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H. L. A. Hart on Diversity (Politics) - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 241
Diversity/Hart/D’Agostino: [judgment and interpretation may differ - Example]: A considers X superior to Y whereas B does not because he, A, does judge that some choice-relevant concept (e.g. 'is just') applies to X whereas, because of indeterminacy or vague
ness, she, B, does not.
(D’Agostino: A and B agree about 'core cases' for the application of the term but disagree
about 'peripheral cases', which may, of course, still be important, ethico-politically.)
Strong/weak reading/D’Agostino: weak: he must mean, on [a] weak reading, merely that there is some 'practical impossibility' associated with the reduction of those conceptual indeterminacies associated with evaluation and choice. >Diversity/Rawls.
Hart: Still, there are also strong readings of this claim, of which H. L. A. Hart provided a well-
known and influential example, in terms, specifically, of the 'open texture' of (specifically normative and evaluative) language. In particular, the sort of abstract and general terminology that unavoidably figures in the assessment of options always represents a compromise between two factors.
a) On the one hand, such terminology must provide for the unsupervised co-ordination ofpeople' s attitudes and actions - both A and B forgo (b-ing because each understands, independently of the
Gaus I 242
other, that (D-ing is unjust.
b) On the other hand, such terminology must, as Hart put it, 'leave open, for later settlement by an informed [deliberative] choice, issues which can only be properly appreciated and settled when they arise in a concrete case' (1962(1): 127).
Any choice-relevant general idea that is sensitive to these two demands will be sufficiently vague in its applications to specific cases to admit, at least 'at the margins' , of multiple interpretations consistent with previous usage.
(D’Agostino: The moral particularism of such theorists as Jonathan Dancy, 1993(2), provides the basis for an analogous argument, as does the finitism which Barry Barnes, 1982(3), detects in the work of Mary Hesse and Thomas Kuhn.) >Diversity/D‘‘Agostino, >Pluralism/D’Agostino, >Pluralism/Political Philosophy.


1. Hart, H. L. A. (1962) The Concept of Law. Oxford: Clarendon.
2. Dancy, Jonathan (1993) Moral Reasons. Oxford: Blackwell.
3. Barnes, Barry (1982) T. S. Kuhn and Social Science. London: Macmillan.

D’Agostino, Fred 2004. „Pluralism and Liberalism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Hart, H. L. A.
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-07-29
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