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Legal concepts of early positivism in the context of worldview foundation in the philosophy of law of Modern Era
Zhdanov Pavel

PhD in Law

Docent, the department of Theory and History of State and Law, N. I. Lobachevsky State University of Nizhny Novgorod – National Research University

603115, Russia, Nizhegorodskaya oblast', g. Nizhnii Novgorod, ul. Ashkhabadskaya, 4


The subject of this research is the legal views of the representatives of early legal positivism, particularly John Austin. The goal lies in identification of the character of relation of legal concepts of positivism to the worldview foundations of the philosophy of law of Modern Era, namely the principles of rationalism. Examining the legal concept of John Austin, the author focuses attention on the aspects that demonstrate its dependence on the new-European philosophical-legal tradition. The article analyzes the category of divine law or principle of utility, which Austin implements as a extralegal criterion of the assessment of effective law, replacing the previous ideal criterion of natural law of the rationalistic doctrines. The ideas of legal positivism in the context of new-European philosophical tradition were analyzed with general orientation towards the system-structural approach. The study of the positivistic theory of law within the system of cultural and worldview processes of the turn of XVIII-XIX centuries, allows revealing its correlation with the major ideological trends of that time. Particularly, John Austin’s criticism of the natural legal concept can be interpreted as an echo of anti-metaphysical movement that originated in the philosophy of Enlightenment and developed in the philosophical A. Comte. A conclusion is made that the early legal positivism, refuting the metaphysical constructs in jurisprudence, remains faithful to the basic principles of the rationalistic worldview of Modern Era.  At the same time, reason in positivism is deprived of the status of sovereign source of natural law as a universal criterion of legal truth, and fulfils a purely instrumental role. Therefore, legal positivism manifests as a product of natural development of the new-European philosophy of law, rather than a crisis phenomenon.

Keywords: rationalism, Modern period, worldview, utilitarianism, principle of utility, natural law, philosophy of law, legal positivism, historicism, historical school of law



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