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[Source:] Morality Has No Place in the Law, By Sarah Braasch JD (Fordham) MA in Philosophy

... They espouse the NOMA position, i.e. they hold to the stance that descriptive/analytic legal theory (legal positivism) and normativity are Non-Overlapping MAgisteria [Wikipedia], except for when they don’t, but they fail to acknowledge the usurpations of morality perpetrated upon the law and how the law suffers as a consequence. ...

Would someone please explain the bolded? Does 'perpetrate an usurpation of morality' just mean 'usurp morality'? But then why UPON the law; should this be AGAINST the law?

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  • I think of the usurpations of morality the same way I read work of art, i.e. work is the main word--what kind of work? it's "work of art". The phrase the usurpations of morality perpetrated upon the law ~ the usurpations of morality (that is) perpetrated upon the law. I don't see much difference between against and upon, though they evoke a little different imagery in my mind. Apr 23, 2015 at 1:36
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    @DamkerngT. It's difficult to see how usurpations of morality can be perpetrated on the law, but it's even more difficult to see how morality can be perpetrated on anything. Apr 23, 2015 at 2:17
  • FYI, "except for when they don't" attaches to "they espouse the position". The sentence breaks up as "They espouse the position (i.e. ...) except for when they don't; but they fail..."
    – cpast
    Apr 23, 2015 at 4:37
  • The author needs some simple healthy verbal roughage in her doughy abstract-noun diet.
    – TimR
    Apr 23, 2015 at 13:43

1 Answer 1

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Does 'perpetrate an usurpation of morality' just mean 'usurp morality'?

No. It means either a) a usurpation perpetrated by morality or b) a usurpation perpetrated in the name of morality—probably both.

But then why UPON the law; should this be AGAINST the law?

Again, no. As you may see from this Google Ngram, perpetrate upon and perpetrate against have historically been more or less in free variation.

perpetrate upon/against

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  • Thanks. Would you please also explain the meaning of the bolded?
    – user8712
    Apr 23, 2015 at 3:43
  • Using more context from the article (it's a really hard sentence to understand), "but they fail to acknowledge the usurpations of morality perpetrated upon the law and how the law suffers as a consequence" means roughly "but they don't acknowledge how people have twisted and changed the law to support morality or how that's made the law worse." The basic premise of the article is that you shouldn't even think about morality when writing or interpreting law; the quoted part is complaining that legal positivists don't acknowledge how this has happened and been a problem.
    – cpast
    Apr 23, 2015 at 4:40
  • @cpast Morality and The Law, she says, are unrelated, autonomous magisteria, each governing its own domain. She complains that the positivists pretend to grant The Law autonomy, but then install Morality in the capital city with ultimate authority. Apr 23, 2015 at 11:50

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