Cyclops, Hedgehogs, and Foxes

AW Brian Simpson

in Reflections on 'The Concept of Law'

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199693320
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731983 | DOI:
Cyclops, Hedgehogs, and Foxes

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This chapter discusses the world in which the Oxford philosophers functioned back in the 1950s and 1960s, and then gives a general account of two contrasting approaches to legal scholarship. Remarks on the world of the Oxford philosophers are related to Homer's story of Polyphemus the Cyclops, in which, unusually, women play no part. The hedgehog and the fox are used in a slightly different way to contrast two approaches to the study of law and legal institutions. One, which generates both theories of legal development and philosophical theories of law, sees simplicity concealed beneath apparent complexity, whether it takes the form of a pattern of development, or a single structure such as that offered by Hart. The other, very commonly adopted by historians of the law, rejects this approach, and seeks understanding of law and legal institutions through empirical scholarship which emphasizes complexity, and the profound difficulty in generalization or simplification in the face of the evidence.

Keywords: Oxford philosophers; legal scholarship; Homer; Polyphemus; legal philosophy; simplicity; complexity

Chapter.  10051 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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