Legal Normativity and Language

Contemporary legal theory has for the most part been interested in the complex relation between language and legal normativity. This has been the crux of the essential debates between Herbert Hart, Joseph Raz and Ronald Dworkin. Hart maintained that normative language was different in law and morality, Raz regarded the meaning of normative statements in language and law as essentially the same, while Dworkin pointed out that concepts in law are often disputed and prone to theoretical disagreement. Language has had a deep bearing on the main jurisprudential ideas in the second half of the 20th century.

The main idea of the conference is to explore the relation between legal normativity and linguistic practices in law. In the last couple of decades, legal theorists have been employing various theories of meaning to explain law, settle interpretative disputes, alleviate problems associated with semantic indeterminacy and explain the difference between legal and moral normativity. Some of the following questions have been central and some of them are just emerging as important: Can theories of meaning settle disputes about legal meaning? Does law follow the logic of semantic disambiguation present in other social practices? Is the institutional character of law relevant for interpretative practices and the settling of legal meaning?

In line with those inquiries the participants will explore the importance of philosophy of language for jurisprudence, the relation between legal norms and their linguistic expression, the possibility of theories of meaning to settle problems of legal interpretation as well as the relevance of normative theories of meaning to legal normativity.


  • Brian Bix (University of Minnesota), The Nature of Legal Obligation
  • Kenneth Einar Himma (University of Washington), Legal Obligation and Normativity
  • Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco (University of Birmingham), A Criticism of Marmors Deep Conventions: Forward-Looking Agency and Practical Reason
  • Matthias Klatt (University of Hamburg), Semantic Normativity in Legal Argumentation
  • Dimitrios Kyritsis (University of Reading), Interpreting Legislative Intent
  • Andrej Kristan (University of Girona), Another Way to Meet Hart’s Challenge
  • Bojan Spaić (University of Belgrade), Is legal interpretation a normative enterprise?
  • Jasminka Hasanbegović (University of Belgrade) & Milorad V. Todorović, Legal Normativity and Language from Psychoanalytic Perspective
  • Miodrag Jovanović (University of Belgrade), Is Legality Like Virginity? An Essay on the Normativity of International Law

Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, 19 October 2015