Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Positivism and Legal Science
Steve William Fuller
There have been various attempts to turn the law into a scientific body of knowledge. In most general terms, one may regard these attempts as extensions of positivism, the nineteenthand twentieth-century philosophical movement devoted to the conversion of theological and metaphysical doctrines to systems of logically organized and empirically verifiable propositions. Although the term positivism was coined by Auguste Comte in 1830, the presence of positivism in legal thought is usually traced to Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), whose Leviathan (1651) conceptualized natural law as an application of the laws of nature that are deducible from the fundamental principles of matter in motion. Hobbes provided the first clear expression of the law as a unitary body of knowledge pertaining to the most general constraints binding on all members of society, typically in spite of their inertial tendencies, often characterized as animal passions. This became the dominant conception of the law in the ...