Belgrade Legal Theory Group organized another event in the spring semester of 2024 with Professor Jorge Sampaio (University of Lisbon School of Law) on the topic of law’s normativity.

Prof. Sampaio started his presentation with an outline of the concept of normativity by asking what are the reasons for complying with the law. Is it sanctions, or morality? He added that there are legal norms without sanctions, as well as immoral or non-moral legal norms. On the other hand, some authors argue that there are no robust accounts of law’s normativity – the law may be just formally normative. But, prof. Sampaio claimed that such an approach seems unplausible and he wants to offer a view of the specific reasons for following law’s rules. In order to distinguish law’s normativity from other systems (such as the normativity of language norms, which are also standards for assessing the correctness of an action or claim), it should include a more robust account that has a universal or unconditional standard.

Then prof. Sampaio said that a constitutivist account of law’s normativity might rely on the analysis of law as an artifact (law is a social creation and has a social function). By emphasizing the purposes of the law (be they exclusive or not) we can express something fundamental about the concept of law in relation to the reasons for compliance. The law can have normative value as a means to an end. Following this, Prof. Sampaio asserted that we don’t value the regulation of behavior in itself, but the purposes behind it. Hence, he believes that even though we can argue for a variety of law’s aims (such as to keep peace, conform to the right reason, justify coercion etc.) cooperation to survive is the most in line with empirical data and evolutionist theories about humans. Therefore, since humans are disposed to cooperate to survive, we might conclude that we are rationally committed to following legal norms.

Afterward came the Q&A part of the event, with substantial interest from the audience, with comments and questions regarding the alleged aim of cooperation for survival.

Ending the meeting, Julieta Rabanos thanked everyone for an excellent discussion, as well as Prof. Sampaio for the interesting lecture.