Things I: Property: The Legal ‘Thing’ as Artwork

  • Roberta Kevelson


In using a Peircean conceptual framework for legal semiotics it becomes essential to examine the idea of a legal aesthetics. And since actual legal systems, as they function in human societies are assumed to be both the ground and the consequence of the abstract normative ethics, it is interesting to see what connections are effectual between actual legal systems and a Normative Esthetics.

We find, especially among the Legal Realists, several attempts to focus on the creative function of law, and on creative, innovative activity, which characterizes significant legal concepts and procedures. Indeed, law as a “system of signs” has long been regarded as a kind of cultural artifact or artwork. But it is not only in the writings of the Realists that one finds special emphasis on the creative aspect of “doing the law,” but from areas of inquiry which are quite different than those of the Realists, as it would appear. The British legal analyst and specialist in the general topic of Property in Law, F. H. Lawson, wrote on the “Creative Use of Legal Concepts,” (1957). He speaks of the basic tools of the professional jurist as Persons, Things and Operations which are represented by those conceptual signs known generally, or symbolically, as Corporations, Estates and Contracts. Ha ephaestos – the super Craftsman or Creative Artist of the Legal System – is known as the corporate or business lawyer. Lawson clams that it is only in those societies, which encourage risk enterprise and a relatively free market that this creator of the legal artwork exists.

We attempt here 13 shifts of perspective – more or less – upon this legal artist and the particular medium he best works with: the medium, not of the legal relationship, nor of the language of Jaw, but of the legal notion of the Thing: the Fact, the Property, the so-called Real Estate.


Real Property Legal Person Legal Process Legal Instrument Legal Concept 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberta Kevelson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dickinson School of LawPenn State UniversityCarlisleUSA

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