Fourth section – Introduction


“Das Problem, welches sich das Naturrecht stellte, ist nur lösbar im Zusammenhang der positiven Wissenschaften des Rechts. [...] Hieraus folgt, dass es eine besondere Philo­sophie des Rechts nicht gibt, dass vielmehr ihre Aufgabe dem philoso­phisch begründeten Zusammenhang der positiven Wissenschaften des Geistes wird anheimfallen müssen.”

(Wilhelm Dilthey: Einleitung in die Geistes­wissenschaften − Versuch einer Grund­legung für das Studium der Gesellschaft und der Geschichte, in: Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 1, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 9th ed. 1990, p. 79)

Introduction: Nature vs. History, Naturalism vs. Historicism

If jurisprudence be considered to provide merely classification, the appropriate methodology for legal science would turn out to be a kind of biology (botany). To characterise jurisprudence as an integral part of history, to admit the legal order as historical, to understand positive law in its historicity, just means to secure the antithesis to such a misconception of legal science. The problem, however, remains to detect an adequate conception of history, of historicity. Commonly human history is not clearly distinguished from natural history and, therefore, held as mere development in the sense of evolution, so that naturalism re-enters jurisprudence and legal history from the back door. Rather we have to identify a qualified conception of history and historicity, in order to make sure, that the specific human nature, the mental-spiritual character of law and legal order can be maintained.

The Historical School of Law and Critical-Problematical Historicism

During the entire nineteenth century, the Historical School of Law was pre-domi­na­ting in German-speaking countries, and it especially decided the quarrel about codifica­tion of private law in the negative sense, i.e. in the direction of a refusal of codification. Even critics such as the prominent Rudolf von Ihering remain in the spirit of “Historische Rechtsschule”, led by the eminent Friedrich Carl von Savigny, despite their battle on the law (more important than Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut seems to me Ihering’s “Wiener Antrittsrede” about “Wissenschaftlichkeit der Jurispru­denz” than the well-known series of lectures on “The Struggle for Law” by the same author; see entry 2.0 of this Legal Anthology). Within the conceptions of the Historical School of Law, history actually refers to perma­nent nature, not to alterable culture, as it has been outlined by Alfred Dufour (Histoire naturelle ou nature historique du droit dans l’École du Droit Historique, in: Recht zwischen Natur und Geschichte, (Ius Commune, vol. 100), Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1997, pp. 125 ss.). This highly problematical perception by the classic historical law school, however, has have meanwhile been identified and discarded by Klaus Luig (Rudolf von Ihering und die Historische Rechtsschule, in: Iherings Rechtsdenken – Theorie und Pragmatik im Dienste evolutionärer Rechtsethik, ed. Okko Behrends, in: Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, vol. 216, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996, pp. 255 ss.). The question what kind of history or historicity has to be adopted in order to provide a sound basis for modern legal thought has therefore to be answered just in an alternative sense. Philosophically reconsidered, even the Historical School of Jurisprudence has remained provided merely dogmatical answers and therefore has not evolved to a truly historical understanding of the addressed problem, in the sense of Neo-Histori­cism (as proposed and postulated by Johann Gustav Droysen, Wilhelm Dilthey, Friedrich Meinecke, and Ernst Troeltsch), that only enables veritable criticism (leading to truly philo­sophical understanding, namely to “Geschichtlichkeit” in the sense of the historicity of human existence). This renewed historical and cultural-philosophical influenced orientation of Neo-Historicism has best been interpreted and conceptualised by eminent Italian thinkers, for instance by Fulvio Tessitore and Giuseppe Cacciatore.

