The article investigates the determination of human action by cognitive normative structures grounded in culture. Descriptive and normative approaches to the definition of culture are compared. The author proposes to apply the notion of ideal element, developed in logics and semantics, to the analysis of social action. Ideal elements do not have any immediate correlates in empirical reality. They contain loose assumptions and idealizations that contribute to the development of language and theory. Among the ideal elements of the heritage of the European civilization, the author distinguishes the idea of the person or 'legal personality', which also includes the concepts of the agent and the bearer of free citizenship. The article investigates ancient roots of this idea related to the notion of persona. A tension in Roman culture is stated between the personalist paradigm of the 'soul-image-name' and its background in archaic moral and legal beliefs.