Hans Kelsen

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Bust in the Arkadenhof, University of Vienna

Hans Kelsen (October 11, 1881April 19, 1973) was an Austrian jurist, legal philosopher and political philosopher.


  • The mark of Platonic philosophy is a radical dualism. The Platonic world is not one of unity; and the abyss which in many ways results from this bifurcation appears in innumerable forms. It is not one, but two worlds, which Plato sees when with the eyes of his soul he envisages a transcendent, spaceless, and timeless realm of the Idea, the thing-in-itself, the true, absolute reality of tranquil being, and when to this transcendent realm he opposes the spacetime sphere of his sensuous perception-a sphere of becoming in motion, which he considers to be only a domain of illusory semblance, a realm which in reality is not-being.
    • "Platonic Justice", Ethics, April 1938. Translated by Glenn Negley from "Die platonische Gerechtigkeit," Kantstudien, 1933. (The author corrected the translation in 1957), published in What is Justice? (1957)
  • Law is an order of human behavior. An “order” is a system of rules. Law is not, as it is sometimes said, a rule. It is a set of rules having the kind of unity we understand by a system. It is impossible to grasp the nature of law if we limit our attention to the single isolated rule.
    • General Theory of Law and State (1949), I. The Concept of Law, A. Law and Justice, a. Human Behavior as the Objects of Rules
  • Justice is primarily a possible, but not a necessary, quality of a social order regulating the mutual relations of men. Only secondarily it is a virtue of man, since a man is just, if his behavior conforms to the norms of a social order supposed to be just. But what does it really mean to say that a social order is just? It means that this order regulates the behavior of men in a way satisfactory to all men, that is to say, so that all men find their happiness in it. The longing for justice is men's eternal longing for happiness. It is happiness that men cannot find alone, as an isolated individual, and hence seeks in society. Justice is social happiness. It is happiness guaranteed by a social order.
    • "What Is Justice?" (1952), published in What is Justice? (1957)
  • One of the most important elements of Christian religion is the idea that justice is an essential quality of God. Since God is the absolute, his justice must be absolute justice, that is to say, eternal and unchangeable. Only a religion whose deity is supposed to be just can play a role in social life. To attribute justice to the deity in order to make religion applicable to human relations implies a certain tendency of rationalizing something which, by its very nature, is irrational-the transcendental being, the religious authority, and its absolute qualities.
    • "The Idea of Justice in the Holy Scriptures", Rivista Juridicade la Universidadde Puerto Rico, Sept., 1952-April, 1953., published in What is Justice? (1957)
  • It is called a “pure” theory of law, because it only describes the law and attempts to eliminate from the object of this description everything that is not strictly law: Its aim is to free the science of law from alien elements. This is the methodological basis of the theory.
    • Pure Theory of Law (revised ed., 1960), 1. The “Pure” Theory
  • By determining law — so far as it is the subject of a specific science of law — as norm, it is delimited against nature; and science of law against natural science. But in addition to legal norms, there are other norms regulating the behavior of men to each other, that is, social norms; and the science of law is therefore not the only discipline directed toward the cognition and description of social norms. There other social norms may be called “morals.” and the discipline directed toward their cognition and description, “ethics.” So far as justice is a postulate of morals, the relationship between justice and law is included in the relationship between morals and law.
    • Pure Theory of Law (revised ed., 1960), 7. Moral Norms as Social Norms

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