Alf Ross

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Alf Niels Christian Ross (10 June 1899 – 17 August 1979) was a Danish legal and moral philosopher and scholar of international law. He is best known as one of the leading exponents of Scandinavian legal realism. He is known for Ross' paradox.

Denmark constitutional monarchy in Europe

Denmark, officially the Kingdom of Denmark, is a Nordic country and the southernmost of the Scandinavian nations. Denmark lies southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and is bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark also comprises two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark proper consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands, with the largest being Zealand, Funen and the North Jutlandic Island. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate. Denmark has a total area of 42,924 km2 (16,573 sq mi), land area of 42,394 km2 (16,368 sq mi), and the total area including Greenland and the Faroe Islands is 2,210,579 km2 (853,509 sq mi), and a population of 5.8 million.

Scandinavia Region in Northern Europe

Scandinavia is a region in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. The term Scandinavia in local usage covers the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The majority national languages of these three, belong to the Scandinavian dialect continuum, and are mutually intelligible North Germanic languages. In English usage, Scandinavia also sometimes refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or to the broader region including Finland and Iceland, which is always known locally as the Nordic countries.

Legal realism is a naturalistic approach to law and is the view that jurisprudence should emulate the methods of natural science, i.e., rely on empirical evidence. Hypotheses have to be tested against observations of the world.



Born in Copenhagen, Alf Ross graduated from high school in 1917. He studied law, graduating in 1922. He consequently worked in a barrister’s office. In 1923, he commenced a study tour, which would last for two and a half years, visiting France, England and Austria. He spent 1928–1929 in Uppsala, receiving a degree in philosophy in 1929 from the university. In 1935, he was appointed to teach at the University of Copenhagen in Constitutional Law. In 1953, Ross published Om Ret og Retfærdighed (which he would later publish in English, under the title On Law and Justice).

Copenhagen Capital of Denmark

Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. As of July 2018, the city has a population of 777,218. It forms the core of the wider urban area of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen metropolitan area. Copenhagen is situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand; another small portion of the city is located on Amager, and is separated from Malmö, Sweden, by the strait of Øresund. The Øresund Bridge connects the two cities by rail and road.

Law System of rules and guidelines, generally backed by governmental authority

Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It has been defined both as "the Science of Justice" and "the Art of Justice". Law is a system that regulates and ensures that individuals or a community adhere to the will of the state. State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions. Private individuals can create legally binding contracts, including arbitration agreements that may elect to accept alternative arbitration to the normal court process. The formation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.

Uppsala University research university in Uppsala, Sweden

Uppsala University is a research university in Uppsala, Sweden, and is the oldest university in Sweden and all of the Nordic countries still in operation, founded in 1477. It ranks among the world's 100 best universities in several high-profile international rankings. The university uses "Gratiae veritas naturae" as its motto and embraces natural sciences.

In this book, he states that there is no a priori validity to give the law some special position. Experience serves as a guideline. This means, for example, that the famous dictum ‘suum cuique tribuere’, ‘to give to everyone his own’, has no meaning until it has been determined what actually belongs to someone, which means that this is a matter of begging the question (On Law and Justice, § 64 (p. 276)). His determination not to rely on anything but the facts leads to statements as the following: “The legal rule is neither true nor false; it is a directive.” (On Law and Justice, § 2 (p. 2)). Furthermore, the norm is directed at judges rather than citizens (On Law and Justice, § 7 (p. 33)).

Begging the question type of fallacy, where a proposition is assumed as a premise, which itself needs a proof and directly entails the conclusion

Begging the question is an informal fallacy that occurs when an argument's premises assume the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it. It is a type of circular reasoning: an argument that requires that the desired conclusion be true. This often occurs in an indirect way such that the fallacy's presence is hidden, or at least not easily apparent.

In this line of thought, he opposes natural law-approaches: “Like a harlot, natural law is at the disposal of everyone. The ideology does not exist that cannot be defended by an appeal to the law of nature. And, indeed, how can it be otherwise, since the ultimate basis for every natural right lies in a private direct insight, an evident contemplation, an intuition. Cannot my intuition be just as good as yours? Evidence as a criterion of truth explains the utterly arbitrary character of the metaphysical assertions. It raises them up above any force of inter-subjective control and opens the door wide to unrestricted invention and dogmatics.” (On Law and Justice, § 58 (p. 261).)

Natural law system of law that is purportedly determined by nature, and is thus universal; philosophy that certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature endowed by "God" or another "Divine" source, and can be understood universally through human reason

Natural law is a philosophy asserting that certain rights are inherent by virtue of human nature, endowed by nature—traditionally by God or a transcendent source—and that these can be understood universally through human reason. As determined by nature, the law of nature is implied to be objective and universal; it exists independently of human understanding, and of the positive law of a given state, political order, legislature or society at large.


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