Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

David Reidy

Committee Members

Adam Cureton, John Garthoff


My thesis examines Dworkin’s claim that there are objectively correct answers to controversial legal questions, and hence moral questions. A given moral statement is objectively true if it is true independently of what anyone believes or thinks about it. Dworkin asserts that the truth or objectivity of any moral claim depends solely on moral arguments. On the contrary, Leiter claims that any moral argument in favour of moral objectivity is empty and entails counterintuitive conclusions. Thus, moral arguments are neither necessary nor sufficient to support claims about moral objectivity.

Leiter nevertheless proposes that any forceful argument in favour of moral objectivity must appeal to objective naturalistic facts. Naturalistic facts are broadly understood as facts demonstrable, in principle, by ordinary methods of natural science. I argue that Leiter’s attempt to restore this naturalistic conception of moral objectivity fails, for his arguments either generate confusion about the nature of moral arguments or misconstrue Dworkin’s position altogether. I conclude by arguing that although there is such a thing as a non-naturalistic account of moral objectivity, there are also genuine hard cases in which legal principles do not determine uniquely correct answers.

The first section of my paper shall elucidate the problem of objectivity in legal interpretation in light of moral objectivity. In my second section, I only discuss crucial features of Dworkin’s internal justification of morality that respond to this problem of moral objectivity. In my third section, I explore how Leiter’s criticisms challenge Dworkin’s internal account of moral objectivity. However, in the fourth section, I argue that Leiter fails to respond substantively to Dworkin’s concerns about moral objectivity. I shall also assess the extent to which my criticisms illuminate concerns about single correct answers to questions in legal interpretation.

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