Conventions, Reasons and the Law

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


According to Marmor, many critics thought that Hart had not given any good reason to think that the rules of recognition are conventions, and in any case, no conventional understanding of such rules is plausible. Others, including Marmor himself, defended this conventionalism about the rules of recognition, albeit, on different grounds. His main aim in this essay is to clarify his position and provide some further arguments in support of the view that constitutive conventions are at the foundation of law. In particular, he tries to show, in the face of the criticisms that its proposal has received from Postema, that it is still necessary to postulate the constitutive character of the rule of recognition. Indeed, Postema has argued that it was sufficient to extend the notion of coordination employed by Lewis and himself at some earlier time (he now prefers to speak in terms of “cooperation”) to argue that it is not necessary to take Marmor’s step. In contrast, Marmor argues that there are innumerable conventional practices, which it would be wrong to describe as solutions to preexisting coordination problems. In his view, insisting on coordination belittles the talent and inventiveness of human beings. Our sophisticated social practices are not limited to solving the problems with which we find ourselves. People create practices that they consider valuable to undertake. And one of them is the legal practice.


  1. Del Mar M (2010) Marmor’s social conventions: the limits of practical reason. Philos Soc Sci 41:420–445Google Scholar
  2. Dickson J (2007) Is the rule of recognition really a conventional rule? Oxf J Legal Stud 27:373–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Giudice M (2010) Review of Andrei Marmor “Social Conventions”. The Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 1Google Scholar
  4. Green L (1996) The concept of law revisited. Michigan Law Rev 94:1687–1717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Hart HLA (1961) The concept of law. Oxford Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Hart HLA (1994) The concept of law. Postcript, 2nd edn. Oxford Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Hume D (2000) A treatise of human nature. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Kopcke-Tinture M (2011) Positive law’s moral purposes: towards a new consensus? Am J Juris 56(1):183–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Lestas G (2013) The DNA of conventions. Law Philos:1–37Google Scholar
  10. Lewis D (1969) Convention: a philosophical study. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Marmor A (2009) Social conventions: from language to law. Princeton University Press, PrincetonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Marmor A (2011a) Philosophy of law. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  13. Marmor A (2011b) The dilemma of authority. Jurisprudence 2(1):121–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Postema G (1982) Coordination and convention at the foundation of law. J Legal Stud 11:165–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Postema G (2011) Legal philosophy in the twentieth century. Springer, HollandGoogle Scholar
  16. Smith D (2011) The role of conventions in law. Jurisprudence 2:451–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law School, Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

Personalised recommendations