Das Absolute im Recht – Schema­tischer Aufbau einer Rechtsphiloso­phie

Eugen Huber

Eugen Huber, Das Absolute im Recht – Schema­tischer Aufbau einer Rechtsphiloso­phie, in: Festgabe der juris­tischen Fakul­tät der Berner Hochschule zur Jahresversammlung des Schwei­­ze­rischen Juristen­vereins von 1922, Bern: Stämpfli & Cie. AG, 1922

Introduction/Historical Situation and Systematic Context

In the essay on “The Absolute in Law”, Eugen Huber presented the essence of his legal philosophical thought to the assembly of the Swiss Association of Lawyers and Jurisprudents, in occasion of a congregation at the Faculty of Law at the University of Berne in 1922. This very comprehensive and easy to read text of about 70 pages provides a condensed and reduced version of the principal writing of the same author, “Recht und Rechtsverwirklichung” from 1920 (see no. 1.1 of this Legal Anthology); this version is corresponding more or less to the first part of the beforementioned work, and can be consulted as a complementary addition (or substitution) to it. Therefore, the sub-title pretends ambitiously to provide the author’s conception of “The Scheme and Structure of Philosophy of Law”.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

Of course, this piece of legal philosophy by Eugen Huber also contains an idealistic view on law, legal order and jurisprudence, according to the reference to Rudolf Stammler. However, there is another general inclination predominating the whole argumentation. In the first section the notion of life goes across all arguments of the appearance, determinations and valuations of law. The so-called philosophy of life of the time ensures close relations to the human experience of law and legal order or practice, in conjunction with the spiritual element of “the absolute in law” (nota bene it is hereby the law does not pretent to be absolute, but only the law as a form of the absolute). “Betrachten wir das Recht als Lebenserscheinung, so bildet es als solche mit absoluter Notwendigkeit ein Stück, und zwar ein wesentliches, im Leben der Menschen, sei es jedes einzelnen oder aller zusammen. Es ist ein Stück, das sich im vernünftigen Bewusstsein des Menschen bewegt, im Willen speziell hervortritt und unter der Rechtsidee nach einer bestimmten Gestaltung des Lebens verlangt”.

According to this constellation, there are neither dualism nor dialectics as guiding principles or methods of Eugen Huber’s conception of legal philosophy. Instead a plurality of principles is identified, a cognitive, agitative and regulative element. In consequence, there are acknowledged the three moments of cognition, activity or creation, and regulatory judgment as equally important for the dynamic process of law. Particularly significant is the third-mentioned element, the regulatory or reflective moment that is conceptualised according to the “Critique of Judgment” by Immanuel Kant. “Das regulative Prinzip lehrt uns, dass wir in unserer Vernunft nicht nur die Gabe besitzen, zweckmässige Mittel zu wählen, sondern zugleich auch die Fähigkeit haben, in der Zwecksetzung und in der Wahl der Mittel eine Regulierung vorzunehmen. Wir vermögen in der Zweckverfolgung ein Sollen anzuerkenne und werden zu dessen Befolgung durch unser vernünftiges Bewusstsein angehalten. Aus allem dem, was uns entgegentritt, sollen wir das wählen, was recht ist, und wir sollen es so vollführen, wie es recht ist. Wir sollen nur dergestalt und insoweig unsere Zweck verfolgen, als es mit dem Recht verträglich ist. [...] Das regulative Prinzip führt in unserem Bewusstsein zur Abgrenzung und Beschränkung der Zweckverfolgung nach dem, was Recht ist. Damit wird erst den Handlungen des Menschen den Wert verliehen, auf den das Recht Anspruch hat: Das Recht soll in der menschlichen Gemeinschaft über alle Interessen gestellt werden und schliesst den obersten Lebenswert in sich”. Faithful to the idealistic inclination of this conception of legal philosophy, the law must surpass a merely economic dimension.

Philosophical Valuation and Jurisprudential Significance

Normally we encounter a strict division of law and morality or ethics in the context of neo-idealistic theory building in legal philosophy, especially in Neo-Kantianism. Eugen Huber overcomes this limitation or restriction and eventually proposes a concept about how these normative orders can be co-ordinated. In fact, there are even more dominating ideas, such as logics, power and methodology, trying to influence the process of constructing and develop a just legal order. All of these relations are addressed by the author, each within the tension between individualism and collectivism.

In a dynamic view, within a historical understanding of the foundation and development of legal order, it turns out that the fulfilment of legal claims is crucial, that the realisation of the legal order is eminently important. Legal norms are postulated as valid in order to influence human behaviour and have therefore to become true, real. Legal order, however, is itself bound by realities, by factual forms of life in a human community. The application of law cannot be understood as a one-way implementation; on the contrary, there are multiple normative ideas and ideals that operate in the inverse sense. A human ability to estimate and valuate all these claims must be postulated, a kind of legal judgment operating at the core of interpretation and application.

