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Legal Statements and Normative Language

28 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2013  

Luís Duarte d'Almeida

University of Edinburgh - School of Law

Date Written: January 25, 2013


Can there be a non-reductivist, source-based explanation of the use of normative language in statements describing the law and legal situations? This problem was formulated by Joseph Raz, who also claimed to have solved it. According to his well-known doctrine of ‘detached’ statements, normative legal statements can be informatively made by speakers who merely adopt, without necessarily sharing, the point of view of someone who accepts that legal norms are justified and ought to be followed. In this paper I defend two theses. I argue, first, that the notion of a detached statement cannot be made to work, and that Raz’s problem is thus not thereby solved. But the problem itself, I also suggest, is a false one.

Keywords: legal 'ought', detached statements, normative language, legal positivism

Suggested Citation

Duarte d'Almeida, Luís, Legal Statements and Normative Language (January 25, 2013). Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2013/03. Available at SSRN: or

Luís Duarte d'Almeida (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh - School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom

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