The Demand for Adequate Theory of Legal Reasoning in H. L. A Hart


  • Ngozi Chukwuemeka Aja, Ph. D Department of Philosophy, University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria


This paper adopts the textual analytical method to highlight the demand
for adequate theory of legal reasoning in Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart.
The objective is to strengthen legal reasoning in its purpose of
establishing justice in the judicial process. Hart, who never aimed at
theorizing on legal reasoning hints on the need for adequate theory of
legal reasoning given the inadequacy of traditional theories of legal
reasoning which are founded on legal formalism and rule-scepticism.
These are extreme positions in legal reasoning which are clogged to the
purpose of legal reasoning. This paper sees in Hart, an attempt to correct
the inadequacy. His argument that legal reasoning is neither strictly
deductive nor strictly inductive is germane for adequate theory of legal
reasoning. He means that legal reasoning must attune to both legal
justice and substantive justice. His position heals the defect of
traditional theories of legal reasoning by avoiding undue emphasis on
legal justice (legal formalism) and arbitrariness in legal reasoning
(rule-scepticism). This paper identifies Hart's position with
foundationalism, an approach which avoids formalism by admitting
judicial discretion as an essential feature of legal reasoning, and shuns
rule-scepticism by founding judicial discretion on official capacity of
judges. Thus, foundationalism accords with the idea of a modern legal
system characterized with the drive to attain the principle of substantive
and natural justice. This paper, therefore, recommends to legal
scholarship as well as legal practice, foundationalism as the basis of
legal reasoning and premises advancement in legal reasoning on
modifications in foundationalism.


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