Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Dr Michael Sevel

IAS Fellow at Josephine Butler College, Durham University (January - March 2019)


Michael Sevel is Senior Lecturer in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney Law School. After receiving a JD and PhD in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin, he was a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Law at the European University Institute. He has since been a Visiting Professor at the University of Miami Law School, the Center for Ethics and Public Affairs, Murphy Institute, Tulane University, and the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law. He has held an appointment at Sydney Law School since 2012. He is an Academic Fellow of both the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and the Centre for Maritime Law at the National University of Singapore. His research interests are in the perennial questions of general jurisprudence – the nature of law, authority, legitimacy, and adjudication – as well as the ideal of the rule of law, and other topics in moral and political philosophy. He also has substantive interests in admiralty and maritime law, torts, and international law.

Dr Sevel has published articles in jurisprudence in several journals, including Jurisprudence, Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy, and Hobbes Studies. He is co-author of the entry “Philosophy of Law” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His article “Legal Positivism and the Rule of Law” won the 2008 international essay prize of the Australian Society for Legal Philosophy. He is co-editor of the forthcoming volumes Free Will and the Law: New Perspectives (Routledge), Legitimacy: The State and Beyond (Oxford), and the editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of the Rule of Law. He has also published articles in maritime law that have appeared in the University of Miami Law Review and Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce.

While at the IAS, he will further his current projects that include a monograph, The Philosophy of Joseph Raz, under contract with Oxford University Press, which will be the first comprehensive treatment of the moral, legal, and political philosophy of one of the greatest living scholars in Anglophone jurisprudence. He is also co-editing a volume, The Rule of Law in Ancient Rome, which breaks new ground in understanding ancient conceptions of the rule of law from the point of view of modern theories of law. Related to the monograph, he is also investigating the plausibility of extending perfectionist theories in liberal political philosophy to justify international law and institutions.

Fellow's Home Institution

Public Lecture - The Rule of Law and its Value

Over the last century, the rule of law has become a perennial political ideal both in domestic and international politics. And while there is considerable diversity in accounts of what the rule of law requires, there is near unanimity that it is worth both pursuing and achieving. It is widely assumed that states and international institutions that achieve it are to that extent to be praised. Substantive discussions of its value, however, have not flourished. Indeed, there has been precious little explanation of its value from either theory or practice. Dr Michael Sevel considers the two most often cited explanations: that the rule of law is valuable because it is a necessary means to some other social or political good (e.g. peace or prosperity), and because it is a virtue peculiar to law, such that what other goods it produces or facilitates is a distinct and further question. Neither, he argues, is entirely satisfactory. Dr Sevel calls on certain ideas from moral theory to suggest new directions of thought on this theoretically challenging, as well as politically urgent, question.

Listen to the lecture in full.

Dr Michael Sevel Publications