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Philosophy of LawCollected Essays Volume IV$
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John Finnis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199580088

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580088.001.0001

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Hart as a Political Philosopher

Hart as a Political Philosopher

(p.257) 11 Hart as a Political Philosopher
Philosophy of Law

John Finnis

Oxford University Press

After a brief appreciation of Hart's life and virtues, this chapter contrasts his legal-theoretical work with conceptions of method and political philosophy dominant between 1945 and 1960. Hart's attention to law's functions, decisive for The Concept of Law, transcends the merely linguistic or conceptual. Hart failed to follow through resolutely, but his work like Rawls's rejoined the enterprise launched by Plato and Aristotle and derided by Hobbes. The chapter's second half is a root and branch critique of Hart's normative political philosophy, especially Law, Liberty and Morality, which failed to see the irrelevance of Devlin's focus on positive morality, and thus cut itself off from the main political philosophical tradition and from reason. A special failing was Hart's claim that sex ethics cannot be rational, and his neglect of the question whether and how political culture and community have preconditions bearing on procreation and family.

Keywords:   Hart, philosophical method, conceptual analysis, linguistic analysis, Plato, Aristotle, Devlin, positive morality, sex ethics

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