Empirical Counterparts and Hart's Semantics

Nicos Stavropoulos

in Objectivity in Law

Published in print April 1996 | ISBN: 9780198258995
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191681899 | DOI:
Empirical Counterparts and Hart's Semantics

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This chapter discusses an ontological objection that purports to block Kripke-Putnam semantics in the legal domain. According to that objection, Kripke-Putnam (K-P) semantics is plausible for expressions referring to concrete empirical objects, whereas legal expressions do not refer to any such objects and should therefore be treated differently. The absence of empirical ‘counterparts’ is among the fundamental semantic characteristics of legal concepts on the basis of which H. L. A. Hart launched his own sui generis legal semantics. The chapter reviews Hart's own semantic framework and explores the question of whether K-P semantics could account for what Hart perceived as important semantic aspects of legal concepts. It argues that Hart's account is marred by philosophical error, namely, by a bad conception of evaluation, and a prejudice to the effect that concepts' application can be governed only by incontrovertible, non-substantive conditions. The chapter also discusses the major target of Hart's semantic arguments – reductionism – and contends that K-P semantics is a far better anti-reductionist framework.

Keywords: Kripke-Putnam semantics; ontological objection; empirical objects; H. L. A. Hart; legal concepts; reductionism; counterparts

Chapter.  17215 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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