A ‘Justified Normativity’ Thesis in Hans Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law?

Stanley L. Paulson

in Institutionalized Reason

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199582068
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739354 | DOI:
A ‘Justified Normativity’ Thesis in Hans Kelsen's Pure Theory of Law?

Show Summary Details


This chapter explores the justified normativity thesis in Kelsen's legal philosophy, with particular attention to the works of Raz and Alexy. It raises doubts about whether anything as ambitious as justified normativity can be attributed to Kelsen. Some of these doubts are philosophical, others are prompted by a reading of Kelsen's texts. The philosophical doubts stem from the problems associated with transcendental arguments. That is, the appropriate argument on behalf of justified normativity in Kelsen's legal philosophy is a Kantian or Neokantian transcendental argument, which proves, however, to be unworkable. And textual support in Kelsen's writings is scant for the attribution to him of a justified — or contentual — normativity thesis. This cannot come as a surprise. From the very beginning, Kelsen was of the opinion that psychologism and naturalism, prominent in fin de siècle legal science on the European continent, were utterly wrong-headed. He sought to provide an alternative, and it took the form of a normativity thesis — what might be termed the nomological normativity thesis — that is altogether different from the justified normativity thesis. It does precisely the work that Kelsen would have it do, providing an alternative to psychologism and naturalism.

Keywords: legal philosophy; justified normativity; Joseph Raz; Robert Alexy; transcendental argument; naturalism; psychologism

Chapter.  31072 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.