What Does ‘Legal Obligation’ Mean?

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (4):790-816 (2018)
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Abstract

What do normative terms like “obligation” mean in legal contexts? On one view, which H.L.A. Hart may have endorsed, “obligation” is ambiguous in moral and legal contexts. On another, which is dominant in jurisprudence, “obligation” has a distinctively moralized meaning in legal contexts. On a third view, which is often endorsed in philosophy of language, “obligation” has a generic meaning in moral and legal con- texts. After making the nature of and disagreements between these views precise, I show how linguistic data militates against both rivals to the generic meaning view, and argue that this has significant implications for jurisprudence.

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Daniel Wodak
University of Pennsylvania

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