May 12 - Freedom Center Colloquium Series: Carmen Pavel


Thu, 05/12/2016 - 12:30 to 13:45

On May 12, the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom will host Carmen Pavel, Lecturer in International Politics at King's College London.  Her talk is entitled "Reasons For Rules: Justifying International Law."  (Abstract below.) 

Thursday, May 12, 12:30-1:45pm, in the Kendrick Room at the Freedom Center, Marshall 280 (right above Paradise Bakery).  Feel free to bring lunch.

For further information, please visit the Arizona Freedom Center at

Good law operates like a traffic signal that assigns rights and obligations, permissions and restrictions, for the sake of avoiding conflict and enhancing cooperation. If this view is accepted as common sense in the case of national legal systems, it does not translate easily in support for the development of international law. I will argue that the reasons we have to defend the establishment of laws and legal institutions inside political communities are the same as the reasons we have to establish it across political communities.

The main aim of this paper is thus to address long-standing skepticism about international law that masquerades as a kind of casual realism. Informed by existing arguments made by realists about the clash between international law and national interest, the most common form this skepticism takes is that international law is superfluous, since we already have well developed systems of national law, and furthermore, international law may actively undermine the authority of constitutional democracies by substituting its judgments for the judgment of self-governing political communities.

I will provide a moral justification for the necessity of developing international law into a legal system that promotes the rule of law. The justification is two-pronged: 1. international law can facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation internationally, by enhancing the pursuit of peace and of goals shared in common by various nations, and 2. international law is in a position to help those most vulnerable to abuse, oppression, and harm. Although the current operation of international law is flawed and in the early stages of development, we have good evidence that it is moving in the right direction on both counts.


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