Frederick Schauer

Fuller’s Fairness: "The Case of the Speluncean Explorers"

University of Queensland Law Journal


There is much to appreciate in Lon Fuller's 'The Case of the Speluncean Explorers' published in the Harvard Law Review in 1949. The article offers still valuable insights into the various connections between law and morality. It is also an important contribution to the topic now commonly discussed under the rubric of legal defeasibility. In addition, it remains a timely contribution to knotty questions about statutory interpretation. And all of this is written with a marvelous combination of charm and brio, even apart from the virtues of a law review article with no footnotes whatsoever.

All of these positive features of Fuller's masterpiece are worthy of comment, but perhaps most deserving of attention, and most often overlooked, is the way in which Fuller presents strong and sympathetic arguments for a host of mutually exclusive positions, all of which, save one, are positions that Fuller himself, in other writings, in fact rejects. In a world of academic legal writing in which adjectives all too often substitute for analysis, and in which invective takes the place of argument, Fuller's efforts to make the strongest arguments even for positions with which he disagrees is a model of intellectual honesty and academic rigor, and would remain worthy of emulation even were the substantive arguments in the article no longer timely.


Frederick Schauer, Fuller’s Fairness: "The Case of the Speluncean Explorers", 35 University of Queensland Law Journal, 11–20 (2016).

More in This Category