Is it valid to think of a constitution or law in general as an axiomatic system? Because what they do is actually stating some rules one-by-one which we just accept. This means we accept also all implications from these rules. Is it correct way of thinking?

If it is not completely so, what makes the law different from any axiomatic system?

3 Answers 3


Legal principles are axiomatic in the sense that they provide a rational framework... But they aren’t nearly precise enough to provide unambiguous resolution to specific legal arguments, and are maybe more effectively like political manifestos than axiomatic tableaux.

That said all this is pretty complex at the linguistic level already. Principles in physics and science were historically called laws, after tables of religious doxa; however this terminology seems less tenable today and you will find people like Longo contesting it (i.e. suggesting that laws are not a great analogy to physical principles.)


In normal usage, an axiom is something that is self-evident or tautologically true. For instance, if we think about the algebraic reflexivity axiom (a=b ⬄ b=a) or Euclid's postulate that any line segment can be extended indefinitely, it's clear that these are not things we actually prove, but rather things that we point at and say 'Duh!'. We accept them mostly because rejecting them makes mathematics impossibly counter-intuitive.

The social world is at least an order of magnitude more complex than the mathematical world. The principles that lie behind a constitution are often presented in the form of axioms (particularly in the Jeffersonian "We hold these truths to be self-evident" language), but that is a claim to moral certainty, not a tautological truth. If one accepts the moral framework that underlies the constitutional structure, then the moral claim is axiomatic. But we humans are notoriously fickle about moral frameworks — some of us more so than others — so the claim to self-evidentiality is aspirational at best.

  • Good answer. However I'd like to point out that We hold these truths to be self-evident... is found in the Declaration of Independence, which is more like a writ, objective, indictment, or command/demand. I liked all the answers here so far, and I would just agree and add that a Constitution is a "framework" basically laying out particularly important legal boundaries including the distribution of powers.
    – Bread
    Oct 19, 2019 at 17:43

‎Gödel thought so. There's a famous story that at his citizenship hearing he was about to explain to the examiner that the Constitution would allow for a dictatorship. Fortunately ‎Gödel's friends Einstein and Morgenstern got him to put a sock in it.


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