Building blocks of a legal system - Comments on Summers' Preadvies for the Vereniging voor Wijsbegeerte van het Recht

Bart Verheij

Reading Summers' Preadvies is like learning a new language for me. Many of the points he makes and the concerns that he has are familiar, but cast in a vocabulary different from what I am used to. I must say that I enjoyed starting to learn this language. General reasons for my enjoyment include Summers' analytical approach and the proximity of the themes addressed by Summers to themes that I often think about myself. A more specific reason is that it allows me to rethink some of the background assumptions in my own field and compare them to those of Summers. I will report on some of this rethinking in these comments and meanwhile raise some questions that I have concerning Summers' Preadvies. I start with a brief comment on the formal method in artificial intelligence and in law. Then I turn to the logical formalization of legal reasoning. I conclude with a note on the building blocks of law.


As I said, I enjoyed reading Summers' Preadvies. I consider it to be a noteworthy contribution to the ontology of legal systems, in the sense of specifying their building blocks and their properties. Some questions that arise in my mind are the following:

1. Why emphasize form this much and not more strongly endorse the role of the material and the interaction between the formal and the material?

2. Are the methodologies of legal reasoning and justification fully determined by formal aspects? If not: what complementary material components are relevant for the analysis of the methodologies of legal reasoning and justification?

3. Why is this work positioned so abstractly as focusing on legal form? Wouldn't it be more adequate and less abstract to emphasize that the project is about the functional units of legal systems and their constituent features?

See this publication on the publisher's page: full text - table of contents of the issue in which it appears.

Verheij, B. (2005). Building blocks of a legal system. Comments on Summers' Preadvies for the Vereniging voor Wijsbegeerte van het Recht. Rechtsfilosofie & Rechtstheorie, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 200-204.

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