Legal Epistemic Authority in a Sociological and Comparative Perspective

15 juin - 16 juin

Coordinators: Michał Paździora (University of Wrocław, Poland), Piotr Eckhardt (University of Wrocław, Poland)

Description of the meeting

a.    Reexamination of legal epistemic authority

Philosophers and sociologists distinguish the notion of authority from the notion of power Authority is more than just a possibility of giving orders to others – it is influence on them, but one that is justified. The subject who subordinates himself/herself to influence of authority accepts this state of affairs. Authority is normative driven power. Authority may have various sources which determine its structure. It may result from recognition of moral qualifications (ethical authority), recognition of access to higher metaphysical reality (religious authority) or recognition of the ability to make decisions for the benefit of a community (political authority). In this sense, legal professionals have authority based on their recognition as carriers of knowledge.

Therefore, the epistemic authority of the law stems from the ability to simultaneously satisfy claims by demonstrating the usefulness of legal knowledge in translating conflicts into formal legal language and rules of legal reasoning to resolving disputes and preserving the possibility of implementing the material principle of justice. It is not easy to preserve such an equilibrium. The inability to meet any of the extremes of this spectrum may lead to questioning the usefulness of knowledge and the social position of lawyers. Today, we can see the growing role of law in resolving social and moral/political conflicts at the expense of politics. Often when political consent cannot be obtained, for example, the issue of abortion the recognition of minority's Rights, the law is expected to resolve the issue.

b.    Thesis
Legal authority is epistemic authority related to perception of legal professionals as carriers of knowledge. A key to understanding mechanisms of changes of legal epistemic authority is then mutual influence between culture of the whole professional group and individual identities shaped under this culture. The performed research emphasizes a causative role of community and individual in building its world: social structures are both constituted by human agency and, at the same time, are the medium of this constitution. Due to the institution entrusted to them, lawyers receive competencies under which they constantly construct social reality through their interpretations of ambiguous events.

Today, despite the increased role of law in conflict resolution, the authority of lawyers to resolve these issues is increasingly criticized and even undermined. On the one hand, to internal constraints on legal epistemic authority: social and moral/political conflicts cannot be translated into legal discourse without loss of context; on the other hand, to external constraints: lawyers, by their training, do not have a privileged or superior understanding of social and moral/political conflicts.

Aims of the workshop:

In the light of the mentioned problems, our workshop aims:

(1)    to inspire and enhance discussion on legal epistemic authority:

  • The position of legal epistemic authority in democracy
  • The relationship between law and politics

(2)    to present the fundamental problems of legal epistemic authority:

  • The legitimization of legal epistemic authority
  • Internal and external limitations of legal epistemic authority

(3)    to reconstruct institutional and doctrinal strategies defense or critique legal epistemic authority:

  • Similarities and differences in legal epistemic authority across legal cultures
  • Analysis of legal conflict resolution strategies



Para más información: 

Workshop Coordination Team

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