JSI Seminar Series: On why the rule of law is like stalagmites and stalactites

25 July 2019



On why the rule of law is like stalagmites and stalactites: second-order differences in conceptions of the rule of law

Speaker: Paul Burgess, UCL

The rule of law is one of the most important and most highly contested political/legal concepts. Paul Burgess considers five frequently cited conceptions of the rule of law—those provided by Aristotle, Locke, Dicey, Fuller, and the U.N.—and differentiates the conceptions based on their second-order characteristics: on what they are about. He does this by considering the conceptions' ability to be seen as reflecting a spontaneous order. By illustrating the importance of these differences, he argues that conceptions with different second-order characteristics should not, as is the popular practice, be drawn together to collectively represent the concept of the rule of law. By going beyond the conceptions'—first-order—differences that are frequently cited as being in contest, Dr Burgess argues that differentiating conceptions based on second-order differences brings additional—much needed—clarity to the concept of the rule of law.

About the speaker

Paul Burgess is currently employed at UCL where he teaches public law, human rights, and constitutional theory. Wherever possible he relates his teaching—and, annoyingly, any conversation in which he is involved—to his core research area: the rule of law. After being bitten by the rule of law bug during his LLM, he has talked and thought about little else. This mild obsession continued through his PhD that was focused on Hobbes's and Locke's conceptions of the rule of law and the relative change in their conceptions across time. It is now maintained through his work exploring the difference between conceptions that are frequently taken to represent the core of the concept of the rule of law.

Paul's research is interdisciplinary. This means that in thinking about legal theory he frequently 'borrows' ideas from a wide variety of areas. The areas from which he has recently been borrowing include public law, political philosophy, economics, and intellectual history. His broad ranging interests have recently resulted in different works that could best be categorized as relating to artificial intelligence, aspects of international law, constitutional theory, and legal history.

Links to Paul's publications are available at: Paul can also be found on twitter: @paulburgo

CPD Points: 1.5

The JSI Seminar series is hosted by the Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence at The University of Sydney Law School.


Time: 6-8pm

Location: Common Room, Level 4, New Law Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, Camperdown, University of Sydney

Cost: Complimentary, however registration is essential.

Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 0b3310582920522f1f5c0245370b37071d19510713470938