Philosophical Issues in Contemporary Law, 2 Natural Law Forum 41 (1957)
PHILOSOPHY is the name for the basic methodological and theoretical assumptions
of a subject. Since every science uses some method of investigation
and any scientist who reports facts to his colleagues must express these facts
in words and, hence, introduce concepts and theory, it follows that any
science whatever is also a philosophy. When no facts arise, however, to
bring the traditional theory or methods of a subject into question, its problems
are not philosophical. Then to be a scientist one need not also be a philosopher.
Mathematics and physics were in such a state during the two hundred years
following the publication of Newton's Principia in 1686. American law
thought it was in a similar condition when, following Langdell, it introduced
the case method and identified its science with the empirical study of cases.
But whenever facts arise in any subject which bring its traditional theory or
methods into question, at that moment its problems become philosophical.
Then to be an effective scientist one must also be a philosopher. Such has
been the state of mathematics and physics since the end of the nineteenth
century. Such, as this essay indicates, is the state of law at the present time.
Date of Authorship for this Version
philosophy, contemporary law
Northrop, F. S. C., "Philosophical Issues in Contemporary Law" (1957). Faculty Scholarship Series. 4371.