The science of law and legal studies

This paper attempts to clarify some of the logical and conceptual issues in the philosophical dispute about law that has pitted the legal positivists against the adherents of natural law. The first part looks at the basic concepts that are relevant to that discussion and at the methodological implications of studying law either as an order of natural persons (natural law) or as a system of rules or an order of rule-defined artificial persons (legal order). Thus, we find that the material and formal objects of natural law studies and legal science are different, and only touch one another because of the contingent fact that most of the positions in the legal orders studied by positivists are occupied by natural persons. Consequently, from both the logical and the methodological points of view, natural law studies and legal studies are not rivals. The two can exist side by side and have done so for centuries. One question that emerges from analysis in the first part is why positivists have embraced the study of legal orders while heaping nothing but scorn on the study of natural law. Their attitude suggests hatred and contempt rather than a mere difference of intellectual interests. Could it be that the positivists’ attitude has little to do with logic and methodology and much with ideological issues involving fundamental values? In the second part, we look for an answer to this question in a comparison of the two major and radically opposed religious worldviews that have made their mark on Western intellectual history, the Judaeo-Christian tradition and the Gnostic tradition.
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