Social Facts and Law: Why the Rule of Recognition is a Convention

Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 126)


The author shows that the existence of law in a given society requires the presence of a unitary practice of identification of rules (a rule of recognition). It is also argued that the best way of understanding this rule is to see it as a constitutive convention, which allows the autonomous identification of the law of a particular community. According to this author, just as the existence of money requires the belief that it exists, the existence of a legal system depends ultimately on a set of beliefs shared by the relevant persons. After developing this position, a series of recurrent criticisms of conventionalist positions is reviewed with the aim of rejecting them. These criticisms are: if the rule of recognition is understood as a convention then it cannot account for the normative nature of the convention, nor for the presence of principles in legal systems, nor for the disagreements between lawyers; finally, the problem of the arbitrariness of the rule of recognition and its alleged banality is addressed.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law DepartmentPompeu Fabra UniversityBarcelonaSpain

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