Validity in Positive Law: A Mere Summary Concept

  • Dietmar von der PfordtenEmail author
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 122)


One can distinguish at least four phases respectively consecutive properties of a legal norm: (1) A norm in positive law emerges and hence begins to exist as or by a thought and speech-act, as well as its intended language-manifestations in space and time. (2) A legal norm obligates, forbids, allows, authorizes, etc. those who are subject to the law. A legal norm also creates or affirms subjective rights or positions or changes a legal status. (3) A legal norm needs and gives justification because as free beings we primarily want to be guided only by our own will. (4) A legal norm obtains efficacy in a narrow sense as it is acknowledged and followed, at least partially. These four phases respectively properties of a positive, legal norm are very profound natural as well as social phenomena. In addition, the concepts corresponding to them, partly from antiquity, are in any case time-honored concepts of the everyday world, as well as for academics, and they have an unequivocal function and a fairly clear meaning. Why then do we need the much more obscure and problematic artificial concept of validity besides these four necessary and acknowledged phases resp. consecutive properties of a legal norm? The concept of validity seems to be, in its overwhelming importance, an invention of general philosophy, which some legal philosophers and legal theorists took up and overvalued in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, with more harm than good to their own research and legal philosophy in general. Legal validity has become the most acclaimed concept of legal positivism in the twentieth and twenty-first century. In addition, even nonpositivists are infected by this virus. Today we still carry the burden of this overvaluing with far too much emphasis. There is only a limited, pragmatic area of application of the concept of validity in applied law: like other lately (and subsequently for pragmatic reasons) introduced summary concepts, e.g. “something,” “entity,” or “interest,” which are much less directly related to reality, the concept of validity, firstly, summarizes the normative force or function of a legal norm, that is obligation, permission, authorization, status determination, etc., and, secondly, summarizes different types of legal norms by leaving open the author and addressee of the norm and thus includes also three- and multidimensional norms.


Addressee of a norm Author of a norm Authorization Concept Efficacy Force of a legal norm Function of a legal norm Law Legal positivism Neo-Kantianism Norm Obligation Permission Positive law Status determination Summary concept Validity 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georg-August-University of GoettingenGoettingenGermany

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