International Law and the Objectivity of Value

44 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2006

See all articles by Emmanuel Voyiakis

Emmanuel Voyiakis

Brunel University - School of Social Sciences and Law

Date Written: February 17, 2006


It is often claimed that the rules of international law cannot be both objective and normative. This sceptical claim relies on the conjunction of two ideas. First, that the truth-conditions of any proposition of international law will include certain evaluative judgments (about the right or the good). Second, that evaluative judgments cannot be objectively true or false. International lawyers have two main strategies to defend their discipline against this sceptical challenge. The first and more modest strategy accepts that legal objectivity and normativity are incompatible, but sidesteps the sceptical critique by abandoning the claim to normativity. The second and more ambitious strategy resists the sceptical challenge by disputing the plausibility of its attack on the objectivity of evaluative judgments. It holds that objectivity and normativity are not mutually incompatible and that the ambition to produce an account of international law that displays both features is not incoherent. My aim in this paper is to show that there exists at least one version of this second strategy that can succeed against the sceptical challenge. I argue that scepticism about values is incoherent and, therefore, that the opposition between the objectivity and the normativity of international law is illusory.

Keywords: international law, values, objectivity, scepticism

JEL Classification: K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Voyiakis, Emmanuel, International Law and the Objectivity of Value (February 17, 2006). Available at SSRN: or

Emmanuel Voyiakis (Contact Author)

Brunel University - School of Social Sciences and Law ( email )

Kingston Lane
Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH
United Kingdom

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