Formal philosophy and legal reasoning: The validity of legal inferences

Peterson Clayton, Marquis Jean-Pierre


The aim of the present paper is to introduce a method to test the validity of legal inferences. We begin by presenting the rationale of our method and then we expose the philo- sophical foundations of our analysis. If formal philosophy is to be of help to the legal discourse, then it must first reflect upon the law’s fundamental characteristics that should be taken into account. Our analysis shows that the (Canadian) legal discourse possesses three fundamental characteristics which ought to be considered if one wants to represent the formal structure of legal arguments. These characteristics are the presupposed consistency of the legal discourse, the fact that there is a hierarchy between norms and obligations to preserve this consistency and the fact that legal inferences are subjected to the principle of deontic consequences. We present a formal deontic logic which is built according to these characteristics and provide the completeness results. Finally, we present a semi-formal method (based upon the proposed deontic logic) to test the validity of legal infer- ences. This paper contributes to the literature insofar as it provides a method that covers a portion of the intuitive validity of legal inferences which was not covered by other frameworks.



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