H.L.A. Hart and the Hermeneutic Turn in Legal Theory
Southern Methodist University Law Review, Vol. 52, pp. 167-199, 1999
34 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 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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