Volume 89, 2015
Analyzing Catholic Philosophy
Peter Karl Koritansky
A Thomistic Analysis of the Hart-Fuller Debate
In 1958, the Harvard Law Review published a now-famous debate between H. L. A. Hart and Lon Fuller regarding the proposed connection between law and morality. Whereas Hart defended a broadly positivist conception of law, Fuller advanced a kind of natural law theory that has greatly influenced judicial interpretation in the United States. This paper examines the debate and provides a commentary in light of the natural law theory of Thomas Aquinas. Whereas it is not surprising that Aquinas would reject the central tenets of Hart’s positivism, it also appears he would have deep misgivings about the position defended by Professor Fuller, and particularly Fuller’s understanding of how laws should be interpreted in light of morality.