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On the Entanglement of Coherence


  • Stephen Pethick

    1. University of Kent, Kent Law School, Canterbury, Kent, UK
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    • Thanks are due to Susan Haack, Ralph Walker and Simon Kirchin for their reading and criticism of the philosophy part of the paper, and to John Finnis and Zenon Bankowski for their criticism of the ideas at an earlier stage. A special debt is owed to Neil MacCormick, to whose promptings the paper is due.


Although coherence has become one of the key concepts in contemporary legal theory, its meaning is taken almost universally to be elusive, complex and controversial. However, these difficulties are due just to the failure of commentators to distinguish the intension of the notion from other features of its (many) referents in extension. The oversight has caused qualities to be ascribed routinely to coherence that properly attach to various object(s) of which coherence is predicated, and which a theorist happens to have in mind when bringing coherence into view. This conceptual error has significance for the substance of present claims made for the use of the notion in law. Freed from the entanglement, coherence emerges thinner and fitter, better able to be deployed with confidence in legal application.