Kent Law School

Critical perspectives research led teaching




Philosophy of law, with emphasis on epistemology and metaphysics and the law; philosophy of language and the law; and reasoning and the law. My primary research focus is on the concept of coherence and its use in legal theory and legal reasoning. I am also interested in the notions of concepts and conceptions and their application in legal theory and beyond. My research is inter-disciplinary, and I have recently collaborated with Simon Kirchin (Philosophy) on papers concerning (i) essentially contested concepts and (ii) the epistemology of disagreement literature. I am also interested in the legal writings of Francis Bacon and in the history of legal ideas from the early modern period onwards.

I also research in the area of data confidentiality, with particular focus on the health sector.

Major research project

Following D.Phil work on coherence and law (D.Phil 2001) I continue to research into the use of coherence in legal theory, philosophy and beyond. My present writing is conceptual, addressing methodological problems that I perceive to be present in existing literature that seeks to articulate coherence prior to its use. I aim to add to this writing (i.e. NILQ 2008; Ratio Juris forthcoming) in papers showing the epistemic and practical significance of these and related ideas.

Research Areas: Legal Theories and Philosophy

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Pethick, S. (2014). On the Entanglement of Coherence. Ratio Juris [Online] 27:116-137. Available at:
Dickson, L. and Pethick, S. (2013). Square Peg in a Round Hole: the inability of the courts effectively to substitute further procedural rules for due process in the assessment of expert scientific testimony in criminal trials. Durham Law Review 3:50-102.
Pethick, S. (2008). Solving the Impossible: The Puzzle of Coherence, Consistency and Law. Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 59:395-410.
Conference or workshop item
Pethick, S. (2016). Harmony, Emotion & Law: Narcissus at COHERENCE's Pool. in: Special Workshop on 'Law and Literature'. ISLL. Available at:
Showing 4 of 5 total publications in KAR. [See all in KAR]
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Teaching and Supervision

Undergraduate modules

  • Convenor of A Critical Introduction to Law (LW307)
  • Convenor of Philosophy of Law (LW540)
  • Convenor of The Skills of Argument: How to Argue and Win


Stephen supervises students' research in the philosophy of law and in the history of legal ideas, particularly those areas near his own research interests.

Currently Supervising

A Baldwin: PhD "Essentialism and essentialisms in contemporary legal and feminist theory"

E Topham: PhD “Thick and Thin Concepts in Law”

M Almeida: PhD “H.L.A Hart, The Concept of Law and J.L. Austin”

M Kerin: M.Phil “A Critical Examination of Disagreement in Law”

D Weston: LLM by research “Conceptual Disagreement in Dworkin’s Justice for Hedgehogs

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Other Academic Activities

Professional Societies

  • Society of Legal Scholars
  • Higher Education Academy


  • Chief Examiner Stage II
  • Tutor to Stage I students
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The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (0)1227 827636

Last Updated: 19/05/2016