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The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory

The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory

Richard A. Posner

ISBN 9780674007994

Publication date: 05/15/2002

Richard Posner

Ambitious legal thinkers have become mesmerized by moral philosophy, believing that great figures in the philosophical tradition hold the keys to understanding and improving law and justice and even to resolving the most contentious issues of constitutional law. They are wrong, contends in this book. Posner characterizes the current preoccupation with moral and constitutional theory as the latest form of legal mystification—an evasion of the real need of American law, which is for a greater understanding of the social, economic, and political facts out of which great legal controversies arise. In pursuit of that understanding, Posner advocates a rebuilding of the law on the pragmatic basis of open-minded and systematic empirical inquiry and the rejection of cant and nostalgia—the true professionalism foreseen by Oliver Wendell Holmes a century ago.
A bracing book that pulls no punches and leaves no pieties unpunctured or sacred cows unkicked, The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory offers a sweeping tour of the current scene in legal studies—and a hopeful prospect for its future.


  • Posner believes that most moral understanding is acquired in childhood and largely controlled by parental example, peer pressure, and religion. Once acquired, moral beliefs and commitments can only be changed through "appeals to self-interest and emotional appeals that bypass our rational calculating faculty"...As usual with Posner, the writing is clear, the footnotes abundant and highly informative, and the index excellent. Highest recommendation for all collections.

    —J. White, Choice


  • Richard A. Posner retired as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017. He was previously a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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