During the last 20 years, some of the world’s most distinguished scholars have been invited to the law school to deliver a public lecture in memory of the late former dean Cecil A. Wright, who founded U of T’s modern law school.

The 2019-20 Wright Lecture

This is the 50th anniversary of the Wright Lecture - the inaugural lecture was delivered in 1969.

Philip Pettit

Philip Pettit
L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University

“The Elusive Sovereign”

Thursday, October 10th, 2019
4:10pm to 6:00pm
Jackman Law Building, Room, Room 140
78 Queen's Park

"The Elusive Sovereign" Notes

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Does a conception of the law like H.L.A.Hart’s allow us to postulate a sovereign in the legal regime? Is it consistent with thinking that there is one supreme authority over the law? Or does his decentered model of the polity make no room for the idea of sovereignty? Does that model rule out the possibility of a legal sovereign in the way in which the early theorists of sovereignty such as Bodin and Hobbes thought that the mixed-constitutional model of the state ruled it out? Surprisingly, it turns out that despite the arguments of those theorists, and despite Hart’s own misgivings, the idea of sovereignty can find a natural home within a mixed or decentered set of legal arrangements.


Philip Pettit is L.S.Rockefeller University Professor of Human Values at Princeton University and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University. He has worked in a range of areas, including ethical and political theory; the theory of collective and corporate agency; and the philosophy of mind. He has published a number of books in those areas, including over the last decade Made with Words (PUP 2008), Group Agency (with C.List, OUP 2011), Just Freedom (Norton 2014), The Robust Demands of the Good (OUP 2014), and The Birth of Ethics (OUP 2018). He gave the Tanner Lectures in Human Values in Berkeley in 2015 and the John Locke Lectures in Philosophy in Oxford 2019. Common Minds: Themes from the Philosophy of Philip Pettit appeared from OUP in 2007, edited by Geoffrey Brennan et al. Read more about Prof. Pettit.

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See the Wright Lecture archives to find out more information about past lectures, including in some cases a description, the text, or a video of the lecture.