Primary & Secondary Rules

H.L.A. Hart makes a distinction between primary and secondary rules. I am unsure as to what to make of this. Right or wrong, this is what I have come up with:

Primary rules are the essential foundational element of secondary rules. In a sense, they are the social, academic, and philosophical norms that inform the foundation of secondary rules. Put another way, secondary rules are those norms in an institutionalized form.

Another way I thought of it was to to consider the primary rules to be the necessary conditions to establish the secondary rules. Conversely, the secondary rules are sufficient to prove the existence of the primary rules.

I could be completely off base here – any thoughts?


One thought on “Primary & Secondary Rules”

  1. I feel like this would generally be true. Societies morals and norms become societies laws, and societies laws usually reflect it’s values.

    However, I do not think this is an absolute. There are a great number of instances in which the laws written by government do not actually reflect the values of society. A great example would be the prohibition I the 1920’s.

    You might say that societies values quickly reversed the law and I can agree with that, but I feel it would be out of line with Harts argument that laws are ruled which must be followed for their own sake and not for the sake of the values they represent.

    Consider if nobody actually stop up to the prohibition, smuggled Booz, drank it, broke the law.

    Society could would have become complacent about the law within a generation I believe. Thus, the law would have dictated values under those conditions.

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