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H.L.A. Hart and the Hermeneutic Turn in Legal Theory

Brian Bix

University of Minnesota Law School

Southern Methodist University Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 167-199, 1999

Modern legal positivism developed in response to a belief in the possibility and the value of having a quasi-scientific descriptive theory of law. In recent decades, legal positivism has moved in a different direction, due to the influence of H.L.A. Hart's work, which introduced hermeneutic elements into legal positivism. This article examines the hermeneutic turn in legal theory, and its implication for legal positivism in particular, and analytical jurisprudence in general. Some critics have argued that the hermeneutic element introduced by Hart undermines the possibility of having a purely descriptive theory of law, or even that it undermines the ability of theorists to criticize the legal systems they are studying. These possibilities are considered, in the course of evaluating the views of Joseph Raz, John Finnis, Stephen Perry, H. Hamner Hill, and others.

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Date posted: June 17, 1999  

Suggested Citation

Bix, Brian, H.L.A. Hart and the Hermeneutic Turn in Legal Theory. Southern Methodist University Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 167-199, 1999. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=163810

Contact Information

Brian Bix (Contact Author)
University of Minnesota Law School ( email )
229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-624-2505 (Phone)
612-625-2011 (Fax)
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