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Legal Realism as Theory of Law

Michael S Green

William & Mary Law School

William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 46, pp. 1915-2000, 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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 86

Keywords: legal realism, H.L.A. Hart, Brian Leiter, rule skepticism, legal rules, prediction theory of law

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Date posted: July 20, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Green, Michael S, Legal Realism as Theory of Law. William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 46, pp. 1915-2000, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=761007

Contact Information

Michael S Green (Contact Author)
William & Mary Law School ( email )
South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
(757) 221-7746 (Phone)
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