Law's Pragmatism: Law as Practice & Narrative

60 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2006  

Dennis Patterson

Rutgers University School of Law, Camden; University of Surrey - School of Law


I begin, in Parts I-III, by presenting the details of the Baker and Hacker/community consensus debate over the nature of rule-following in the later Wittgenstein. In Part IV this philosophical debate is related to the law through the argument that there is both an internal and an external element to rule-following in law. I here assert one of the principal claims of my position: viz., that legal argument is directed at constructing the point of law. Part V introduces the distinction between the formal and the material elements of a concept. As I shall show in detail, form is a heuristic for illuminating conceptual understanding. In Part VI, I move on to provide several examples in support of the form/matter distinction. Part VI also provides arguments in support of the proposition that understanding is internal to a practice and thus not necessarily coextensive with regularity in behavior. Parts VII-IX examine relevant claims made by Wittgenstein and their application to law. Finally, Parts X-XI sketch and illustrate my ultimate claim, a narrative approach to law.

Suggested Citation

Patterson, Dennis, Law's Pragmatism: Law as Practice & Narrative. Virginia Law Review, Vol. 76, 1990. Available at SSRN:

Dennis Patterson (Contact Author)

Rutgers University School of Law, Camden ( email )

Camden, NJ 08102-1203
United States
856-225-6369 (Phone)
856-751-8752 (Fax)

University of Surrey - School of Law ( email )

United Kingdom

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