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Expressing Norms

On Norm-Formulations and Other Entities in Legal Theory
Maribel Narváez Mora
p. 43–70
Expresiones de normas
Izražanje norm


The distinction between norms and norm-formulations commits legal theorists to treating legal norms as entities. In this article, I first explore the path from meaning to entities built by some analytical philosophers of language. Later, I present a set of problems produced by treating norms as entities. Whatever type of entities we deal with calls for a clear differentiation between the identification and individuation criteria of such entities. In the putative case of abstract entities, the differentiation collapses. By changing the notions of the intension and extension of words by extensional and intensional aspects of what we talk about, I outline a methodological programme for Law and Legal Theory. That programme is based in the identification of normativity.

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In open access from June 2017.


1 Norms and Norm-Formulations as Entities
2 An Aspiration of Logical Empiricism Through Analytical Philosophy of Language
3 Ontological Commitment
4 The Problem: Norms as Entities
5 Extensional and Intensional Aspects of What We Talk About
6 Methodological Programme: Law and Legal Theory Without Entities

First lines

My Drawing Number One /…/ looked like this. I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered. “Frighten? Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?” My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.
Saint-Exupery (1943: 7–8)

1 Norms and Norm-Formulations as Entities

In Legal Theory it is quite common to distinguish between norms and norm-formulations. The distinction is based on the thesis that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the formulations contained in a legal text and the norms expressed by them: a norm can be expressed through various norm-formulations, and a norm-formulation can express different norms.

Assuming that one thing is the legal norm and another thing the formulation by which the norm is expressed leads to questions such as “What kind of entities (“things”) are norms?” If legal norms are not legal texts produced by legi...

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Bibliographical reference

Maribel Narváez Mora, « Expressing Norms », Revus, 25 | 2015, 43–70.

Electronic reference

Maribel Narváez Mora, « Expressing Norms », Revus [Online], 25 | 2015, Online since 10 June 2017, connection on 23 May 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/revus.3191

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About the author

Maribel Narváez Mora

Professor of Law and Society and Legal Theory at the University of Girona, Spain

  Maribel Narváez Mora
Facultat de Dret
Universitat de Girona
Campus de Montilivi, s/n
17071 Girona


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