What is law? This question has preoccupied philosophers from Plato to Thomas Hobbes to H. L. A. Hart. Yet many others find it perplexing. How could we possibly know how to answer such an abstract question? And what would be the point of doing so? In Legality, Scott Shapiro argues that the question is not only meaningful but vitally important. In fact, many of the most pressing puzzles that lawyers confront—including who has legal authority over us and how we should interpret constitutions, statutes, and cases—will remain elusive until this grand philosophical question is resolved.
Shapiro draws on recent work in the philosophy of action to develop an original and compelling answer to this age-old question. Breaking with a long tradition in jurisprudence, he argues that the law cannot be understood simply in terms of rules. Legal systems are best understood as highly complex and sophisticated tools for creating and applying plans. Shifting the focus of jurisprudence in this way—from rules to plans—not only resolves many of the most vexing puzzles about the nature of law but has profound implications for legal practice as well.
Written in clear, jargon-free language, and presupposing no legal or philosophical background, Legality is both a groundbreaking new theory of law and an excellent introduction to and defense of classical jurisprudence.
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About the Author
Scott J. Shapiro is Charles F. Southmayd Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at Yale Law School.
What People are Saying About This
A strikingly original, highly accessible, and well-worked-out theory of the nature of law. Shapiro is on the positivist side, but a tremendous strength of the book is that it engages deeply and sympathetically with natural law and anti-positivist theorists. Everyone serious about the philosophy of law needs to read this book.
Mark Greenberg, UCLA
An outstanding contribution--almost certainly the most important book on its topic since Dworkin's Law's Empire. Legality develops a novel and forceful account of the nature of law, but the engagements with other prominent accounts are so resolutely fair and powerfully presented that, were I to suggest one book for someone wanting to understand contemporary debates in jurisprudence, this would be it.
Arthur Ripstein, University of Toronto