Review Of "Elucidating Law" By J. Dickson

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This book takes analytic legal philosophy as its object but moves well beyond well-trodden and outdated discussions. Dickson’s central idea is that legal philosophy is "indirectly evaluative" and sees philosophical explanation as an elucidation of law. This endeavor is neither social science nor applied ethics. Rather, Dickson (law, Univ. of Oxford, UK) approaches law as an artifact with an objective existence that has an essential nature. It is this that requires elucidation in terms of values and judgments of significance. But as law is complex and judgments of significance are dynamic, there is not a fixed list of questions law must answer. Dickson approaches her remit through a "staged inquiry," that is, first trying to identify and understand the law before assessing whether it is just/unjust or efficient/inefficient. She has this approach in common with major figures who defend legal positivism, such as H. L. A. Hart, Joseph Raz, and John Gardner. At the same time, Dickson is sensitive to the complexity and value-relevance of law and the fact that, because it claims authority, law can do great harm and great good. This superb book belongs in all university and law school libraries and should be read by anyone interested in legal philosophy. Summing Up: Essential. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; practitioners.


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