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What is law, how should it define concepts like 'recklessness' or 'provocation', how does it reflect moral categories of judgment? Basic questions for liberal law and criminal justice - what could they have to do with the virtually forgotten figure of the Beautiful Soul?
Starting from legal issues, Norrie develops a critical vision of the relation between law, morality and socio-historical context. Liberal law, he argues, is marked by splits and contradictions ('antinomies'), signs of something missed. Traced historically, such conflicts can be read today in law's treatment of legality and justice, judgment and responsibility.
A critical understanding must, however, be self-critical. From splits that bedevil law, Norrie moves to the split in critique today: between its socio-historical and ethical forms. Drawing on deconstruction and critical realism, on the dialectics of Hegel, Adorno and Bhaskar, he argues for a form of critical thought that is at once historical and ethical.;Thinking critically about critique finally uncovers the historical figure of the Beautiful Soul, and its unexpected relation to law.