Legal Transactions and the Derivation of 'Ought' from 'Is'

19 Pages Posted: 5 May 2010 Last revised: 9 Feb 2011

See all articles by Jaap Hage

Jaap Hage

Maastricht University - METRO Institute

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 3, 2010


Searle argued by means of an example that it is possible to derive an ought-conclusion from premises that do not contain an ought. This argument, which used promises as example, was not completely successful, because it may be read as presupposing the ought-premise that promises ought to be kept. This paper aims to rescue Searle’s underlying idea by replacing promises in the argument with legal transactions, which are not confined to bringing about obligations. After having argued that Searle’s argument can be rescued by this amendment, the paper discusses some possible objections against the derivation of ought from is.

Keywords: gap between is and ought, institutional facts, legal transactions, contracts

Suggested Citation

Hage, Jaap, Legal Transactions and the Derivation of 'Ought' from 'Is' (May 3, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Jaap Hage (Contact Author)

Maastricht University - METRO Institute ( email )

PO Box 616
Maastricht, 6200 MD

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