Document Type


Publication Date



Analytic jurisprudence often strikes outsiders as a discipline unto itself, unconnected with the problems that other legal scholarship investigates. Gerald Postema, in the article to which this paper responds, traces this “unsociability” to two narrowing defects in the project of analytic jurisprudence: (1) from Austin on, it has concerned itself largely with the analysis of professional concepts, without connecting that analysis with other disciplines that study law, nor with the history of jurisprudence itself, nor with general philosophy; (2) analytic jurisprudence studies only time-­‐slice legal systems, rather than legal systems unfolding in history. He argues that a time-­‐slice legal system is incapable of explaining the normativity of law. Postema recommends an approach to jurisprudence based on sociability with other disciplines, including its own history and general philosophy; he also recommends an approach grounded in synechism – Peirce’s label for the attempt to find continuities between seemingly-­‐discontinuous phenomena. My comments are largely sympathetic to Postema. I show that his argument about the normativity of law makes the most sense if we embed it in a “meaning as use” theory of legal language and its conceptual content. I am more skeptical of synechism, which on its face rejects a perfectly valid and valuable historiography focused on discontinuity – the kind of history written by Kuhn, Foucault, and Marx. I show that Peirce’s argument for synechism fails, whereas Postema’s version of synechism broadens the notion of continuity to include what might ordinarily be thought of as discontinuities. On the one hand, that rescues Postema from the charge of ruling out valid approaches to history on a priori grounds; on the other, it makes Postema’s version of synechism less distinctive than he supposes.

Publication Citation

Va. L. Rev. (forthcoming)