Herbert Lionel Aldophus Hart (H.L.A. Hart) 1907-1992 Legal Positivist

law articles for llm phd students

HART’S IDEA ON THE ‘INTERNAL ASPECT OF LAW’ The ‘legal system’ according to Hart will only exist when the rules of behavior are commonly obeyed by the citizens and when the rule of recognition is commonly accepted (hopefully by everyone, but at least by officials) – they must accept these rules from “the internal point of view”.

What does the “internal point of view” mean? This is something that Hart developed and his theory is different from his predecessors such as Austin and Bentham here. He means that law depends on more than just external pressures that are brought to bear on humans; it also depends on an inner point of view – that the law is placing obligations upon us. We (both offenders of the law and others) must see the law as setting common standards of behavior, and that we will be criticized if we fail to meet those standards.

Hart introduces the ‘internal aspect of law’ to distinguish law from mere habits MacCormick helps explain this by using an example. Let’s say a person is stopped at the traffic lights and the person is playing their radio. To the outside observer, there is nothing to distinguish between the two activities (stopping at the traffic lights and playing the radio) but to the driver the distinction is based on the different thought patterns involved: stopping at the red lights is an obligation and not doing so will be considered a lapse in behavior (by him/her and by others) which leaves the driver open to criticism. Whereas that is not the case with failure to play his/her car radio.

So, the law has an internal aspect but it depends on how we see the rules, not just on what an outsider observes.

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