Legal Positivism and Deontic Detachment

Ratio Juris, 2018, 31(1)

11 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2018

See all articles by Rob Mullins

Rob Mullins

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2018


I consider a puzzle that arises when the logical principle known as ‘deontic detachment’ is applied to the law. It is not possible to accept the principle of deontic detachment in a legal setting while also accepting that the so called ‘social facts thesis’ applies to all legal propositions. According to the social facts thesis, the existence and content of law is determined by the attitudes of legal officials. Abandoning deontic detachment is not an appropriate solution to the problem—the puzzle can be recreated with other plausible closure principles. The problem can be solved by restricting the social facts to legal rules, rather than applying it to all legal propositions. Properly construed the social facts thesis does not apply to facts about what legally ought to be the case.

Keywords: Legal 'Ought', deontic detachment, social facts thesis

Suggested Citation

Mullins, Rob, Legal Positivism and Deontic Detachment (March 1, 2018). Ratio Juris, 2018, 31(1), Available at SSRN:

Rob Mullins (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072

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