Herbert Hart and the Semantic Sting
Legal Theory, Vol. 4, pp. 283-300, 1998, reprinted in HART'S POSTSCRIPT: ESSAYS ON THE POSTCRIPT TO 'THE CONCEPT OF LAW', Jules Coleman, ed, Oxford University Press, 2001
20 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2008
Date Written: July 3, 2008
Ronald Dworkin has argued that H.L.A.Hart's theory of law is based on a 'criterial' semantic theory, which disfigures his theory of law because it can give no adequate account of 'theoretical' disagreement as to the content of the law. I conclude that a sound theory will reject criterial semantics. But Hart did not have a criterial semantic theory. His theory can make sense of genuine theoretical disagreement. To Hart, theoretical disagreement is explicable as deep disagreement as to the use of paradigms. I also conclude that a sound theory cannot accept two distinctive claims of Law's Empire: that no paradigm of an abstract concept is secure from the interpretive process, and that abstract words are not vague.
Keywords: jurisprudence, Hart
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