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George Pavlakos works in the field of legal theory and philosophy with a focus on foundational issues which raise questions in political philosophy, the philosophy of language, metaphysics, and metaethics. For the past ten years his work has focussed on understanding the existence of legal obligations outwith the context of the established domestic legal orders. An important aspect of this work focuses on generating explanations of legal sources which do not rely on any preconceived institutional arrangements (e.g. coercive institutions of the state). He considers that deepening the understanding of the foundations of law ultimately has a practical purpose, i.e. to explain legal phenomena, understand their normative justifications, and reform the institutions that realise them. His work has appeared in the Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Legal Theory, Ratio Juris and books published by Cambridge University Press, Hart Publishing and Oxford University Press.

As a Greek lawyer who was trained, successively, in Germany and Scotland and has held teaching and research positions in the UK, Belgium and Germany, Professor Pavlakos has developed a strong affinity with comparative approaches to legal phenomena and have been keen on exploiting the peculiarities of the legal traditions he is familiar with, in order to highlight or develop further a deeper theoretical point about the nature of law. Bringing this to bear on the field of International Law, he seeks to defend a monistic account of International Law obligations, which yields a pluralist understanding of the institutions that are responsible for their enforcement.

In 2007 Professor Pavlakos was awarded an Odysseus grant by the Research Foundation Flanders (€ 750,000) which allowed him to found and direct the Centre for Law and Cosmopolitan Values at the University of Antwerp (2007-2016). From this position he raised and managed several grants with a combined budget of € 1,900,000, all relating to foundational research in the field of Globalisation and Legal Theory. Other personal awards include: two Alexander von Humboldt Fellowships, a J.E. Purkyne Senior Research Fellowship (Czech Academy of Sciences), and a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellowship (EUI, Florence). In recent years he has held positions as visiting scholar and other part-time appointments at the Universities of Glasgow, Kiel, the UCLA Law School, the Cornell Law School and as Distinguished Visiting Professor jointly appointed by the Beihang Law School, Peking University Law School, and China University of Political Science and Law (Beijing).

Publications

Our Knowledge of the Law: Objectivity and Practice in Legal Theory

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In the long-standing debate between positivism and non-positivism, legal validity has always been a subject of controversy. While positivists deny that moral values play any role in the determination of legal validity, non-positivists affirm the opposite thesis. In departing from this narrow point of view, the book focuses on the notion of legal knowledge. Apart from what one takes to constitute the grounds of legal validity, there is a more fundamental issue about cognitive validity: how do we acquire knowledge of whatever is assumed to constitute the elements of legal validity? When the question is posed in this form a fundamental shift takes place. Given that knowledge is a philosophical concept, for anything to constitute an adequate ground for legal validity it must satisfy the standards set by knowledge. In exploring those standards the author argues that knowledge is the outcome of an activity of judging, which is constrained by reasons (reflexive). While these reasons may vary with the domain of judging, the reflexive structure of the practice of judging imposes certain constraints on what can constitute a reason for judging. Amongst these constraints are found not only general metaphysical limitations but also the fundamental principle that one with the capacity to judge is autonomous or, in other words, capable of determining the reasons that form the basis of action. One sees, as soon as autonomy has been introduced into the parameters of knowledge, that law is necessarily connected with every other practical domain. The author shows, in the end, that the issue of knowledge is orthogonal to questions about the inclusion or exclusion of morality, for what really matters is whether the putative grounds of legal validity are appropriate to the generation of knowledge. The outcome is far more integral than much work in current theory: neither an absolute deference to either universal moral standards or practice-independent values nor a complete adherence to conventionality and institutional arrangements will do. In suggesting that the current positivism versus non-positivism debate, when it comes to determining law's nature, misses the crux of the matter, the book aims to provoke a fertile new debate in legal theory.

Rechtsontologie und Practische Vernunft [Legal Ontology and Practical Reason]

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In der gegenwärtigen analytischen Rechtsphilosophie wird die Debatte um die Objektivität des Rechts von reduktionistischen und metaphysischen Auffassungen dominiert, die oft in eine Sackgasse führen. Anders als diese Strategien greift der Autor in seiner Darstellung auf das begriffliche Arsenal der modernen analytischen Ontologie zurück. Rechtsnormen werden als abstrakte Entitäten aufgefasst, die innerhalb von semantischen Strukturen vorkommen. So gelingt es ihm, die Unergiebigkeit reduktionistischer und metaphysischer Positionen der Objektivität zu vermeiden, auch wenn die normative Natur des Rechts hierdurch noch nicht erklärt wird. Letzteres erfolgt durch den Nachweis, dass die genannten semantischen Strukturen argumentativer Natur sind. Dazu greift der Verfasser auf die Diskurs- und Argumentationstheorie des Rechts zurück und zeigt, dass die ontologische Struktur des Rechts dank dessen argumentativer bzw. diskursiver Natur auf die Sprachpragmatik zurückgeführt werden kann. Diese verweist auf eine grundlegende Autonomienorm kantischen Charakters, die aus den Grundvoraussetzungen der Argumentation abgeleitet werden kann. Auf diese Weise lässt sich zeigen, dass die Ontologie des Rechts, und mithin seine Objektivität, auf den formal-moralischen Gehalt einer Autonomiegrundnorm angewiesen ist.