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- Because a judgement on the truth or error of the differing convictions in law is impossible, and because on the other hand a uniform law for all citizens is necessary, the law-giver faces the task of cleaving with a stroke of the sword the Gordian knot which jurisprudence cannot untangle. Since it is impossible to ascertain what is just, it must be decided what is lawful. In lieu of an act of truth (which is impossible) an act of authority is required. Relativism leads to positivism.
- Der Relativismus in der Rechtsphilosophie (1934).
- Philosophy is not to relieve one of decisions, but to confront him with decisions. It is to make life not easy but, on the contrary, problematical.
- As it is the essence of justice ultimately to shape those relations in the sense of equality, so it is essential to the legal precept in its meaning to be directed toward equality, to claim to be susceptible of generalization or to be general in character.
- The validity of demonstrably wrong law cannot conceivably be justified. However, any answer to the question of the purpose of law other than by enumerating the manifold partisan views about it has proved impossible— and it is precisely on that impossibility of any natural law, and on that alone, that the validity of positive law may be founded. At this point relativism, so far only the method of our approach, enters our system as a structural element.
Ordering their living together cannot be left to the legal notions of the individuals who live together, since these different human beings will possibly issue contradictory directions. Rather, it must be uniformly governed by a transindividual authority. Since, however, in the relativistic view of reason and science are unable to fulfill that task, will and power must undertake it. If no one is able to determine what is just, somebody must lay down what is to be legal.
- It is the professional duty of the judge to validate the law’s claim to validity, to sacrifice his own sense of the right to the authoritative command of the law, to ask only what is legal and ask not if it is also just.
- The concept of law can be defined only as the reality tending toward the idea of law.
- Concepts such as legal subject and legal object, legal relation and legal wrong, and indeed the very concept of law itself, are not accidental possessions of several or all legal orders but are necessary prerequisites if any legal order is to be understood as legal.
"Five Minutes of Legal Philosophy" (1945)
- This view of a law and of its validity (we call it the positivistic theory) has rendered jurists and the people alike defenceless against arbitrary, cruel, or criminal laws, however extreme they might be. In the end, the positivistic theory equates law with power; there is law only where there is power.
- Of course it is true that the public benefit, along with justice, is an objective of the law. And of course laws have value in and of themselves, even bad laws: the value, namely, of securing the law against uncertainty.
"Statutory Lawlessness and Supra-Statutory Law" (1946)
- Positivism, with its principle that ‘a law is a law’, has in fact rendered the German legal profession defenceless against statutes that are arbitrary and criminal. Positivism is, moreover, in and of itself wholly incapable of establishing the validity of statutes. It claims to have proved the validity of a statute simply by showing that the statute had sufficient power behind it to prevail. But while power may indeed serve as a basis for the ‘must’ of compulsion, it never serves as a basis for the ‘ought’ of obligation or for legal validity. Obligation and legal validity must be based, rather, on a value inherent in the statute.
- To be sure, one value comes with every positive-law statute without reference to its content: Any statute is always better than no statute at all, since it at least creates legal certainty. But legal certainty is not the only value that law must effectuate, nor is it the decisive value. Alongside legal certainty, there are two other values: purposiveness and justice. In ranking these values, we assign to last place the purposiveness of the law in serving the public benefit.
- The most conspicuous characteristic of Hitler’s personality, which became through his influence the pervading spirit of the whole of National Socialist ‘law’ as well, was a complete lack of any sense of truth or any sense of right and wrong.