Die Wissenschaft vom Recht und ihre Methode

Arthur Baumgarten

Arthur Baumgarten, Die Wissenschaft vom Recht und ihre Methode, 2 vols., Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1920/ 1922 (reprint Aalen: Scientia, 1978).

Introduction/Historical Situation and Systematical Context

In his most extended writing, covering three volumes, Arthur Baumgarten treats jurisprudence and its methods, whereas the scientific character of jurisprudence is discussed on the background of a vast knowledge of the common-sense philosophy of that time. The principal work of the author is dedicated to his fellow professor at the University of Geneva, the private law jurisprudent Gottlieb August Meumann (compare: Prolegomena zu einem System des Vermögensrechts (Studien zur Erläuterung des bürgerlichen Rechts vol. 12), Breslau: Marcus, 1903; and Idem: Observations sur le système du droit privé, Publisher, Georg & Cie, 1909).

In the 2nd part, a casuistic presentation of the different partitions of legal studies covers more than 500 pages, followed by an attempt to critically represent the method of jurisprudence. Eventually, the fundamentally diverse principles of teleological and positivistic method and the respective currents are disqualified by interpreting them as mere elements and moments. The task for legal philosophy is determined as follows: “Die Rechtsphilosophie hat die Aufgabe, das Recht als Gegenstand der Rechtswissenschaft begrifflich zu bestimmen, in Aufstellung der höchsten Prinzipien des Rechts den Zusammenhang des Rechts mit einer universellen Weltbetrachtung zu gewährleisten und als Methodenlehre der Rechtswissenschaft die verschiedenen Wege der Forschung zu weisen”. The first aim consists in a merely dogmatical construction of adequate conceptions, whereas the last task is reduced to merely methodological questions that fall within the narrow frame of logics. The intermediate task for legal philosophy is not provided by the author, and later he explicitly declares it as temporarily or generally impossible.

For further information about the context of this monumental monography within the principal writings of Arthur Baumgarten, please consult nos. 1.9 and 3.2 of this Legal Anthology.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

The first part of the monumental writing by Arthur Baumgarten on scientific jurisprudence and its methods provides the theoretical ground, whereas the practical questions are related to the second partition. In consequence to an eventual positivistic approach, the problems de lege ferenda are separated from the problems de lege lata, thereby following the tendency of “Begriffsjurisprudenz”, of modernised Pandect School. The inclination of the author is towards a metaphysically founded Liberalism, in his own words; this intention has not been worked out, however, and it remains uncertain how these two historically different and diverse things should be brought together. This is just another way not only to declare that legal philosophy and jurisprudence have no common subject, but even worse that jurisprudence is only a maiden of legal politics, or even a servant in the service of power, that the law is to be understood as an instrument to extrinsic purposes. Let us briefly reconsider the arguments in short: Jurisprudence cannot be reduced to aspects de lege lata, but rather has to evolve into a constructive legal theory, i.e. has also to consider aspects de lege ferenda. So far, so well. These two qualifications, however, are identified with the formal and material aspects of the legal order. The virtue of positivism is described with the follwing metaphor: “Die Menschen brauchen ein Ruhekissen, auf das sie von Zeit zu Zeit ihr schwaches und müdes Haupt legen können, auch wenn es sich nicht gerade um die Befriedigung des Schlafbedürfnisses handelt. Es wäre zuviel an Verantwortung dem Menschen aufgebürdet, wenn er nicht bisweilen das, was die anderen regelmässig in gleicher Lage tun, unbesehen als richtig annehmen dürfte. Dass wir mit diesen Ausführungen weder übertriebener Denkfaulheit noch gehässiger Verdächtigung derjenigen, die den von der Sitte vorgeschriebenen Weg nicht einhalten, das Wort reden möchten, braucht kaum ausdrücklich gesagt zu werden”. Such a position, however, is an eloquently covered draw, a stalemate, an unsolved dilemma in a dualistic structure of isolated and repartitioned problems. Eventually, such an attempt must end in an abolition of autonomy and leads directly to heteronomy, this in contrast to the Kantian principles of normativity, called in case.

In general terms, Arthur Baumgarten’s argumentation follows a principally dualistic method, and therefore the counterparts are often not really related to each other but are only identified and remain unbridged. “Der Unterschied zwischen Recht und Sittlichkeit besteht in Wahrheit darin, dass das Recht anders als die Sittlichkeit eine positive, das heisst nicht eine notwendig der objektiven Vernunft entsprechende, sondern durch eine beschränkte, individuelle Vernunft festgelegte Lebensordnung ist. [...] In diesem Sinne dürfen wir sagen, dass das Recht eigentlich nichts anderes als eine Art der Moral sei”. Despite this confession, the legal order is intended to be treated in the way of classical positivism, where coherent construction is the only claim. Positivism means relativism in a certain sense, and criticism remains unfounded, cannot be motivated in terms of methodology, nor in the current framework of Neo-Kantianism. In conclusion, the outcome is very similar to the legal thought by Gustav Radbruch, who also was a penal lawyer practicing legal philosophy, as such is regularly the case in German Universities. Without respect to pluralism, the reference to worldview, to a common opinion of life leads only to doctrinarism, that cannot serve as a common ground for scientific theories that are founded in philosophically reflecting thought.

