- The idea that particular legal institutions are artifacts is not new. It seems intuitively correct to say that a particular legal institution, e.g., a mortgage or a leasing contract, could not exist unless somebody intentionally created it. However, the idea that 'law' itself is an artifact has seldom, due perhaps to the ambiguities sorrounding philosophical inquires into law, been directly expressed. Nevertheless, such an idea has recently been more often invoked, though not always developed in greater detail with regard to the questions of what the claim that 'law' (i.e. the 'legal system') is an artifact, in fact, ontologically entails and what consequences, if any, this claim has for philosophical accounts of law.
If one is to accept the claim that 'legal system' is an artifact kind, one has to answer several important ontological, semantic, epistemological, psychological and methodological questions. However, since this is a sort of preliminary investigation of the matter, the aim of this paper is only to attempt an inquiry into what the claim that 'law' by its nature or character is an artifact, in fact, would entail. In addition, if the obtained results seem appealing, a further goal is to set the grounds for expounding an artifact theory of law.
Therefore, in order to be able to answer at least certain ontological and categorization questions concerning legal systems as artifact kinds, I will first outline a general theory of artifacts (Section 2). I will do this by exploring several theories of artifacts developed in general philosophy, drawing mostly on those of R. Hilpinen, A. L. Thomasson, L. R. Baker and P. Bloom, since their theories present themselves as general theories of artifacts, capable of being applied to any artifact kind. Furthermore, since I take legal systems to be institutional by their character, and thus different from 'ordinary' artifacts, I will introduce certain elements of social (institutional) ontology and set the ontological grounds for 'institutional artifacts' as a distinct artifact type (Section 3). Finally, I will explain how (institutional) artifacts are classified into kinds (Section 4). A theory of artifacts and institutional ontology should indicate the way in which one should, if at all, proceed with an artifact theory of law.