San Diego Law Review

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type

Laurence Claus's Law's Evolution and Human Understanding


What is the relation between law and morality? What is the relation between law and authority? Is law something that should be obeyed irrespective of its moral demerits? These perennial questions of jurisprudence are the questions Professor Laurence Claus takes up in his book, but the answers to them he gives and particularly his reasons for those answers are anything but orthodox. Claus rejects the “because I said so” notion of legal authority and argues for a communicative conception of law. Law tells its subjects “this is what’s done here” and thus what reactions to expect to one’s conduct. But law does not require authority it cannot possess, authority that overrides what is right. The latter point Claus illustrates by telling the story of Corporal Dakota Meyer of the U.S. Marines, who received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in combat despite having disobeyed lawful orders. In this Symposium, four very distinguished legal theorists give their assessments of Claus’s quite original view of law. Their critiques are then responded to by Claus. This is truly a remarkable set of articles on an age-old topic.