Further Information About the Author

Eugen Huber, born 13 July 1849 in Oberstammheim, died 23 April 1923 in Berne, followed (among others) the lectures of Rudolf von Ihering at the University of Vienna during his studies. Rudolf Stammler and Max von Rümelin were counted among his friends.

In 1881, he was named professor of federal law, civil law and legal history at the University of Basel. He was asked by the “Schweizerischer Juristenverein” to develop an overview of the legal order of the 25 Swiss cantons to establish the grounds for the unification of Swiss civil law, a duty he was prepared to fulfil in excellence, which is proved by the four volumes of “System und Geschichte des schweizerischen Privatrechts” (1886-1893). As a historian, he collected a variety and peculiarites of the specific Swiss common law, that characterised the legal order of the Swiss federal state. As the very basis of the unification and codification of Swiss civil law, he identified the collective Swiss public spirit (the so-called “Volksgeist”), an idea that resembles more the public consciousness or common sense for the law.

Between 1882 and 1892, he taught commercial law and German public law at the University of Halle an der Saale.

It was only in 1892 that he was called back to Switzerland to take the ordinary chair for civil law, legal history and philosophy of law at the University of Berne. From the Swiss Federal Government, he was soon given the task to prepare the codification of Swiss civil law and developed a proposal for the later “Schweizerisches Zivilgesetzbuch” (1900). By an intelligent combination of existing traditions and modern innovations he succeeded in a reconstruction of the hidden common understanding of Swiss private Law. His proposal found approbation in 1907 and gained validity in 1912.

In retrospective, he fully elaborated his philosophically informed insights into the law and the legal order only in his later period of life. In his groundbreaking and masterful work on “Recht und Rechtsverwirk­lichung” he identified jurisprudence as a contributor to the cognition and perception of the law, according to the Kantian criticism in epistemology. Courts and judges are an integrative part of the finding of the law, and their interpretations of the common law serve as a veritable source of law.

In 1922, his last work on legal philosophy appeared, devoted to the “Absolute im Recht”, where he claimed that the ideal of the law is based on the common sentiment or the common sense of the law. However, this was not meant to be an unaltered idealistic legal theory, but rather intended to establish a ground of positive law and its tendency to realise the eternal idea of law. Therefore, the ideal has to be proved by the reality of sociocultural legal practice.

For further information, please consult:

Theo Guhl: Eugen Huber, in: Schweizer Juristen der letzten hundert Jahre, mit einem Vorwort von Max Huber, mit einer historischen Einleitung von Eduard His, ed. Hans Schulthess, Schulthess & Co. A.-G., Zürich 1945, pp. 323ff.;

Dominique Manaï: Eugen Huber – Jurisconsulte charismatique, Basel/ Frankfurt am Main: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1990;

Max Rümelin: Eugen Huber, Rede gehalten bei der akademischen Preisverteilung am 6. November 1923, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1923;

Aloïs Troller: Eugen Hubers Allgemeingültige Rechtsphilosophie, in: Gedächtnisschrift für Peter Jäggi, ed. Bernhard Schneider and Peter Gauch, Universitätsverlag Freiburg Schweiz 1977;

Fritz Wartenweiler: Eugen Huber – Der Lehrer, Gesetzgeber, Mensch, Zürich/ Leipzig: Rotapfel-Verlag 1923.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Eugen Huber: Erläuterungen zum Vorentwurf eines Schweizerischen Civilgesetz­buchs, Bern: Büchler & Co., 1902 (pp. 1-39); Idem: Das Absolute im Recht – Schema­tischer Aufbau einer Rechtsphiloso­phie, in: Festgabe der juris­tischen Fakul­tät der Berner Hochschule zur Jahresversammlung des Schwei­ze­rischen Juristen­vereins von 1922, Bern: Stämpfli & Cie. AG, 1922; Idem: Recht und Rechtsverwirklichung – Probleme der Gesetzgebung und der Rechtsphilosophie, Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1920; Idem: Über die Realien der Gesetz­gebung, in: Zeitschrift für Rechtsphilo­sophie in Lehre und Praxis, ed. Felix Holldack, Rudolf Joergens and Rudolf Stammler, Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1913, pp. 39ss.; Idem: Bewährte Lehre – Eine Betrach­tung über die Wissen­schaft als Rechtsquelle, Bern: K. J. Wyss, 1910.

For Further Reading

Eugen Huber: Recht und Rechtsverwirklichung – Probleme der Gesetzgebung und der Rechtsphilosophie, Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1920;

Alois Troller: Eugen Hubers Allgemeingültige Rechtsphilosophie, in: Gedächtnisschrift für Peter Jäggi, ed. Bernhard Schneider and Peter Gauch, Freiburg im Üechtland: Universitätsverlag, 1977.


You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: Huber Absolute im Recht.