot Help Being Committed to It, then It Exists:A Defense of Robust Normative Realism'. Oxford University Press Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 32 (4), pp. 823-841.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2012) 'Does Kelsen's Notion of Legal Normativity Rest on a Mistake?'. Springer Law and Philosophy: an international journal for jurisprudence and legal philosophy, 31 (6), pp. 725-752.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2010) 'Objectivity in Law'. Wiley Philosophy Compass, 5 (3), pp. 240-249.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2009) 'Our Knowledge of the Law: Objectivity and Practice in Legal Theory by George Pavlakos'. Wiley Modern Law Review, 72 (2), pp. 327-329.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2008) 'Naturalising Jurisprudence: Essays on American Legal Realism and Naturalism in Legal Philosophy'. Oxford University Press Mind, 117 (468), pp. 1091-1094.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2008) 'From Shared Agency to the Normativity of Law: Shapiro's and Coleman's Defence of Hart's Practice Theory of Law Reconsidered'. Springer Verlag Law and Philosophy: an international journal for jurisprudence and legal philosophy, 28 (1), pp. 59-100.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2007) 'Is Finnis Wrong?: Understanding Normative Jurisprudence'. Cambridge University Press Legal Theory, 13 (3-4), pp. 257-283.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2007) 'Peter Winch and H.L.A. Hart: Two Concepts of the Internal Point of View'. Cambridge University Press The Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, 20 (2), pp. 453-473.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2006) 'The Methodological Problem in Legal Theory: Descriptive and Normative Jurisprudence Revisited'. Wiley Ratio Juris, 19 (1), pp. 26-54.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2003) 'A Defence of Hart’s Semantics as Non-Ambitious Conceptual Analysis'. Cambridge University Press Legal Theory, 9 (2), pp. 99-124.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2001) 'A Revision of the Constitutive and Epistemic Coherence Theories in Law'. Wiley Ratio Juris, 14 (2), pp. 212-232.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2001) ''Genuine Disagreements: a Realist Reinterpretation of Dworkin''. Oxford University Press Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 21 (4), pp. 649-671.

Books

  • . (2018) Dignity in Dworkin’s Legal and Moral Philosophy. Oxford : Oxford University Press
    [ Status: Accepted ]
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V, Pavlakos G. (2015) Reasons and Intentions in Law and Practical Agency. Cambridge University Press

    Abstract

    This collection of new essays explores in depth how and why we act when we follow practical standards, particularly in connection with the authority of legal texts and lawmakers. The essays focus on the interplay of intentions and practical reasons, engaging incisive arguments to demonstrate both the close connection between them, and the inadequacy of accounts that downplay this important link. Their wide-ranging discussion includes topics such as legal interpretation, the paradox of intention, the relation between moral and legal obligation, and legal realism. The volume will appeal to scholars and students of legal philosophy, moral philosophy, law, social science, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of action.

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2014) Law and Authority under the Guise of the Good. 1st Edition. Hart-Bloomsbury

    Abstract

    The received view on the nature of legal authority contains the idea that a sound account of legitimate authority will explain how a legal authority has a right to command and the addressee a duty to obey. The received view fails to explain, however, how legal authority truly operates upon human beings as rational creatures with specific psychological makeups. This book takes a bottom-up approach, beginning at the microscopic level of agency and practical reason and leading to the justificatory framework of authority. The book argues that an understanding of the nature of legal normativity involves an understanding of the nature and structure of practical reason in the context of the law, and advances the idea that legal authority and normativity are intertwined. This point can be summarised thus: if we are able to understand both how the agent exercises his or her practical reason under legal directives and commands and how the agent engages his or her practical reason by following legal rules grounded on reasons for actions as good-making characteristics, then we can fully grasp the nature of legal authority and legal normativity. Using the philosophies of action enshrined in the works of Elisabeth Anscombe, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, the study explains practical reason as diachronic future-directed intention in action and argues that this conception illuminates the structure of practical reason of the legal rules' addressees. The account is comprehensive and enables us to distinguish authoritative and normative legal rules in just and good legal systems from 'apparent' authoritative and normative legal rules of evil legal systems. At the heart of the book is the methodological view of a 'practical turn' to elucidate the nature of legal normativity and authority.

  • Rodríguez-Blanco V. (2004) Meta-Ethics, Moral Objectivity and Law. Mentis Verlag Gmbh

    Abstract

    The book shows the relevance of meta-ethical and metaphysical considerations to determine the nature of law and the connection between objective moral and legal judgements.

Book chapters

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V . (2018) 'Authority of Law'. in Bongiovanni G, Postema G, Rotolo A, Sartor G, Walton D, Valentini C (eds.) Handbook of Legal Reasoning Springer
    [ Status: Accepted ]

    Abstract

    Law transforms our lives in the most important way: it changes how we act and because of this it gives rise to fundamental questions. One such question concerns legal authority and individual autonomy and asks; if we are autonomous agents how do legislators, judges and officials have legitimate authority to change our actions and indirectly change how we conduct our lives? We conceive ourselves as active agents who determine how and when to act, and we conceive ourselves as the planners of our own lives and the creators of change. Law asks us, however, to perform actions that range from the trivial to the complex. But how is it possible for me to do, in full awareness, as the law asks and, at the same time, be in control of my own destiny? How is my free will affected by the law?

