An Introduction to Aretaic Theories of Law

  • Colin Farrelly
  • Lawrence B. Solum


Contemporary legal theory has been dominated by the realist paradigm. The extreme version of realism is captured by the slogan of the critical legal studies movement: “Law is politics!” Other heirs to the realist tradition (including normative law and economics, the legal process school, legal pragmatism, and so forth) coalesce around what we might call the instrumentalist thesis—the point of legal institutions (especially courts) is to use the law as an instrument to achieve the goals of some normative theory (such as welfarism or deontology) or a political ideology (of the left, right, or center). There are, of course, opposing tendencies in contemporary legal theory. Some neoformalists emphasize the duty of adjudicators to follow the law and give the parties what they are due; in a rough and ready sort of way, these neoformalists adopt a deontological perspective on legal theory that competes with the consequentialism of contemporary neorealists.


Virtue Ethic Legal Theory Practical Wisdom Judicial Review Natural Justice 
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  1. 3.
    Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell, Fairness versus Welfare, 114 Harv. L. Rev. 961 (2001).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell, Fairness versus Welfare (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Ronald Dworkin, Law’s Empire (1986); Ronald Dworkin, A Matter of Principle (1985); Ronald Dworkin, Taking Rights Seriously (1978).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See John Rawls, The Independence of Moral Theory, 48 Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 5–22 (1975).Google Scholar

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© Colin Farrelly & Lawrence B. Solum 2008

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  • Colin Farrelly
  • Lawrence B. Solum

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