In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section H. L. A. Hart

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Works by Hart
  • Anthologies
  • Biographical Works
  • Hart on the Nature of Law and Legal Systems: Responses by Contemporaries
  • Hart on the Nature of Law and Legal Systems: Responses by Later Scholars
  • Responses to Hart and Honoré on Causation
  • Responses to Hart on Rights and Right-Holding
  • Responses to Hart on the Philosophy of Criminal Law and Responsibility
  • Responses to Hart on Liberal Political Morality

Philosophy H. L. A. Hart
Matthew Kramer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 February 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0434


Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart (b. 1907–d. 1992) was Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford from 1952 to 1968. He made his most important contributions to several areas of legal philosophy, but he also contributed significantly to political philosophy and moral philosophy. In the area of general jurisprudential disputation over the nature of law, he was undoubtedly the foremost Anglophone philosopher of the twentieth century and was rivaled only by Hans Kelsen as the foremost philosopher in any language during that century. Especially among English-speaking philosophers, nearly all contemporary theorizing about the separability of law and morality proceeds either in support of Hart’s general legal-positivist outlook or in opposition to it. Hart was additionally a towering figure in the philosophy of criminal law, the philosophy of causation, and the philosophy of rights. He also played a major role in promoting knowledge of the work of his great legal-positivist forebear Jeremy Bentham. Though Hart’s influence has been particularly huge in the United Kingdom, Ireland, North America, and the Antipodes, it extends very widely in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America as well.

General Overviews

The leading overview of Hart’s work on the nature of law is Kramer 2018, and the leading overview of much of the rest of his work (along with his work on the nature of law) is MacCormick 2008. Although several other single-authored overviews are also available, readers are well advised to turn instead to a few of the important wide-ranging collections of essays on Hart that have been published from the 1970s onward: Hacker and Raz 1977, which brings together many of the early responses to Hart’s work in several areas; Gavison 1987, which presents the next wave of responses to Hart’s writings; and Kramer, et al. 2008, which comprises essays on every main area of Hart’s philosophizing.

  • Gavison, Ruth, ed. Issues in Contemporary Legal Philosophy: The Influence of H. L. A. Hart. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

    This collection arose from a major conference in Israel on Hart’s global philosophical influence. The topics covered include legal theory, responsibility, and the enforcement of societal mores, with essays from Ronald Dworkin, Rolf Sartorius, Neil MacCormick, David Lyons, Kent Greenawalt, Michael Moore, Joseph Raz, and C. L. Ten, among others.

  • Hacker, Peter, and Joseph Raz, eds. Law, Morality, and Society: Essays in Honour of H. L. A. Hart. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

    Most of the essays in this collection are by former students and colleagues of Hart at Oxford, many of whom went on to become famous in their own right. Though Hart’s ideas about law and about legal reasoning are plumbed in particular depth, quite a few other aspects of his writings also receive close attention.

  • Kramer, Matthew. H. L. A. Hart: The Nature of Law. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2018.

    This book explores in depth Hart’s account of the nature of a legal system of governance and his ideas about the relationship between law and morality. Though the focus lies especially on The Concept of Law, many of Hart’s essays on the philosophy of law are also examined.

  • Kramer, Matthew, and Claire Grant, Ben Colburn, and Antony Hatzistavrou, eds. The Legacy of H. L. A. Hart. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    This collection arose from a conference in Cambridge, England, to mark the hundredth anniversary of Hart’s birth. It covers every main area of Hart’s philosophical output, with essays from John Finnis, Philip Pettit, Jeremy Waldron, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Antony Duff, Hillel Steiner, and other prominent legal and moral philosophers.

  • MacCormick, Neil. H. L. A. Hart. 2d ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008.

    While concentrating principally on Hart’s general jurisprudential theorizing about the nature of law and legal systems, MacCormick also treats of his contributions to the philosophy of criminal law and to liberal political philosophy.

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