Kelsen, hart, and legal normativity

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This article focuses on issues relating to legal normativity, emphasizing the way these matters have been elaborated in the works of Kelsen and Hart and later commentators on their theories. First, in Section 2, the author offers a view regarding the nature of law and legal normativity focusing on Kelsen's work (at least one reasonable reading of it). The argument is that the Basic Norm is presupposed when a citizen chooses to read the actions of legal officials in a normative way. In this Kelsenian approach, all normative systems are structurally and logically similar, but each normative system is independent of every other system – thus, law is, in this sense, conceptually separate from morality. Second, in Section 3, the author turns to Hart's theory, analyzing the extent to which his approach views legal normativity as sui generis. This approach raises questions regarding what has become a consensus view in contemporary jurisprudence: that law makes moral claims. The author shows how a more deflationary (and less morally-flavored) understanding of the nature of law is tenable, and may, in fact, work better than current conventional (morality-focused) understandings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3984
StatePublished - 2018


  • Basic norm
  • H. L. A. Hart
  • Hans kelsen
  • Law and morality
  • Legal normativity
  • Moral obligation to obey the law

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