Guest, Ronald Dworkin:

  • Descriptive statements come from observing empirically how things work. Normative statements tell us what “ought to be”. Interpretative statements are calculated to analyse something in the best light possible. Thus, unlike Hart (descriptive approach) and Kelsen (normative approach) Dworkin seeks to show law in its best light possible (interpretative approach). Dworkin’s interpretation says that the normal way to interpret something is to show it in its best light, even if this is not how the thing actually is. For example, he does not claim that interpreting the holocaust by looking at possible good intentions is the true interpretation. Merely that this is the normal paradigm of interpretation. What? This makes no sense. Dworkin is endorsing an interpretation that he claims is normal and at the same time inaccurate. Dworkin says that interpretation of law is different from interpretation of other areas. Why? Hence he says that the true interpretation of law is one that shows law in its best light (i.e. as embodying integrity).


  • On the criticism that many judges DO use policy to determine the outcome of a case, Guest points out too that many judges prefer principle, being cautious to leave policy discussions up to parliament. He also says that since Dworkin’s theory is one of “best light” interpretation and a rejection of descriptive approaches, it is no argument to say that Dworkin’s account doesn’t fit reality. To do so is to assume the correctness of descriptive legal philosophy of Hart. In which case what use is it in stating what constitutes a legal system and what law is? His brand of optimistic interpretation is departed from reality (e.g. the Hercules scenario) and should therefore be read as political philosophy in the same mould as “The rights of man” or “the Communist manifesto”. It is so far departed from reality that to claim he is “interpreting” is a false use of that word.


  • Guest recognises that Dworkin’s theory only works if the 4 values existing in an associative community exist (see nots on Law’s Empire).