Optimism and pessimism in American legal philosophy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Pity the legal philosopher. Those us of who are academics must to some extent justify our professional existence, insulated as we are from the type of market forces and ongoing performance reviews that most employees are subject to. For academics who help to train professionals – as law professors do – that justification is made somewhat easier by the fact that our students will turn (however indirectly and imperfectly) the doctrinal knowledge that we impart to them in the classroom into doctrinal practices in the outside world. Students of property or of tort law, for example, will to some extent rely on the concepts learned and skills acquired in the classroom in making or interpreting the law as participants in the legal system. Similarly, property or tort scholars can through their writings seek (however indirectly and imperfectly) to influence legal decision makers on the future direction of the law. But what of jurisprudes? How do they justify their existence? Obviously, there is no practice of jurisprudence as such. There are no causes of action, no claims, no points of legal doctrine that can be passed on from teacher to student. It is possible (at least in theory) that students turned legal actors will bring to bear on their practices concepts related, for example, to pragmatism or natural law or consequentialism that they may have picked up in a jurisprudence class, but the link between knowledge and practice seems considerably more attenuated in jurisprudence than in just about any other course in the law school curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOn Philosophy in American Law
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780511576386
ISBN (Print)9780521883689
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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