Book Review: Legal Philosophy in the Common Law World
Forthcoming, Singapore Journal of Legal Studies
4 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 7, 2017
This book review of two volumes in the Springer Treatise of Legal Philosophy and General Jurisprudence, written by Michael Lobban and Gerald Postema, who between them survey the history of legal philosophy in the common-law world between 1600 and 2000, provides the opportunity to consider a number of issues that emerge from the informative and stimulating material presented by the authors. A preliminary issue concerns the difference between English common-law and continental civilian approaches to juristic thought. A related issue is the extent to which legal philosophy (or theorising) on the common law between 1600 and 1900 was concerned with a general theory of law, an explanation of legal doctrine – or, partisan interest in supporting a particular outcome of political and governmental struggles. A tangential issue arises over changes in the attitude to the significance of legal reasoning for legal philosophy across these centuries, with implications for the contemporary natural law versus legal positivism debate.
An assessment of the health of legal philosophy at the close of the twentieth century raises the issue of whether the presence of great diversity is a sign of morbidity or vitality. It also leads to a fundamental question on the nature of legal philosophy: whether it can occupy the renaissance, ideal position as vera philosophia (true philosophy), somewhere between unthinking practice and impractical philosophy.
Keywords: Common-Law Theory, History of the Common Law, Equity, Jurists, Renaissance Jurisprudence, Legal Philosophy, Legal Reasoning, Natural Law, Legal Positivism
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