Alf Ross: On Law and Justice; Editor's Introduction
Forthcoming in Ross, Alf, On Law and Justice, ed. Jakob v. H. Holtermann, tr. Uta Bindreiter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)
41 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2018
Date Written: February 9, 2018
This paper constitutes the editor’s introduction to the new English translation of Alf Ross’s main work On Law and Justice forthcoming on Oxford University Press (2018). On Law and Justice is a classic work of twentieth-century legal philosophy. The original Danish manuscript (Om ret og retfærdighed) was first published in 1953. The first translation into English (1958) was notably poor – significantly abridged and misrepresenting Ross’s views. Translated in full from scratch, this critical edition sheds new light on Ross’s work and resituates it firmly in the context of current debates in the field.
In recent years, Alf Ross (1899-1979) has attracted increasing levels of attention. Not only is he, in HLA. Hart’s words, “the most acute and best-equipped philosopher” of Scandinavian legal realism. On Law and Justice reveals why Ross is by prominent scholars considered one of the three or four most important legal philosophers of the past century – and why his relevance is on the rise again.
On Law and Justice provides the most convincing take on a consistent legal realist position. Grounded in a moderate version of the logical empiricist philosophical outlook, the mature Alf Ross outlines a purely empirical legal research programme, which simultaneously fully recognizes the distinctly normative character of law. In this way, Ross’s legal realism avoids the standard critiques against behaviorist reductionism while remaining categorically distinct from legal positivism and natural law.
This editor’s introduction to the new edition clarifies Ross’s general philosophical project and details his position including Ross’s sophisticated dual distinction between internal and external aspects of law which essentially anticipated and surpassed Hart’s celebrated but more crude analysis. Holtermann connects Ross’s work with the ongoing empirical turn in legal scholarship, and with related attempts to associate legal realism with more broad philosophical trends under the label naturalized jurisprudence.
This paper also includes the editor’s “Note on the translation of ‘gyldig’ and ‘gældende ret’ as ‘valid’ and ‘scientifically valid law’”.
Keywords: Alf Ross, Scandinavian legal realism, H.L.A. Hart, valid law, naturalized jurisprudence
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