Legal Positivism and 'Explaining' Normativity and Authority

American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Law, Vol. 5, No. 2, Spring 2006

Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-05

6 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2009 Last revised: 29 Jan 2009

Brian Bix

University of Minnesota Law School

Date Written: Spring 2006

Abstract

It has become increasingly common for legal positivist theorists to claim that the primary objective of legal theory in general, and legal positivism in particular, is "explaining normativity." The phrase "explaining normativity" can be understood either ambitiously or more modestly. The more modest meaning is an analytical exploration of what is meant by legal or moral obligation, or by the authority claims of legal officials. When the term is understood ambitiously - as meaning an explanation of how conventional and other empirical facts can give rise to moral obligations - as many legal positivist theorists seem to be using the phrase, the project is contrary to basic tenets of legal positivism, and has regularly led theorists to propose doubtful theories that ignore "is"/"ought" divisions.

Keywords: legal positivism, analytical legal theory, natural law theory

Suggested Citation

Bix, Brian, Legal Positivism and 'Explaining' Normativity and Authority (Spring 2006). American Philosophical Association Newsletter on Philosophy and Law, Vol. 5, No. 2, Spring 2006; Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1331974

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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