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Will Versus Reason: Truth in Natural Law, Positive Law, and Legal Theory


Brian Bix


University of Minnesota Law School

July 21, 2008

TRUTH: STUDIES OF A ROBUST PRESENCE, Kurt Pritzl, ed., Catholic University of American Press, 2010

Abstract:     
This article is based on a Lecture given as part of the Franklin J. Matchette Foundation Lecture Series on Truth at the Catholic University of America, School of Philosophy, in 2002. It explores what theorists in the natural law tradition and modern legal theorists have argued about what makes propositions of morality and law true, focusing on the rubric of "reason" as opposed to "will."

It seems probable, and perhaps inevitable, that theorists about the nature of truth in morality must choose between reason and will - that morality, at its core, is either one or the other. What makes law distinctive is that it is, as a practical matter if not by conceptual necessity, a mixture of both. And it is this intertwining of reason and will, of normative system and practical reasoning, which makes assertions about the nature of legal truth, and theories about the nature of law, so difficult.

The arguments about truth in law are as much disagreements about what it means to say that a legal proposition is truth as they are about what makes legal propositions true. Are declarations of truth in law statements about legal norms and legal sources, or are they statements about the results of particular disputes or particularized inquiries?

There are obvious complications in speaking of truth in a context like law, where there is simultaneously an effort to create a coherent normative system and a decision-making procedure that can modify that system in the course of resolving disputes.

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Date posted: July 25, 2008 ; Last revised: October 26, 2011

Suggested Citation

Bix, Brian, Will Versus Reason: Truth in Natural Law, Positive Law, and Legal Theory (July 21, 2008). TRUTH: STUDIES OF A ROBUST PRESENCE, Kurt Pritzl, ed., Catholic University of American Press, 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1166082

Contact Information

Brian Bix (Contact Author)
University of Minnesota Law School ( email )
229 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
612-624-2505 (Phone)
612-625-2011 (Fax)
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