From Sovereignty to International Cooperation: Lessons from Legal Logic and social Ontology

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This paper connects State sovereignty to fragmentation and the potential for inconsistencies and conflicts, investigating whether exercises of sovereignty necessarily lead to inconsistencies that would hinder international cooperation. It argues that this is not the case, essentially because the logic of rules differs fundamentally from the logic of statements, and because this rule logic allows one to find a consistent and workable legal system in a pluralistic and fragmented collection of sources of international law. The paper begins by showing how sovereignty leads to the fragmentation of international law, and fragmentation to inconsistency, increasing the risk for rule conflicts. Thereafter, it pays attention to the traditional conception of consistency by considering the consistency of descriptive sentences. However, it holds that the consistency of descriptive sentences does not fit the nature of rules. While descriptions are true or false as far as they succeed at describing the world, rules are not truth-apt. Rules are valid or invalid to the extent that they succeed on influencing the world. This difference leads the paper to adopt a different definition for the consistency of rules. Following this, the paper considers how adding more rules can remove inconsistency and remove conflicts. It concludes that the addition of rules can help ensure the consistency of the set of rules of international law. Moreover, even if fragmentation as a result of ‘unsupervised’ exercises of sovereignty by States has occurred, further rule-creation can remove inconsistency or conflict by means of a framework of meta-rules.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationMaastricht
PublisherMaastricht University
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

SeriesMaastricht Faculty of Law Working Paper


  • fragmentation of international law
  • logic of rules
  • rule conflicts
  • rule consistency
  • social ontology


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