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Legislation: Work of Art or Artefact?

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image of Tilburg Law Review

The title of Willem Witteveen’s De wet als kunstwerk is an utter challenge for translators with a philosophical mindset. In English, the choice readily at hand for ‘kunstwerk’ would be ‘work of art’. But a different translation looms large. A ‘kunstwerk’ (in Dutch) also means a technically advanced construction in an already cultivated landscape. Let us call such constructions ‘artefacts’, to distinguish them from ‘works of art’. The latter are wrought by artists, the former by engineers. My question departs from the ambiguity inherent to ‘kunstwerk’ as it hovers between work of art and artefact. From a philosophical point of view, what, with regard to contemporary legislation, remains of the artefact as over and against the work of art?

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Legal Philosophy at Tilburg Law School,


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