Facts and Norms in Law

Facts and Norms in Law

Interdisciplinary Reflections on Legal Method

Edited by Sanne Taekema, Bart van Klink and Wouter de Been

Facts and Norms in Law: Interdisciplinary Reflections on Legal Method presents an innovative collection of essays on the relationship between descriptive and normative elements in legal inquiry and legal practice. What role does empirical data play in law? New insights in philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities have forced the relationship between facts and norms on to the agenda, especially for legal scholars doing interdisciplinary work. This timely volume carefully combines critical perspectives from a range of different disciplinary traditions and theoretical positions.

Chapter 11: How should lawyers use sociological ideas? Juristic practice and social science

Roger Cotterrell

Subjects: law - academic, legal philosophy, legal theory, research methods in law


Can sociological inquiries play an important role in addressing juristic issues? Are they debarred from doing so by a necessary separation of ‘is’ and ‘ought’ – by the divide between a sociological concern to understand social facts and a juristic concern to interpret and develop legal norms? This chapter argues that the fact–norm divide may not be an absolute bar. Much depends on the ways in which the role of the jurist and the scope of legal sociology are understood. While sociological inquiries cannot solve normative problems of law, they can reveal and explain much, not only about the contexts in which juristic problems are addressed, but also why these problems take the form they do, why certain kinds of juristic arguments may tend to prevail over others, and what the parameters of meaningful juristic debate are likely to be in specific contexts.

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