Metamorphosis in Hans Kelsen's Legal Philosophy

35 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2017

Date Written: September 2017


Two major questions stem from the fundamental shift in Hans Kelsen's legal philosophy that takes place in 1960 and the years thereafter: first, the scope of the shift and, second, its explanation. On the first question, I argue that the shift is not limited to Kelsen's rejection of the applicability of logic to legal norms. Rather, it reaches to his rejection of the entire Kantian edifice of his earlier work. On the second question, I argue that the explanation for the shift has a conceptual dimension as well as a historico‐biographical dimension. That is, I argue that Kelsen's rejection of the principle of non‐contradiction vis‐à‐vis legal norms reaches to the Kantian edifice in that the principle was presupposed in Kelsen's earlier work and appears, expressis verbis, in his 'Kantian filter'. And I argue that certain historico‐biographical data are germane, including, quite possibly, the earlier revolution in Kelsen's thought, that of 1939–40.

Keywords: Late period, Basic norm, Kantian edifice, Kantian filter, norm conflicts, legal cognition

Suggested Citation

Paulson, Stanley L., Metamorphosis in Hans Kelsen's Legal Philosophy (September 2017). The Modern Law Review, Vol. 80, Issue 5, pp. 860-894, 2017, Available at SSRN: or

Stanley L. Paulson (Contact Author)

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