What is the Philosophy of Law?

12 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2012 Last revised: 9 Aug 2012

Date Written: July 16, 2012


The philosophy of law is not separate from but dependent upon ethics and political philosophy, which it extends by that attention to the past (of sources, constitutions, contracts, acquired rights, etc.) which is characteristic of juridical thought for reasons articulated by the philosophy of law. Positivism is legitimate only as a thesis of, or topic within, natural law theory, which adequately incorporates it but remains transparently engaged with the ethical and political issues and challenges both perennial and peculiar to this age. The paper concludes by proposing a task for legal philosophy, in light of the fact that legal systems are not simply sets of norms.

Keywords: philosophy of law, jurisprudence, general principles of law, positivism, natural law theory

JEL Classification: K00, K1, K3, K4, K10, K30, K40

Suggested Citation

Finnis, John M., What is the Philosophy of Law? (July 16, 2012). Rivista di Filosofia del Diritto 1 (2012) 67-78, Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 12-67, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 45/2012 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2109921

John M. Finnis (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

University College
Oxford, OX1 4BH
United Kingdom

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