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Do we need legal philosophy? Legal philosophy or jurisprudence, like many other areas of philosophy, is of intrinsic interest to many people. But this does not tell us whether or why we need it. The answer suggested by Lon Fuller is that legal philosophy has - or should have - implications for lawyers, judges, legislators and law professors. And yet in 1952 Fuller concluded that: "Judged by this standard I don't think we can claim that the last quarter of a century has been a fruitful one for legal philosophy in this country - certainly not in terms of immediate yield."

Fuller's dour observation, if it was true when made and remained true, leads to two further questions: First, in what manner does legal philosophy affect the practice of law? Second, how is it that some philosophies are useful to legal institutions and others are not? In this essay I shall briefly describe the present state of legal philosophy and, then, sketch the answers to these questions that are suggested by one particular strain of recent jurisprudential thought.

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Randy E. Barnett, Why We Need Legal Philosophy, Foreword to the “Symposium on Law and Philosophy,” 8 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol’y 1 (1985).

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