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V . (2018) 'Dworkin’s Dignity Under the Lens of the Magician of Könisberg'. in (ed.) Dignity in Dworkin’s Legal and Moral Philosophy Oxford : Oxford University Press
    [ Status: Accepted ]

    Abstract

    Dworkin discusses his view on dignity in the context of providing an interpretive construction that integrates our moral and ethical responsibilities. In our ordinary lives, moral and ethical conceptions seem to pull us in opposite directions. We engage in personal projects, and have values and commitments that contradict and clash with our moral judgements or with what we ought to do categorically. Personal projects, values and commitments are subject to conditions, e.g. talents, wealth, intelligence, socio-economic status, and so on. By contrast, the demands of morality are unconditional. We cannot avoid acting according to a moral demand by excusing ourselves in terms of our circumstances. We can realise certain projects and participate in values if we are motivated to do them and if we have the talents, resources or intelligence to be able to do them. They are contingent on our psychological make-up, i.e. on our inclinations, desires, judgements of value and circumstances. They do not apply universally and we cannot demand categorically their realisation. By contrast, moral values do not depend on our desires or inclinations, socio-economic status, talents or intelligence. Consequently, every human being can realise and participate in a moral life. Our personal tragedy as human beings arises from the awareness that a successful life, which entails the realisation of our personal projects, values and commitments, does not necessarilymean that we have led a moral life. We cannot show that morality is essential to having a good life. In other words, that having a good life is being moral, or perhaps vice versa, that a moral life will ensure a good life. Disintegration of the relationship between morality and ethics seems inevitable. In an attempt to swim against this current Dworkin aims to show that integration between morality and ethics, i.e having a good life, is possible. According to him integration is possible if we seek moral responsibilities that will be construed in terms of, and therefore determined by, our ethical responsibilities. As part of this endeavour Dworkin attacks what might be called‘the independent view’. The independent view cannot integrate morality and ethics because our moral responsibilities are presented as being fixed. According to this view, morality can only be determined by morality itself and therefore ethics is necessarily excluded. By contrast, Dworkin advances what we might call the ‘constructivist view’. According

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V . (2017) 'Practical Reason in the Context of Law: What kind of mistake does a citizen make when she violates legal rules?'. in (ed.) Cambridge Companion to Natural Law Jurisprudence Cambridge University Press
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2016) 'Re-examining Deep Conventions: Practical Reason and Forward-Looking Agency'. in Banas P, Dyrda A, Gizbert-Studnicki T (eds.) Metaphilosophy of Law Oxford, UK : Hart Publishing Article number 9 , pp. 177-188.
    [ Status: Accepted ]

    Abstract

    There are many key distinctions that play an important role in mapping out plausible ways of thinking about law construed as a social practice. Among the varied dichotomies the one that has probably been most infl uential is the distinction between a description of an action and the normative characterisation of an action. The former aims to explain the action without resorting to the values or principles of the agent; the latter aims to show how actions are part of the normative landscape where values, principles and other normative standards play a key role. The focus might be on the values, principles and standards of the agent or on values, principles and standards that are objective. 1 In previous work 2 I have defended the view that the primary conception of intentional action is normative all the way through. There is no ‘ brute fact ’ or ‘ pure facts ’ about actions and therefore actions cannot primarily be grasped by descriptors of the world either mental, physical or of a similar sort. I have argued that in order to make intentional actions intelligible we need to resort to the values or principles or goodmaking characteristics that the agent aims to bring about in the world and we need to understand that the values, principles or good-making characteristics of the action provide a unity and intelligibility to the various bodily movements of the agent. This is a complex and occasionally diffi cult understanding of agency but it is one that, in my view, is sound. The core elements of this account of agency are that (a) there is a parallel between practical reason or deliberative reasoning and intentional action; (b) practical reasoning involves practical knowledge which is non-observational; (c) the error of an action stems not from what the world looks like but from the performance of the agent; and (d) intentional action is primarily from the fi rst person or deliberative point of view and therefore it is forward-looking. I will not provide a full defence of features (a), (b) or (c) in this chapter; rather I will focus only on (d) and will argue that this feature provides the key premise for the conclusion that a characterisation of actions in social practices, including law, cannot be carried out on the basis of descriptions. I will fi rst show that (d) is true and I will then advance the best account of actions in terms of descriptions provided by legal philosophers in recent years, which is the idea that actions and the resulting social pract

  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2016) 'Convención y Normatividad: Una Visión Escéptica'. in Ramírez Ludeña L, Vilajosana JM (eds.) Convencionalismo y Derecho Madrid : Marcial Pons Article number 2 , pp. 53-64.
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2015) 'Legal Authority and the Paradox of Intention in Action'. in Rodriguez-Blanco V, Pavlakos G (eds.) Reasons and Intentions in Law and Practical Agency Cambridge University Press Article number 6
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2013) 'Claims of Legal Authorities and 'Expressions of Intentions'": The Limits of the Philosophy of Language'. in Freeman M, Smith F (eds.) Law and Language: Current Legal Issues Oxford University Press 15 Article number 6
  • Rodriguez-Blanco V. (2011) 'The Moral Puzzle of Legal Authority'. in Bertea S, Pavlakos G (eds.) New Essays on the Normativity of Law 1st Edition. Hart Publications Article number 3

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