Ideals, Practices, and Concepts in Legal Theory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Scopus citations


This paper offers an overview of the different approaches to theorizing about the nature of law, focusing on the justification and value of theories grounded in ideals or objectives. Part I discusses how many mainstream theorists have transformed theorizing about the practice of law into theories about the concept of law; Part II offers a quick overview of a number of theorists who offer theories fairly characterized as based on an ideal or teleology of law; and Part III revisits some basic methodological issues relating to the evaluation of the differing approaches to legal theory, before concluding. Some of the ideal theories can indeed be seen as bringing legal theory back to its roots as subordinate to a broader political, moral, or even theological system, as contrasted with theories that focus on law alone. Even if an ideal makes sense of a practice in a way that one might otherwise miss, one might still argue that a theory that focuses analytically or descriptively, without recourse to ideals, has independent value and significance. Critics of ideal-focused theories need not deny that law aspires to an ideal. It is perhaps sufficient to note that law aspires to many ideals, and this can be seen in the theories of law themselves. This multiplicity may explain why quite different theories each seem to capture basic truths about law, and why we might never find the one right or best theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLaw and Philosophy Library
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages15
StatePublished - 2013

Publication series

NameLaw and Philosophy Library
ISSN (Print)1572-4395
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0315

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Legal System
  • Legal Theory
  • Procedural Justice
  • Supra Note


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