Research Seminar Series with Professor Margaret Davies – Thursday 5 September 2019

At The Hon John Dowd Boardroom, Lismore  (LIS-L2.30) with a Zoom link to the Law Meeting Room, Gold Coast (GCB-C6.03), and remotely via Zoom.



The ‘nature’ in classical natural law theory, secular and not-so-secular, consists of human nature. In this context, ‘nature’ refers to an inherent quality or characteristic, rather than the physical world as a whole. It is the derivative of natura but not of physis even though both concepts appear in modern English simply as ‘nature’.

The ‘nature’ of natural law is immanent, and not available to the senses. Thus, natural law concerns what Kant called ‘the moral law within’ rather than the ‘starry heavens above’ (or anything in between). By contrast to ‘natural law’ the ‘laws of nature’ refer to the observable regularities of the physical world, the realm of physis. But physical nature is regarded as the antithesis of the law applying to humans. Various attempts have been made to narrow the divide between physical nature and human law, but these efforts have been hampered by the abstract and entirely anthropocentric conception of law that is the stuff of legal theory. In this seminar I will consider possibilities for connecting physical materiality and its observable regularities with what we understand to be human law.

Can an idea of law be conceived that is not dependent on a separate social sphere for human beings? Is an eco-legality possible?


Professor Margaret Davies studied law and English literature at Adelaide University in the 1980s, Margaret completed a doctorate in critical legal theory at Sussex University. Margaret was a foundation staff member of the Law School at Flinders University and has been a visiting scholar at Birkbeck College, Umea University, UBC, and Victoria University of Wellington, and has held a Leverhulme Visiting Professorship at the University of Kent. She has been a recipient of four Australian Research Council grants, and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of Law. Margaret is author of five books – Asking the Law Question (4th edition 2017), Delimiting the Law (1996), Are Persons Property (with Ngaire Naffine, 2001), Property: Meanings, Histories, Theories (2007), and Law Unlimited (2017, winner of the SLSA Theory and History Book Prize). From 2010 to 2012 Margaret was a member of the Humanities and Creative Arts Panel of the ARC College of Experts, and chaired the panel in 2011. Margaret is on the advisory boards of Social and Legal StudiesFeminist Legal Studies, and the Macquarie Law Journal.