Law as an artifact kind

Jonathan Crowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


It is commonly stated that law is an artifact, but this claim is rarely explicitly defended. This article submits this statement to closer examination. I argue that law is not straightforwardly covered by the standard philosophical account of artifacts, since not all laws have authors. However, it is possible to extend the account to include it. I then develop an analysis of law as an artifact kind. I contend that law is best regarded as a special type of artifact, which I call an ‘institutional artifact’. On this view, something quali?es as law only if, roughly, it is collectively recognised as law and is constitutively capable of ful?lling law’s function as an artifact. I argue that law’s function as an artifact is to serve as a deontic marker by creating a sense of social obligation. A putative law that is incapable of performing that function for reasons of form or content therefore fails as law, while a law that is not minimally adapted to that function is legally defective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)737-757
Number of pages21
JournalMonash University Law Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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