The End of Law
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The End of Law

How Law’s Claims Relate to Law’s Aims

David McIlroy

The End of Law applies Augustine’s questions to modern legal philosophy as well as offering a critical theory of natural law that draws on Augustine’s ideas. McIlroy argues that such a critical natural law theory is: realistic but not cynical about law’s relationship to justice and to violence, can diagnose ways in which law becomes deformed and pathological, and indicates that law is a necessary but insufficient instrument for the pursuit of justice. Positioning an examination of Augustine’s reflections on law in the context of his broader thought, McIlroy presents an alternative approach to natural law theory, drawing from critical theory, postmodern thought, and political theologies in conversation with Augustine.
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Chapter 8: Justice: the terrible truth?

David McIlroy


Law is power restrained by the form of rules and the simulacrum of justice. Precisely because we cannot rise above ideology and belief, we cannot abandon a belief in justice. The conception of deep justice to which rulers appeal is often a conception of victors’ justice. The fundamental question about the justice of a legal system is therefore a question about the justice of the conception of deep justice which underlies it. True justice is required if the adjudication between different conceptions of deep justice is to be anything beyond a power struggle. True justice is required in order to condemn genocide or child sexual abuse as always objectively wrong. Because true justice is, by definition, mind-independent, its existence does not depend on consensus. The existence of true justice makes best sense of our moral intuitions and is the precondition for rational discussion about goods and morality.

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