How Law is Like Chess

18 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2006

See all articles by Andrei Marmor

Andrei Marmor

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: April 2006


This is an essay on the conventional foundations of law. The paper consists of three main arguments: first, that between HLA Hart's view on the rules of recognition and Kelsen's view on the basic norm, Hart's account is more plausible. Second, it argues that the rules of recognition are not coordination conventions, as some commentators have claimed, but conventions of a different kind. Finally, the paper draws a distinction between deep and surface conventions, arguing that there are deep conventions determining what law is, and surface conventions of recognition determining what counts as law in a particular community. This distinction between deep and surface conventions is employed to solve some of the puzzles about the conventional foundations of law.

Keywords: rules of recognition, basic norm, deep and surface conventions

Suggested Citation

Marmor, Andrei, How Law is Like Chess (April 2006). USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 06-7, Available at SSRN: or

Andrei Marmor (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States


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