The Tasks of a Philosophy of Law

13 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2007


This short programmatic essay, written for a collection celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of Karl Llewellyn's paper "On Philosophy in American Law," sketches the elements of an adequate philosophy of law today. It argues that an adequate philosophy of law must be empirical, interpretive, and critical. It suggests that the lines between philosophy and both anthropology and rhetorical studies will blur. Llewellyn was right in stressing the relative importance of legal practices in understanding what law is, but the early realists were without the relatively more adequate philosophies of human practice since developed and relatively greater range of social scientific findings on those practices since made. Because of its interpretive and normative aspects, jurisprudence will remain one of the humanities and will never be fully naturalized, but it may come to be better informed.

Suggested Citation

Burns, Robert P., The Tasks of a Philosophy of Law. Available at SSRN: or

Robert P. Burns (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-6613 (Phone)
312-503-8977 (Fax)

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