Lon L. Fuller

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Lon L. Fuller
Born (1902-06-15)June 15, 1902
Hereford, Texas, United States
Died April 8, 1978(1978-04-08) (aged 75)
Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
Main interests
Legal philosophy
Notable ideas
“Eight Routes of Failure for any Legal System,” "The Demands of the Inner Morality of the Law," Eight Legal Excellences"

Lon Luvois Fuller (June 15, 1902 – April 8, 1978) was a noted legal philosopher, who wrote The Morality of Law in 1964. Fuller was professor of Law at Harvard University for many years, and is noted in American law for his contributions to the law of contracts. His debate with H. L. A. Hart in the Harvard Law Review (Vol. 71) was important in framing the modern conflict between legal positivism and natural law. Fuller was an important influence on Ronald Dworkin, who was one of his students at Harvard Law School.

Eight routes of failure for any legal system[edit]

  1. The lack of rules or law, which leads to ad hoc and inconsistent adjudication.
  2. Failure to publicize or make known the rules of law.
  3. Unclear or obscure legislation that is impossible to understand.
  4. Retrospective legislation.
  5. Contradictions in the law.
  6. Demands that are beyond the power of the subjects and the ruled.
  7. Unstable legislation (ex. daily revisions of laws).
  8. Divergence between adjudication/administration and legislation.[4]

Fuller presents these problems in his book The Morality of Law with an entertaining story about an imaginary king named Rex who attempts to rule but finds he is unable to do so in any meaningful way when any of these conditions are not met. Fuller contends that the purpose of law is to "subject human conduct to the governance of rules". Each of the eight features that lead to failure forms a corresponding principle to avoid such deficiencies which should be respected in legislation. If any of these eight principles is not present in a system of governance, a system will not be a legal one. The more closely a system is able to adhere to them, the nearer it will be to the ideal, though in reality all systems must make compromises. These principles, Fuller argues, represent the "internal morality of law", and he argues that compliance with them leads to substantively just laws and away from evil ones.

In his review of "The Morality of Law" Hart criticises Fuller's work, saying that these principles are merely ones of efficacy; it is inapt, he says, to call them a morality.[5] One could just as well have an inner morality of poisoning as an inner morality of law, but of course we find this idea absurd.


  • Law in Quest of Itself, 1940
  • Basic Contract Law, 1947 (second edition, 1964)
  • Problems of Jurisprudence, 1949
  • The Morality of Law, 1964 (second edition, 1969)
  • Legal Fictions, 1967
  • Anatomy of Law, 1968

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Summers, Robert S. (1984). Lon L. Fuller. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 
  2. ^ Hoffheimer, Michael H. (1995). "Hegel's First Philosophy of Law". Tennessee Law Review 62: 823. 
  3. ^ Conklin, William E. (2006). "Lon Fuller’s Phenomenology of Language". International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 19 (2): 93–125. doi:10.1007/s11196-006-9013-1. 
  4. ^ Lon L. Fuller The Morality of Law (Revised ed, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1969) 33–38.
  5. ^ HLA Hart Essays in Jurisprudence and Philosophy (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1983) 347.

Selected secondary bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]