Philosophical Valuation and Jurisprudential Significance

The encyclopaedic spirit of all studies by Arthur Baumgarten provides a broad knowledge of his time, that is analysed pragmatically in function of legal practice. The valuations and judgments remain, however, eclectic because there is a lack of a consolidated philosophical system, which would only allow to refer the arguments to a systematic coherent conception of legal philosophy.

Further Information About the Author

Arthur Baumgarten, born 31 March 1884 in Königsberg, dies 27 November 1966 in Berlin (East), was originally a German citizen, but from 1936 also a Swiss citizen, as he married Nina Helena von Salis-Soglio. He prosecuted his legal and philosophical studies at the Universi­ties of Tübingen, Geneva, Leipzig and Berlin, where he received his promotion in 1909. Until 1920 he was professor in Geneva, from 1920 to 1923 in Cologne, between 1923 and 1930 in Basel, between 1930 to 1933 in Frankfurt am Main, before he returned resp. emi­grated back to Basel, where he remained until 1949. He then decided to settle in Berlin (East), where he was professor at the Humboldt University until 1953. He originally taught penal law, however his main subject became more and more legal philosophy. In his last period of life, living in the German Democratic Republic, he also signed as chief editor of the periodical “Sozialismus”, and finally contributed to the theoretical founda­tions of the socialist regime of Eastern Germany.

His philosophy of law can best be described as syncretistic, as he changed from moralistic views to Kantian criticism and varied between a conservative mood to socialist opinions. Moreover, his theory was characterised by the separation between morality and law and their interconnection. In our treatment we shall focus on the early period, when his funda­mental conceptions show best in their origins and consolidation, namely in his works about “Die Wissenschaft vom Recht und ihre Methode” (1920) and his contribution “Rechts­philosophie” to the “Handbuch der Philosophie” (1934).

For more information, please see:

Karl Polak (Ed.): Festschrift Arthur Baumgarten zu seinem 70. Geburtstag, Berlin: VEB Deutscher Zentralverlag, 1960;

Gerd Irrlitz: Rechtsordnung und Ethik der Solidarität – Der Strafrechtler und Philosoph Arthur Baumgarten, Berlin 2008;

Christina Peschel: Arthur Baumgarten, in: Rechtsgeschichts­wissenschaft in Deutschland 1945 bis 1952, ed. Horst Schröder, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 2001, S. 129-150;

August Simonius: Wissenschaftliche Weltanschauung und Rechts­wis­sen­schaft – Zur Rechtsphilosophie Arthur Baumgartens, in: Zeit­schrift für Schwei­zerisches Recht, ed. Eduard His, N. S. vol. 49, Basel: Hel­bing & Lichtenhahn, 1930.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Arthur Baumgarten: Die Wissenschaft vom Recht und ihre Methode, 2 vols., Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1920/ 1922 (reprint Aalen: Scientia, 1978); Idem: Erkenntnis, Wissenschaft, Philo­sophie – Erkenntniskritische und methodologische Prolegomena zu einer Philosophie der Moral und des Rechts, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1927 (reprint Aalen: Scientia, 1978); Idem: Der Weg des Menschen – Eine Philosophie der Moral und des Rechts, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1933 (reprint 1978); Idem: Rechtsphilosophie, in: Handbuch der Philosophie, Section IV: Staat und Geschichte, München/ Berlin: R. Oldenbourg, 1934, pp. 3 ss.; Idem: Grund­züge der juristischen Methodenlehre, Bern 1939 (reprint, ed. Hermann Klenner: Freiburg im Breisgau: Rudolf Haufe, 2005); Idem: Die Geschichte der abendländischen Philosophie – Eine Geschichte des geistigen Fortschritts der Menschheit, Genève: Imprimérie de St. Gervais, 1945; Idem: Die Entwicklung der Idee der Demokratie und des Rechtsstaates in der Neuzeit, Stuttgart: Fritz Mittelbach, 1946; Idem: Ansprache an Kants 150. Todestage, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1954; Idem: Bemerkungen zur Erkenntnistheorie des dialek­tischen und historischen Marxismus, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1957; Idem: Vom Libera­lismus zum Sozialismus, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1967; Idem: Rechts­philosophie auf dem Wege – Vor­träge und Auf­sätze aus fünf Jahrzehnten, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1972.


You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: Baumgarten Rechtswissenschaft.