I define exiguous to mean the shortest and easiest introductions (< 300 pages) of philosophy.
This question premises a reader with zero exposure to philosophy of law.

  1. Please correct me if I erred in believing that philosophy of law = jurisprudence.


  1. exiguous introductions should be read first? They should be simpler than 3 below.

  2. longer introductory textbooks should be read, after reading 3 above?

Recommendations should isolate, bold, define terms, and be written in simple English.

  • jurisprudence would be law in the normal understanding, i.e. how to be a lawyer. Philosophy of law is generally at a different level than that.
    – virmaior
    Nov 13, 2015 at 5:09
  • Not really sure why you're using words like "tyro" and commenting on your use of words. I've edited your question down to the on-topic part for philosophy and removed some commenting.
    – virmaior
    Nov 13, 2015 at 5:12
  • @virmaior Thanks. I used 'tyro' to emphasise my inexperience, even lower than that of a 'novice'; please tell me if my use is wrong. Please allow me to conserve some of my original post for additional context? Sorry if this offends.
    – user8572
    Nov 13, 2015 at 18:41
  • tyro is a nearly unused word. As a native speaker of English, I only learned it to take the GRE. Similarly, exiguous is an oscure word.
    – virmaior
    Nov 14, 2015 at 0:56
  • Perhaps you can start with books related to Roman law Jan 25, 2023 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


I'm sure you will get answers here, and an Amazon search might do just as well. I will suggest one interesting source you will definitely not get in most answers, but may be of value.

First, you may want to look into history of the the Sophists, who taught argumentation as training for the law courts and assemblies. Much of philosophy actually emerges out of the need to appeal rationally to juries. In retort, Plato's Apology examines the paradigmatic trial of Socrates, as do works by Xenophon and I.F. Stone.

Second, and most interestingly, the Oresteia by Aeschylus is interpreted as the mythical founding of law to end the cycles of revenge in the House of Atreus. Athena argues the case of Orestes and justice itself before "twelve Athenians." Mars, God of War, plays the prosecuting attorney. At the conclusion, the Furies tormenting Orestes are transformed into the Muses, guardians of civil society and the humanities.

Not an answer to your request. But if you are interested in law and philosophy of law, you will want to turn at some point to these foundational sources.They stand in sharp "philosophical" contrast to the written law as delivered unilaterally by Moses and such patriarchal lawgivers.


I am extremely doubtful that anyone that reads about philosophy, has not read about philosophy of the law. If you've ever stumbled upon Hobbes, Locke, etc. Even Kant wrote about the law. The law, and its philosophy, are almost everywhere. The best you could do is to check an Introduction to Law or Jurisprudence course at a law school. Most of them provide such introductions. I acknowledge that they are not short, but the insighful chapters are not so long. I personally recommend the following list (which is from a Jurisprudence course taught at the University of los Andes): There is an Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence.

I would encourage reading these first ("introductions"): Hans Kelsen, Pure Theory of Law (1934), pp. 193-278. H.L.A Hart, The Concept of Law (1960), pp. 124-154 (THIS IS THE OPUS MAGNUM OF PHILOSOPHY OF THE LAW) Duncan Kennedy, A Critique of Adjudication (1996), pp. 1-70, 157-212, 215-297 (AND THIS IS THE MOST RENOWNED CRITICAL APPROACH)

This deals with the problem of interpretation: Ronald Dworkin, Law’s Empire (1988), pp. 1-15, 31-76, 176-258.

These are not "introductory texts", rather concrete theoretizations: Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1640), chapters 5; 14-19; 26-29 (Positivism, the law is only the one emanated from the State) John Locke, Second Treatise on Civil Government (1690), chapters 1-9 (Natural Law, there are rights and law before the existance of the State) Savigny, The System of Modern Roman Law (1852), pp. 6-53. Gustav Radbruch, Introducción a la Filosofía del Derecho, México, D. F., Fondo de Cultura Económica (1951), pp. 23-52, 171-180

Also not introductions, but critical approaches Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The Path of Law” en 10 Harvard Law Review 457 (1897) MacKinnon, C. A. (1982). (Legal Realism) Francois Geny, Método de Interpretación y Fuentes en Derecho Privado Positivo (Comares, Granada, 2000), pp. 1-15 y 100-156.

Feminism, Marxism, method, and the state: An agenda for theory. Signs: Journal of women in culture and society, 7(3), 515-544. MacKinnon, C. A. (1983). Feminism, Marxism, method, and the state: Toward feminist jurisprudence. Signs: Journal of women in culture and society, 8(4), 635-658.

March, James & Johan Olsen. 2006. “Elaborating the ‘New Institutionalism’”. In: Rohdes, R. A. W, Sarah Binder & Bert Rockman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 3-20.

Marxism on the law Althusser, Louis. Ideology and ideological state apparatuses. In: Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays. [1971]. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001.

  • I think this is a well-informed answer and I agree with most of its content, but it seems not to serve as a good answer to the specifications laid out in the question. Could you highlight the, say, three main proposals and why in particular you deem it suitable for the needs specified in the question?
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 29, 2017 at 14:56

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