Legal Realism as Theory of Law
86 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2005
Most philosophers of law, following H.L.A. Hart, believe that the legal realists' rule-skepticism is not a coherent theory of law. Even Brian Leiter, who seeks to defend the realists against Hart, agrees that rule-skepticism fails as a theory of law. Indeed, an essential part of Leiter's rehabilitation of the realists is his argument that they did not mean to offer a theory of law at all.
This article is a defense of the realists' rule-skepticism as a theory of law. The heart of my argument is that their rule-skepticism was actually an attack, common among philosophical anarchists, on the ability of the law to provide citizens (and particularly judges adjudicating cases) with objective reasons for obedience. Seen in this light, the realists' seemingly absurd claims that legal rules do not exist start making a good deal of sense.
Keywords: legal realism, H.L.A. Hart, Brian Leiter, rule skepticism, legal rules, prediction theory of law
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