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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines methodological debates in legal philosophy by focusing on two (related) methodological claims in H. L. A. Hart’s 1961 book, The Concept of Law: that Hart’s theory is both general and descriptive, and an exercise in both linguistic analysis and descriptive sociology. It considers what these claims reveal about Hart’s theoretical ambitions and methodological commitments, and what light they shed on debates in legal philosophy since then. In particular, it discusses the most important elements of Hart’s theory, such as the union of primary and secondary rules in law, the “rule of recognition” as a social rule, and the relationship between legal and moral norms. It also explores several objections to Hart’s approach to the problems of legal philosophy, including one that questions the fruitfulness of the methodology of conceptual analysis. Finally, it analyzes the argument of Hart and all legal positivists that legal systems are social constructs.

Keywords: legal philosophy, H. L. A. Hart, The Concept of Law, linguistic analysis, descriptive sociology, law, rule of recognition, legal system, social construct, philosophical methodology

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