Sein and Sollen, “Is” and “Ought” and the Problem of Normativity in Hans Kelsen

  • Nicoletta Bersier LadavacEmail author
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 130)


Hans Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law is a theory that seeks to draw a clear distinction between the object of study and the methods of inquiry within legal science. Its object of study is the knowledge of valid—i.e. existing—legal norms. Therefore, legal science according to Kelsen is a science that deals with the validity and not the efficacy of norms, and it is therefore a normative science, a science of the ought that is premised on the principle of imputation, which seeks to gain knowledge of and to describe the provisions that indicate the way in which people must behave and the sanctions that must be imposed on those who fail to act in the manner required. Legal science can, thus, be distinguished in terms of both its object and its method from other empirical and naturalist sciences, namely sciences based on the principle of causality. For Kelsen, validity is the prerequisite for the existence of positive law, the Sollen, while value is the foundation for natural law, the Sein.


  1. Ebenstein W (1945) The pure theory of law. The University of Wisconsin Press, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  2. Ghezzi ML (1996) Diversità e pluralismo. Raffaello Cortina, MilanoGoogle Scholar
  3. Kant I (1998) Critique of Pure Reason (1781). In: The Cambridge edition of the works of Immanuel Kant (Edited and trans: Guyer P, Wood AW). Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  4. Kelsen H (1911) Hauptprobleme der Staatsrechtslehre entwickelt aus der Lehre vom Rechtssatze. J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), TübingenGoogle Scholar
  5. Kelsen H (1927/28a) Die Idee des Naturrechts. Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht VII:221–250Google Scholar
  6. Kelsen H (1927/28b) Naturrecht und positives Recht. Internationale Zeitschrift für Theorie des Rechts II:71–94Google Scholar
  7. Kelsen H (1934) Reine Rechtslehre. Einleitung in die rechtswissenschaftliche Problematik. Franz Deuticke, Leipzig & WienGoogle Scholar
  8. Kelsen H (1949) The natural law Doctrine before the tribunal of science. West Polit Q II:481–531Google Scholar
  9. Kelsen H (1961) Naturrechtslehre und Rechtspositivismus. Revista Juridica de Buenos Aires 4:8–45Google Scholar
  10. Kelsen H (1963a) Grundlage der Naturrechtslehre. Das Naturrecht in der politischen Theorie. Springer, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  11. Kelsen H (1963b) Positivisme juridique et doctrine du droit naturel. In: Mélanges en l’honneur de Jean Dabin. Sirey, Brussels-ParisGoogle Scholar
  12. Kelsen H (1965) Was ist juristischer Positivismus? Juristenzeitung 15/16:465–469Google Scholar
  13. Kelsen H (1991) General theory of norms (Edited and trans: Hartney M). Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Paulson SL (1975) Constraints on legal norms.: Kelsen’s view in the essays (reviewing Hans Kelsen: essays in legal and moral philosophy by Hans Kelsen, O. Weinberger, P. Heath). Univ Chicago Law Rev 42(4):Article 7Google Scholar
  15. Paulson SL (1996) Hans Kelsen’s earliest legal theory: critical constructivism. In: Paulson SL, Paulson BL (eds) Normativity and norms. Critical perspectives on Kelsenian’s themes. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  16. Paulson SL, Litschewski Paulson B (1992) Introduction to the problems of legal theory. A translation of the Reine Rechtslehre or pure theory of law. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Rossi P (2007) Una idea di Occidente. Donzelli, RomeGoogle Scholar
  18. Stewart J (1990) The critical legal science of Hans Kelsen. J Law Soc 17(3):273–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thémis, Centre de Philosophie du droit, de Sociologie du droit et de Théorie du droitGenevaSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations