Law and Philosophy

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 795–811 | Cite as

Officials and Subjects in Gardner’s Law as a Leap of Faith

  • Matthew Noah SmithEmail author


In his collection of essays, Law as a Leap of Faith, John Gardner lucidly develops a powerful account of legal positivism, primarily via a careful interrogation of H. L. A. Hart’s work, with a particular focus on Hart’s most important text, The Concept of Law. In this essay, I raise a question regarding the significance of legal subjects’ understanding of themselves as legal subjects. I claim that as Gardner fills out the picture of what it takes to have an ideal legal system, we will find that there is no requirement that subjects have any understanding of themselves as legal subjects, much less an understanding either of what the law requires of them or of the legal status with respect to officials that the law gives them. In particular, I argue that Gardner’s account of the law is too focused on the perspective of officials, and leaves out the perspective of legal subjects. This manifests what I call a unidirectional legal optic: the view of the law is the view from a single perspective, namely the perspective of the official. This is not an accurate picture of the law and so should not be presented as the paradigmatic account of law.


Legal System Social Control Legal Rule Legal Order Legal Institution 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeedsLeedsUK

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