Problems and Prospects of Deontic Logic a Survey

  • Georg Henrik Von Wright
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 149)


“There is no such thing as philosophical logic”, Wittgenstein said in a letter to C. K. Ogden.1 In spite of his veto the term now has an established use. It could be defined as signifying the applications of the tools of formal logic to the analysis of concepts and conceptual structures in which philosophers traditionally have taken interest. Pursuits in this spirit sometimes shed interesting light on old problems. More often perhaps they give rise to new problems and steer the interest of philosophers in new directions.


Modal Logic Standard System Deontic Logic Conditional Norm Action Sentence 
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  1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Letters to C. K. Ogden, Basil Blackwell, Oxford and Kegan Paul, London 1973, letter of 23 April, 1922, p. 20.Google Scholar
  2. It was the vision of such a General Theory that inspired my first and major contribution to modal logic, An Essay in Modal Logic, North-Holland Publ. Co., Amsterdam, 1951.Google Scholar
  3. In Leibniz, Sämtliche Schriften und Briefe, ed. by Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 6. Reihe, Vol. I, Otto Reichl Verlag, Darmstadt, 1930.Google Scholar
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  6. The main sources among Bentham’s works are An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, ed. by J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart, London, 1970, and Of Laws in General, ed. by H. L. A. Hart, London, 1970.Google Scholar
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  9. My own contributions to it are embodied, chiefly, in Norm and Action, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1963, in An Essay in Deontic Logic and the General Theory of Action, North-Holland Publ. Co., Amsterdam, 1968, and in the paper ‘Handlungslogik’ in Normenlogik, ed. by H. Lenk, Verlag Dokumentation, Pullach bei München, 1974.Google Scholar
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  15. A. R. Anderson, ‘A Reduction of Deontic Logic to Alethic Modal Logic’, Mind 67 (1958). A very similar proposal had been made by Stig Kanger in an unpublished paper from the year 1950.Google Scholar
  16. Cf. P. H. Nowell-Smith and E. J. Lemmon, ‘Escapism: The Logical Basis of Ethics’, Mind 69 (1960).Google Scholar
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  18. This problem is discussed, for example, by Hans Kelsen in his classic works Reine Rechtslehre, Deuticke, Wien, 1934; and General Theory of Law and State, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1949; and in the paper ‘Recht und Logik’, Neues Forum 12 (1965). See also O. Weinberger, Rechtslogik, Springer Verlag, Wien, 1970.Google Scholar
  19. Becker, op. cit., p. 41; Kalinowski, op. cit., p. 147, ‘Deontic Logic’, p. 2.Google Scholar
  20. Quantifiers in Deontic Logic’, Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum 23 (1957).Google Scholar
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  23. Cf. my papers ‘Deontic Logic Revisited’, Rechtstheorie 4 (1973); and ‘Handlungs-logik’ in Normenlogik, ed. by H. Lenk, Verlag Dokumentation. Pullach bei München, 1974.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georg Henrik Von Wright
    • 1
  1. 1.HelsinkiFinland

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