The End of Jurisprudence
63 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2014
Date Written: October 27, 2014
For more than forty years, jurisprudence has been dominated by the Hart-Dworkin debate. The debate starts from the premise that our legal practices generate rights and obligations that are distinctively legal, and the question at issue is how their content is determined. Positivists say that their content is determined ultimately or exclusively by social facts. Anti-positivists say that moral facts must play a part in determining their content. In this Essay, I argue that the debate rests on a mistake. Our legal practices do not generate rights and obligations that are distinctively legal. At best, they generate moral rights and obligations, some of which we label legal. I defend this view by drawing analogies with other normative practices, like making promises, posting rules, and playing games. And I try to explain why it looks like legal practices generate distinctively legal rights and obligations even though they do not. I conclude with some thoughts about the questions jurisprudence should pursue in the wake of the Hart-Dworkin debate.
Keywords: jurisprudence, H.L.A. Hart, Ronald Dworkin, Hart-Dworkin Debate, legal positivism, anti-positivism, philosophy of law
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