The Unity of International Law: An Exercise in Metaphorical Thinking

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The article investigates three different metaphorical ways of thinking about international law. It begins with assessing whether the canonical metaphor of law as a tree can apply to international law, and how this metaphor relates to the concepts of validity and division between primary and secondary rules. Further, the article tests another metaphor, that of a starry sky, which assumes that international law represents a no-system, a skittering of norms that have no or little connection to each other. Finally, the article draws on the last metaphor of international law as a galaxy with norms of international law having different weight and gravitational pull. These metaphors allow to see the normative structure of international law under different angles, which makes such phenomena as general international law, jus cogens, global constitutionalism, etc., look differently depending on the image of international law being adopted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-109
Number of pages30
JournalPhilosophy of Law and General Theory of Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • International Law
  • normativity
  • Validity
  • Authority

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