Topic: The great puzzle: Kelsen's basic norm

Presenter: Professor Stanley Paulson - Washington University in St Louis

The puzzle stemming from Hans Kelsen's basic norm might be conceptualized in the form of a dilemma: If the idea of 'grounding' the law or providing a foundation for the law is taken seriously as the task Kelsen accords to the basic norm, then the dilemma might look like this: Either the characterization chosen from among more than a dozen arguably distinct characterizations of the basic norm provides nothing remotely like a 'grounding' of the law but generates instead a petitio principii, a begging of the question, or - the other horn of the dilemma - this or that Kantian or Neo-Kantian characterization does appear to imply the 'grounding' function of the basic norm, but no sound Kantian or Neo-Kantian argument in support of the 'grounding' function is forthcoming. I take up a number of matters adumbrated in this statement of the dilemma, to wit: Kelsen's various characterizations of the basic norm, the petitio principii arising from many characterizations, the failure of the Kantian or Neo-Kantian transcendental argument as applied in legal science, and, finally, an explication of the basic norm on the model of Kant's regulative principle, which, I argue, lends a grounding function to the basic norm.

All welcome, no RSVP required.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: 334 69350, email:

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