Alf Ross

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Alf Niels Christian Ross (June 10, 1899 – August 17, 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.

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 on Constitutional Law. In 1953, Ross published Om Ret og Retfærdighed (which he would later publish in English, under the title On Law and Justice).

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......
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