Histoire naturelle ou nature historique du droit dans l’École du Droit historique,

Alfred Dufour

Alfred Dufour, Histoire naturelle ou nature historique du droit dans l’École du Droit historique in: Recht zwischen Natur und Geschichte, Deutsch-französisches Symposium vom 24. bis 26. November 1994 an der Universität Cergy-Pontoise (Ius Commune, supplementary vol. 100), ed. Jean-Fran­çois Kervé­gan and Heinz Mohnhaupt, Frankfurt am Main: Vitto­rio Klos­termann, 1997, pp. 125-168.

Introduction/Historical Situation and Systematical Context

It is common-place to juxtapose natural law theory to the so-called Historical School of law, represented by Friedrich Carl von Savigny, and to suppose the first to have neglected the historical dimension of law, and to the latter to have installed legal history at the proper place for jurisprudence. However, both positions cannot be held in this diametral opposition, as the legal historian and philosopher Alfred Dufour has demonstrated in an essay. Rather, the true question is, whether one has to adopt a natural history or a specific nature of history as the proper foundation of jurisprudence. Or in short, the question is, which kind of history be adequate for legal history?

Eduard Gans, in the foreword to his monumental “Erbrecht in weltgeschichtlicher Entwicklung” (1824), addressed the critique of “un-historical” and at the same time “un-philosophical” to the current of the Historical School of law. This critique leads us to the very core of the historicity of law itself and answers the question of the historical development and dynamic change of legal order in a truly Hegelian sense. In fact, after the dialectical system of philosophy was established by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, it is difficult to imagine, how one could go back to a static consideration of the law itself.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

Alfred Dufour, after having exposed the problem, reconstructs the terminology used by Friedrich Carl von Savigny, extensively, passing by the accuses to the declared “a-historical” School that has to promoted positivise the law by means of codification (for instance Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut, see the well-known pamphlets by the two exponents, collected by the editor Jacques Stern: Thibaut und Savigny – Zum 100jährigen Gedächtnis des Kampfes um ein einheitliches bürgerliches Recht für Deutschland 1814-1914, Die Originalschriften in ursprünglicher Fassung mit Nachträgen, Urteilen der Zeitgenossen und einer Einleitung, Berlin: Franz Vahlen, 1914). The argumentation provided by the legal historian Dufour is rich and comprehensive, and the original texts carefully interpreted.

As highly significant occurs the reference of legal historicism to the organic or organologic conception of the social and legal community. This refers to the romantic idea of natural law, properly speaking of human law, as elaborated by Johann Gottfried Herder. The conclusion is that “la conception savignienne de l’histoire, partant velle de la nature historique du Droit, procède d’une philosophie de la nature plus que d’une philosophie de l’esprit, et ceci quelque soit l’influence romantique et de l’idéalisme allemand sur Savigny”. The qualification of history as natural history by the Historical School of law misleads the true problem, as the proper character of history should rather be spiritual, i.e. based on human mind. Consequently, the legal order does not follow the model of natural laws governed by God, but rather a specific human law made by human beings, human civilisation and human culture. The deeper reasons, why Friedrich Carl von Savigny did not adhere to the truly modern understanding of history, is threefold, according to Alfred Dufour: based on the fact that he is not a philosopher, and that his battle is taking place on a political field, and founded on his rejection of universal history as a scientific thinker, diffident to the very systematics and methodology of legal order itself.

Further Information About the Author

Alfred Dufour, born on 3 December 1938 in Zurich, accomplished his studies at the Universities of Geneva, Heidelberg and Freiburg im Breisgau and received a master’s degree in jurisprudence and in philosophy from the University of Geneva in 1961 and 1962, respectively. In 1971 he received his doctorate from the very same University. After having been an assistant lecturer, research professor, and extraordinary professor at the University of Geneva, he signed as an ordinary professor for legal history, for canonical law, and for the introduction to jurisprudence at the University of Freiburg im Üechtland, (Switzerland) from 1977 to 1982. Between 1980 and 2003 he was a professor for legal history and the history of the political institutions, as well as later of political ideas at the University of Geneva.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Alfred Dufour: Droit, individu et pouvoir – De l’École du droit naturel à l‘École du droit historique (Collection Léviathan), Paris 1991; Idem: Vocabulaire fondamental du droit: Droit naturel, droit positif, in: Archives de philosophie du droit, Jg. 1990, pp. 59 ss.; Idem: La probléma­tique du fondement des droits de l’homme dans une perspective histo­rique, in: Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilo­sophie, Beiheft N. S. 26, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1986, pp. 9 ss.; Idem: His­toire et Constitution – Pellegrino Rossi et Alexis de Tocqueville face aux institutions politiques de la Suisse, in: Présence et actualité de la Con­stitu­tion dans l’ordre juridique, Mélanges offerts à la Société suisse des juristes pour son Congrès 1991 à Genève, Basel/ Frankfurt am Main: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1991, pp. 431 ss.; Idem: Le paradigme scientifique dans la pensée juri­dique moderne, in: Théorie du droit et science, ed. Paul Amselek, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994, pp. 147 ss.; Idem: Rousseau revisité – Jean-Jacques Rousseau et la démocratie gene­voise, in: Die Ursprünge der schwei­zerischen direk­ten Demokratie, ed. Andreas Auer, Basel/ Frankfurt am Main: Helbing & Lichten­hahn, 1996, pp. 65 ss.; Idem: Genève et la science juri­dique euro­pé­­enne du début du XIXème siècle – La fonction médiatrice des Annales de Légis­lation (1820-1823), in: Wechselseitige Beeinflussun­gen und Rezep­tionen von Recht und Philosophie in Deutsch­land und Frank­reich, 3. deutsch-französisches Kolloquium vom 16. bis 18. Septem­ber 1999 in La Bussière/ Dijon, ed. Jean-François Kervégan and Heinz Mohnhaupt (Ius Commune, supplementary vol. 144), Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Kloster­mann, 2001, pp. 287 ss.

For Further Reading

Alfred Dufour: Droit, individu et pouvoir – De l’École du droit naturel à l‘École du droit historique (Collection Léviathan), Paris 1991.