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Beyond the Hart/Dworkin Debate: The Methodology Problem in Jurisprudence


Brian Leiter


University of Chicago


U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 34

Abstract:     
For three decades now, much of the Anglo-American legal philosophy curriculum has been organized around something called the Hart/Dworkin debate, a debate whose starting point is Ronald Dworkin's 1967 critique of the seminal work of Anglophone jurisprudence in the twentieth-century, H.L.A. Hart's 1961 book, The Concept of Law. This essay reviews the Hart/Dworkin debate and argues that it no longer deserves to play the same organizing role in the jurisprudential curriculum of the twenty-first century that it played at the close of the twentieth: on the particulars of the Hart/Dworkin debate, Hart has emerged the clear victor, so much so that even the heuristic value of the Dworkinian criticisms of Hart are now in doubt. (Dworkin's quite recent polemic against legal positivism in the 2002 Harvard Law Review is also addressed briefly.) The significant philosophical challenges that face legal positivists are now different, often in kind, from the ones Dworkin made famous. These, I shall argue, fall into two broad categories: first, the correct account of the content of the rule of recognition and its relationship to the possibility of law's authority (the Hart/Raz debate); and second, the proper methodology of jurisprudence, a debate which aligns defenders of descriptive conceptual jurisprudence (like Hart and Raz) against two sets of opponents: natural lawyers like Finnis, Perry and Stavropoulos who challenge whether jurisprudence can be descriptive; and philosophical naturalists, like the present author, who question whether conceptual analysis is a fruitful philosophical method in jurisprudence (or elsewhere).

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Date posted: March 23, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Leiter, Brian, Beyond the Hart/Dworkin Debate: The Methodology Problem in Jurisprudence. U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 34. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=312781

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Brian Leiter (Contact Author)
University of Chicago ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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