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Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Publication details for Dr Kara Woodbury-Smith

Woodbury-Smith, Kara (2020). The Nature of Law and Potential Coercion. Ratio Juris 33(2): 223-240.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper argues for a novel understanding of the relationship between law and coercion. It firstly refutes Kenneth Himma’s claim that the authorisation of coercive enforcement mechanisms is a conceptually necessary feature of law. It then claims that the best way to understand the law is as coercion‐apt. The “coercion‐aptness” of law is clarified, in part, by appealing to an essential distinction between law and morality: Whereas it can be reasonable for the law to appeal to coercive means in order to motivate compliance, it seems decidedly unreasonable for morality to do so.