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A Life of H.L.A. HartThe Nightmare and the Noble Dream$
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Nicola Lacey

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199202775

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199202775.001.0001

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The Nightmare and the Noble Dream

The Nightmare and the Noble Dream

(p.328) Chapter 13 The Nightmare and the Noble Dream
A Life of H.L.A. Hart

Nicola Lacey

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on H. L. A. Hart's views about Ronald Dworkin. In ‘The Nightmare and the Noble Dream’ lecture, published in the Georgia Law Review in 1977, Hart sketched a bold map of the American 20th-century jurisprudential scene. American legal theory was, he argued, focussed on adjudication because it was organized around the need to justify the power of judges to strike down democratically validated legislation on constitutional grounds. American legal theorists have reacted to this distinctive constitutional situation, he suggested, in one of two ways: the ‘nightmare’ of total indeterminacy and unconstrained judicial discretion and the ‘noble dream’ of complete legal determinacy. The ‘nightmare’, represented by the Realist jurisprudence of the early part of the 20th century indulges in scepticism about whether judges are bound by law at all in either complex constitutional cases or more generally. By contrast, the American ‘noble dream’ is particularistic and holistic: it finds reasons constraining judges' discretion within the resources of particular legal systems, and it sees law as consisting in more than merely rules, asserting that even when appearances are to the contrary, judges are in fact finding and declaring rather than making law.

Keywords:   Georgia Law Review, Ronald Dworkin, noble dream, American legal theory

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