Cornell Law Review Volume 96 Issue 4

The Character of Legal Theory

Once upon a time—or at least so the conventional story goes—a cohesive methodology united academic lawyers. Langdellian legal science envisioned law as an autonomous discipline governed by three characteristic intellectual moves: classification, induction, and deduction. Legal realists discredited this pristine vision of legal theory by demonstrating that the multiplicity of doctrinal sources renders it hopelessly indeterminate. One typical response by legal scholars has been abandoning the notion of a legal theory and borrowing a theoretical discipline from the social sciences or from the humanities. Another response has been discarding the idea of legal theory by highlighting the practical wisdom of lawyers and celebrating law as a craft.


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