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An Account of Legal Obligation

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Obligation and mandatory force of the law

What enables the law to hold us bound to do anything, and why should legal requirements be taken as binding? Researchers posed these questions in order to arrive at an account of legal obligation.

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The EU-funded project LEGO (An account of legal obligation) worked towards an explanation of legal obligation, which forms an essential part of the normativity of law. As such, the researchers operated on two levels. On the one hand, they identified the concept of legal obligation and on the other the basis of obligatory force of the law. Work involved critical engagement with several different accounts of the obligatory force of the law. This especially involved the introduction and rejection of the three main accounts currently defended within mainstream jurisprudence as theoretically problematic. They are a formal account, a social fact account and a reason-based account. Researchers then theorised an original view of legal obligation. The conception of legal obligation was viewed as a two-component notion. This was central to the reason-based account. One of the two essential components of obligation is derived from its internal connection with practical reasons; therefore, it is rational in nature. The other one, however, stems from the conceptual link that can occur between obligation and mandatory force. Eight seminar presentations were given at renowned academic institutions. There are four working papers publicly available on the web. Additionally, eight academic journal articles were published and several book chapters have been drafted. Dissemination of the results has also taken place through workshops and international conferences, and a video clip with PowerPoint presentations summarises the research results. Thinking about legal obligation in a form that is not only academic but also relates to people’s lives in practical everyday terms as members of a democracy spurs political interest within individuals. This can in turn empower civil interrelatedness. People can understand that they are not merely coexisting in society but can and should engage politically, even with differing points of view, in order to arrive at solutions.


Force of the law, law, legal obligation, LEGO, jurisprudence

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