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March 3, 2009

Who was the most important legal philosopher of the 20th-Century

I've been having fun with (utterly unscientific and unreliable) polls on my other blogs, so here's one for this audience.   Maybe we'll have a run-off, depending on the results here.  Feel free to post omissions from the list below in the comments.

Who was the most important legal philospher of the 20th-Century?

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Free poll from Free Web Polls

UPDATE (MARCH 4, 7 PM CST):  Here are the results after 70 votes:

1.  H.L.A. Hart (59%)

2.  Joseph Raz (13%)

3.  Ronald Dworkin (9%)

4.  John Finnis (6%)

4.  Hans Kelsen (6%)

6.  None of the choices offered--someone else (4%)

7.  Lon Fuller (3%)

8.  Karl Llewellyn (1%)

By the way, I didn't vote for Llewellyn, I voted for Hart.  Much as I enjoy Llewellyn, he's not, needless to say, a good philosopher (though not obviously worse than Fuller!).  Obviously the Anglophone readership explains how Kelsen could come in behind Dworkin.   I'll do another tally in a few days.

UPDATE (MARCH 7 6 PM CST):  So with not quite 140 votes cast, here's my final tally:

1.  H.L.A. Hart (55%)

2.  Hans Kelsen (14%)

3.  Joseph Raz (11%)

4.  Ronald Dworkin (9%)

5.  John Finnis (5%)

6.  Someone not listed as a choice (3%)

7.  Lon Fuller (2%)

8.  Karl Llewellyn (1%)

8.  Alf Ross (1%)

Congratulations to the winners!  Your prize check is in the mail!

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 3, 2009 in Games | Permalink


I think, the most important german legal philosopher of the 20. century is Robert Alexy (but I like analytical subtlety of Joseph Raz :).

Posted by: Tomáš Sobek | Mar 4, 2009 11:59:31 AM

There are many as good as Finnis (or Hart) in France, Germany, Italy, and a couple of them in Spain too.

Posted by: Cristobal Orrego | Mar 8, 2009 6:04:07 PM

I would add, without any doubt, Norberto Bobbio, who, among many other things, is the author of 3 fundamental books on legal theory, which should definitely be translated into English

- Il positivismo giuridico (Legal positivism) 1961
- Giusnaturalismo e positivismo giuridico (Natural Law Theories and Legal Positivism) 1965
- Teoria generale del diritto (General Theory of Law) 1958-1960
Bobbio is also the author of two essays on secondary rules, containing a very detailed critique of Hart's theory which, I think, would be very interesting for the Anglo-American readership.

And I would also add Georg Henrik Von Wright (who, despite not being a legal philosopher “stricto sensu”, has had a great impact on legal philosophy and legal logic)

And my list would accordingly be as follows:

1. Kelsen
2. A. Ross
3. Bobbio
4. Hart
5. Von Wright

Posted by: Giovanni B. Ratti | Mar 9, 2009 1:27:55 PM

As Professor Hart has passed on, and as I am a devoted Hartian and mention his name at least once a week, please tell me how to receive his check.

Posted by: C. Sistare | Mar 10, 2009 3:17:59 PM

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