The Philosophy of Law Reconsidered

This paper constitutes a brief overview of Western philosophy of law, with special emphasis on its putative (at least to some) originator, Hegel while not forgetting the importance of law for a number of more classical Western philosophers. It takes note of the contribution of the legal positivist, Hans Kelsen, to elevating the importance of international law – somewhat paradoxical, given the traditionally cosmopolitan outlook of natural law, which Kelsen despised – and then goes on to criticize the tendency of many textbooks, especially those published in the United States, to concentrate in a quite provincial way on, above all, American Constitutional Law, comparable to the concentration on then-contemporary Prussian institutions in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. It urges greater attention, in the future, both to international law, with its global context, and to legal systems other than those of the United States and the United Kingdom, particularly to those of non-Western countries.