Planning Ahead! (in Jurisprudence)

Scott J. Shapiro, Legality (Belknap Press 2011). Ekow Yankah Analytical jurisprudence has a peculiar status in American law schools to say nothing of philosophy departments. Most law professors find it an utterly inscrutable or arid project. More generous souls have the vague impression that it is important and like that one or two of their colleagues engage in it, but their gentle forbearance is not to be mistaken for interest. Even those steeped in the subject are often discouraged by the increasing narrowness of the "What is Law" question. It takes a good deal of squinting to see the live question surrounding the nuanced positions on the extent to which morality determines whether something can be considered law; that is, the "validity conditions of a legal system." Against this rather gloomy landscape, Scott Shapiro has introduced an illuminating new book, Legality. Though there are few who are as knowledgeable about analytical jurisprudence as Shapiro, his book is admirable not for its attempt to dazzle with intricacies. Rather, Shapiro's work is laudable because it makes accessible decades of debate in modern jurisprudence while still providing a novel contribution. Most importantly, Shapiro revives the heartbeat of the debate, showing why it matters and synchronizing it with legal issues recognizable to those outside of the small world of analytical jurisprudence. This accessibility means that those who know this debate will find the preliminaries unnecessarily long, a quarter of an already rather long book. Yet, it is no small thing that Shapiro manages to explain half a century of thick debate in a way that interested audiences of lawyers, and perhaps more immediately relevant, undergraduates and law students can understand its contours. Speaking for the many professors who have shied away from teaching the subject, Shapiro's book makes one reconsider the profitability of reintroducing this debate in the classroom. Continue reading "Planning Ahead! (in Jurisprudence)"

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