Sanction and Obligation in Hart's Theory of Law

8 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2008

See all articles by Dan Priel

Dan Priel

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School


The paper begins by challenging Hart's argument aimed to show that sanctions are not part of the concept of law. It shows that in the minimal legal system as understood by Hart, sanctions may be required for keeping the legal system efficacious. I then draw a methodological conclusion from this argument, which challenges the view of Hart (and his followers) that legal philosophy should aim at discovering some general, politically neutral, conceptual truths about law. Instead, the aim should be to discover the values because of which certain things in the world are classified as law and others as non-law. Focusing on those would give us a more insight to the roles law plays in society, as well as more illuminating answers to traditional jurisprudential questions like the status of law in evil regimes.

Suggested Citation

Priel, Dan, Sanction and Obligation in Hart's Theory of Law. Ratio Juris, Vol. 21, Issue 3, pp. 404-411, September 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Dan Priel (Contact Author)

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

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