We have treated this alternative current of history extensively in our habilitation thesis, right from the starting point of the historical foundation of the human sciences by Wilhelm Dilthey (Michael Walter Hebeisen: Recht und Staat als Objektivationen des Geistes in der Geschichte – Eine Grundlegung von Jurisprudenz und Staatslehre als Geisteswissenschaf­ten, Biel/ Bienne: Schweizerischer Wissenschafts- und Universitätsverlag, SWUV, 2005). If we adopt the introductory quotation above, we have to confess that natural law theories often turn out to be historical in a higher degree than the Historical School of law itself, depending on their conception of historical development, rooted in social community. The crucial point of such a perspective seems to be the free will of the collective body, of the legal community. Freedom to objectivate the positive legal order transgresses the alleged necessities of natural-historical laws. In this respect, the historical foundations of international law as characterised by Max Huber (customary law as prototypical legal order) turn out to be highly significant, as well as the history of the codification of private law as described by Pio Caroni (including the reverse process of de-codification). History does not mean to simply focus on past experience in the sense of heritage, but rather to re-enact experience in present times, to actualise historical achieve­ments.

The Challenge of Historicism by Social Contract Theory – The “Problem” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The challenge to such a modern conception of historicism has always been the social contract, as elaborated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The problem consists in the inter­pretation of the inadequate, inappropriate terminology of Natural Law in early Enlightenment, that fails in expressing the advanced ideas of modernity. Although Rousseau has defended a profoundly individualistic conception of man, his theory has given way to totalitarian misunderstandings. Subtle philological interpretation and a comprehensive inclusion of all writings of Rousseau (especially the inclusion the project of a constitution of Corse and the treatise on equality among men) have allowed Swiss legal thinkers, to correct this carica­ture right from the beginning. Rectified Rousseauism has been a constant ingredient of legal-philosophical thought in Switzerland, be it Fritz Fleiner reflecting the origins and growth of general theories of the state, be it Max Imboden indicating the legitimate form of democratic government. “Stets hat Jean-Jacques Rousseau den Gedan­ken des abso­lut Richtigen und Gerechten im Sinn einer Grösse, die dem Menschen verfügbar wäre, verworfen. Das unterscheidet ihn klar vom Standpunkt des Doktrinärs, der sich anmasst, seine Erkenntnis anderen als die unbe­dingte und allgemein gültige aufzudrängen”(Richard Bäumlin: Rousseau und die Theorie des demokra­tischen Rechtsstaates, in: Berner Fest­gabe zum Schweize­rischen Juristen­tag 1979, ed. Eugen Bucher and Peter Saladin, Bern: Paul Haupt, 1979, pp. 13-49; see entry 6.11 of this Legal Anthology)

For Further Reading

Richard Bäumlin: Rousseau und die Theorie des demokra­tischen Rechtsstaates, in: Berner Fest­gabe zum Schweize­rischen Juristen­tag 1979, ed. Eugen Bucher and Peter Saladin, Bern: Paul Haupt, 1979, pp. 13-49;

Giuseppe Cacciatore: Die “politische” Dimension des problematisch-kritischen Historismus in Italien, in: Historismus am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts – Eine internationale Diskussion, edg. Gunter Scholtz, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1997, pp. 84 ss.; idem: Die Tradition des proble­matisch-kritischen Historismus im Rahmen der italienischen philosophischen Kultur der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts, in: Historismus in den Kulturwissen­schaften – Geschichtskonzepte, historische Einschätzungen, Grundlagenprobleme, ed. Otto Gerhard Oexle and Jörn Rüsen (Beiträge zur Geschichtskultur, vol. 12), Köln/ Wei­mar/ Wien: Böhlau, 1996, pp. 331 ss.; idem: Vita e forme della scienza storica – Saggi sulla storiografia di Dilthey (Collana di filosofia, N. S. vol. 7), Napoli: Morano, 1985; idem (ed.): Lo storicismo e la sua storia – Temi, problemi, prospettive, Milano: Guerini e Associati, 1997;

Robin George Collingwood: The Philosophy of History, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1946 (German translation: Philosophie der Geschichte, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1955);

Fulvio Tessitore: Introduzione a lo storicismo, Bari/ Roma: Laterza, 1996; idem: Benedetto Croce und der italienische “Neo-Historismus”, in: Historismus am Ende des 20. Jahr­hunderts – Eine internationale Diskussion, ed. Gunter Scholtz, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1997, pp. 55 ss.;