In John Gardner, Leslie Green & Brian Leiter (eds.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Law, vol. 3. Oxford University Press. pp. 49-86 (2018)

Stephen Finlay
Australian Catholic University
David Plunkett
Dartmouth College
Speech and thought about what the law is commonly function in practical ways, to guide or assess behavior. These functions have often been seen as problematic for legal positivism in the tradition of H.L.A. Hart. One recent response is to advance an expressivist analysis of legal statements (Toh), which faces its own, familiar problems. This paper advances a rival, positivist-friendly account of legal statements which we call “quasi-expressivist”, explicitly modeled after Finlay’s metaethical theory of moral statements. This consists in a descriptivist, “rule-relational” semantics combined with a pragmatic account of the expressive and practical functions of legal discourse. We argue that this approach is at least as well-equipped as expressivism to explain the motivational and prescriptive features of “internal” legal statements, as well as a fundamental kind of legal disagreement, while being better positioned to account for various “external” uses of the same language. We develop this theory in a Hartian framework, and in the final part of the paper argue (particularly against Toh’s expressivist interpretation) that Hart’s own views in The Concept of Law are best reconstructed along such quasi-expressivist lines.
Keywords H.L.A. Hart  Legal Semantics  Quasi-Expressivism  Legal Pragmatics
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Being Realistic About Reasons.T. M. Scanlon - 2014 - Oxford University Press.
Metaphysical Dependence: Grounding and Reduction.Gideon Rosen - 2010 - In Bob Hale & Aviv Hoffmann (eds.), Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology. Oxford University Press. pp. 109-135.

View all 93 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Defining Normativity.Stephen Finlay - 2019 - In Kevin Toh, David Plunkett & Scott Shapiro (eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence. Oxford University Press. pp. 62-104.
The Folk Concept of Law: Law Is Intrinsically Moral.Brian Flanagan & Ivar R. Hannikainen - 2022 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 100 (1):165-179.
What Does ‘Legal Obligation’ Mean?Daniel Wodak - 2018 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (4):790-816.
Hybrid Dispositionalism and the Law.Teresa Marques - 2019 - In Kevin Toh, David Plunkett & Scott Shapiro (eds.), Dimensions of Normativity: New Essays on Metaethics and Jurisprudence. New York: Oxford University Press.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Essays on Normativity and Describability of Law.Kevin Goonyoung Toh - 2003 - Dissertation, University of Michigan
Raz on Detachment, Acceptance and Describability.Kevin Toh - 2007 - Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 27 (3):403-427.
Expressivism, Belief, and All That.Sebastian Köhler - 2017 - Journal of Philosophy 114 (4):189-207.
Legal Reasoning and Legal Theory Revisited.Fernando Atria - 1999 - Law and Philosophy 18 (5):537-577.
How to Be an Expressivist About Truth.Mark Schroeder - 2010 - In Cory D. Wright & Nikolaj J. L. L. Pedersen (eds.), New Waves in Truth. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 282--298.
An Examination of H. L. A. Hart's Theory of Legal Obligation.Helena M. Openshaw - 1986 - Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo
Minimalism and Expressivism.Fritz J. McDonald - 2012 - Ethics in Progress 3:9-30.
How to Be an Ethical Expressivist.Alex Silk - 2015 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (1):47-81.
Legal Reasoning and Legal Theory Revisited.Fernando Atria - 1999 - Law and Philosophy 18 (5):537-577.
The Ineliminability of Hartian Social Rules.Stefan Sciaraffa - 2011 - Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 31 (3):603-623.
At the Intersection of Legality and Morality: Hartian Law as Natural Law.Daniel Walter Skubik - 1988 - Dissertation, The Australian National University (Australia)
Kelsen, Quietism, and the Rule of Recognition.Michael Steven Green - 2008 - In Matthew D. Adler & Kenneth E. Himma (eds.), THE RULE OF RECOGNITION AND THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION. Oxford University Press.


Added to PP index

Total views
271 ( #38,955 of 2,497,712 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
39 ( #21,882 of 2,497,712 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes