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H.L.A. Hart, Second Edition$
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Neil MacCormick

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804756785

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804756785.001.0001

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Law, Morality, and Positivism

Law, Morality, and Positivism

(p.185) Chapter Thirteen Law, Morality, and Positivism
H.L.A. Hart, Second Edition
Stanford University Press

H. L. A. Hart is known as a staunch defender of human and civil liberty. In his celebrated lectures on Law, Liberty and Morality, he argues that the use of legal coercion by any society calls for justification as something prima facie objectionable and to be tolerated only for the sake of some countervailing good. That principle is also the underlying presupposition of Hart's philosophy of punishment and responsibility. This chapter examines Hart's principles of critical morality, focusing on his claim that the coercive restraints of the law ought to be used only within a limited sphere. In particular, it comments on his argument that the citizens of a civilized state do, and ought to, enjoy an extensive liberty of conscience, speech, and action. In considering Hart's views about the moral relevance of law, the chapter looks at his opinion regarding the analytical and conceptual distinctness of morality and law. Finally, it assesses Hart's legal theory as a certain kind of “legal positivism.”

Keywords:   H. L. A. Hart, liberty, law, morality, legal positivism, coercion, punishment, responsibility, critical morality, conscience

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