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Jurisprudential Orientation Test (JOT)

Were you always a Dworkinian at heart but thought of yourself as a legal positivist? Have you just discovered the joys of being Finnisian? Or do you go meta?

Whatever your intuition about your jurisprudential orientation, here is the definite jot test. Take it and find out. (If you feel tempted to take this very seriously, read the disclaimer.)

Update 27.11.05: the most recent Jurisprudential Census of the Oxford Jurisprudence community is available here.


For each statement/question, select the comment/answer with which you agree most. Remember its colour.

1. Someone writing, with a philosophical aim, about 'the law' and not about 'law'...

...is a philosophically ambitious lawyer.

...cannot reach a fruitful understanding of either 'the law' or 'law'.

What's the difference?

...does legal doctrine, but not philosophy of law.

2. What is 'law as integrity'?

An unholy mixture of theory and meta-theory.


Nothing. Integrity is not practiced, enforced, endorsed, accepted or otherwise engaged with by lawyers (that's why they're rich).

A confusion of is and ought.

3. Hart presented secondary rules as 'remedies' to 'defects'.

Yes, a regrettable expositional accident!

It shows that Hart was not doing value-free description.

It raises a doubt about Hart's claim that he was doing 'descriptive sociology'.

Well, Hart knew that it's always a great thing to have (liberal) law!

4. Being interesting is...

...doing political philosophy.

...not a criterion of validity.

...a reasonable way to promote the basic good of knowledge.

...a consideration by which to judge a theory.

5. The moral considerations invoked in judicial arguments - were they part of the law before they were invoked?

This question reveals the tension between the enterprises of justifying and explaining law.

No, or only if referred to in prior directives valid by their sources.

Yes of course - that's why they were, and had to be, invoked.

It doesn't matter.

6. Can lawyers disagree about law?



Yes, and I am the only one who has realised it.


7. Can structurally developed legal systems be more or less legal?

Y......es, perhaps in a strong sense of 'legality' that includes moral norms applying to the legal profession (distinct from criteria of validity)...

Yes, the central case of law is that of morally good law.

An affirmative answer reveals an evaluation of what is important about law.

No, though if Hercules goes on holiday accidents may happen.
(bis... unless, of course, you think everything is important about law).

8. The widepread rough agreement in a community about which standards are legal is called...

(A type of) Pre-theoretical understanding.

Pre-interpretive agreement.

Rule of recognition or something analogous to it.

Whichever branding makes your theory look most different from your neighbour's theory.

9. Law's claim to give morally justified reasons for action is...

A theoretical device used by those who have a particular view about the purpose or point of law.

The unsurprising consequence of the existence of Hercules and/or his followers.

Mainly a fact about legal language.

The reflection at the level of law of law's purpose or point.

10. What is the relation between description and prescription in Jurisprudence?

None. They are relevant to different parts of Jurisprudence.

They can't be distinguished.

They can (and must) be distinguished, but are mutually dependent.

You mean what is, or what should be the relation...?


Are your answers mostly of one colour? If so, here is your jurisprudential orientation. (If not, see

If your answers are mostly red, you are a Positivist! Welcome to the renowned tradition (allegedly) represented by lots of eminent theorists over many years, whose names unfortunately slip our mind at the moment.

If your answers are mostly blue, you don't need us to tell you what you always knew. As a Dworkinian, you may have found this test uninteresting, despite our attempts to present it in its best light.

If your answers are mostly yellow, you are fortunate to be a Finnisian. Make sure that Finnisianism doesn't take you too far away from the ideas of Finnis himself, though.

If your answers are mostly green, you go meta! Surely you have realised that many problems in Jurisprudence are tied to problems of Jurisprudence -- of its self-definition qua subject. We hope you will help Jurisprudence in its ongoing quest for identity!

If your answers are not mostly of one colour, but of two or more, don't panic! We have labels for you as well. (You may have noticed that there is no shortage of labels.) As a matter of fact, we have two labels for you to choose from.

Given that your answers are not consistently of one colour, you may either be Confused or (and note that this 'or' is strongly disjunctive) Post-Modern, depending on whether you are contradictory or you can live with contradiction.

On the practical relevance of the results

What to make of these results? Do they have any practical relevance?

Understanding 'practical' in the philosophical sense -- 'practical' ('with a view of action') as opposed to 'speculative' -- the 'practical' relevance of these results will be determined by your conscience. For a professedly biased opinion about what role knowledge of your true juriprudential orientation should play in your practical reasoning, jot down your results to the JOT manager. (Please take all this with a jot of humour!)

Understanding 'practical' in the colloquial sense -- the sense in which philosophy will never be practical -- the 'practical' relevance of these results is not yet clear. It may become clear at some indefinite point in the future. There is a draft proposal of a recommendation to the tutorial stipendiary governing body of the supernumerary JOT committee for Michaelmas Term, which suggests structuring the seating in the Jurisprudence Discussion Group sessions according to jurisprudential orientation. Rather than distinguishing between a left and a right sector (as they did in the French National Assembly), it proposes a core-periphery (central/marginal case) allignment to fit the round shape of the Danson room: Finnisians surrounding the speaker's table in the center, next the positivists (if any), on the outskirts the Dworkinians; meta-people looking into the room from outside the window, post-moderns discussing in the pub and the confused... perhaps giving the presentation?

At any rate, you should be aware that there is an ongoing effort on the part of the Jurisprudence community to develop a 'census' of its members according to jurisprudential orientation. During last year's Jurisprudence Party (17 November 2004), someone (who?) carrying this tray with a series of identification tags went around asking attendees to jurisprudentially identify themselves.  

'I am a Dworkinian' tags were the first to run out, with John Gardner wearing one of them - he later confessed to having sent it to Dworkin. (Partly as a result of these events, it was decided to monitor the entry to the 2005 Jurisprudence Party.) Several 'I am evil, i.e. postmodern' tags were left over. There was a tendency to wear the 'I am a Finnisian' tag along with the 'I go meta' tag. (Strangely someone added to it the 'I am evil, i.e. postmodern' tag!)

Update 27.11.05: the most recent Jurisprudential Census of the Oxford Jurisprudence community is available here (along with photos of the 2005 Jurisprudence Party).


The Jurisprudential Orientation Test aims at providing a somewhat humorous perspective on current debates in (Oxford) Jurisprudence. The suggested ontological status and soundness of the 'labels' (orientations), as well as their reduction to a checklist of claims, is meant as a joke. A joke which - like every joke that is not absurd - harbours some kind of message. The same applies to the remarks about the 'practical relevance' of the jurisprudential orientation (but the facts about the 2004 Jurisprudence Party are real!). The attribution of the different statements to the various theoretical positions is, for the most part, intended to be accurate. Accurate, if on occasion grotesque. The reader is reminded that the frontiers between the essential, the overstated and the grotesque are often thin, especially in a subject where grasping 'the essential' of a position often involves looking at it through the lenses of another position. Nothing on this page is intended, and thus ought not to be construed, as a mockery of any theoretical position or of any of its exponents. It is their eminence, and our admiration for them, what makes it illuminating and enjoyable to discuss their views.





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