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Russell's Paradox and Legal Positivism


David Gray Carlson


Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

March 8, 2009

Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 257

Abstract:     
In 1902, Bertrand Russell overturned set theory, which aspired to reduce all sets to their rules of recognition. These rules were to have logical priority to empirical sets posited by empirical human beings. As a result of Russell's Paradox, set theory gave up the hope of theorizing sets. This paper claims Russell's Paradox can be applied directly to jurisprudence. The result is that legal positivism (carefully defined as the claim that law can be reduced to rules of recognition) is invalid and must be abandoned. The corollary to this proposition is that law cannot be entirely separated from morality.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: Bertrand Russell, positivism, Hart, Kelsen, Raz, rule of recognition, set theory, morality

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Date posted: March 10, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Carlson, David Gray, Russell's Paradox and Legal Positivism (March 8, 2009). Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 257. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1355652 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1355652

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David Gray Carlson (Contact Author)
Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )
55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-790-0210 (Phone)
212-790-0205 (Fax)

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