Ist die Jurisprudenz eine Wissenschaft?

Rudolf von Ihering

Rudolf von Ihering, Ist die Jurisprudenz eine Wissenschaft? – Iherings Wie­ner Antrittsvorlesung vom 16. Oktober 1868, ed. Okko Behrends. Göttin­­gen: Wallstein, 1998, pp. 47-92.

Introduction

Rudolf von Ihering’s best known writing is without a doubt “Der Kampf um’s Recht”, where the argumentation is determined by the overall situation of the legal order and the methods of jurisprudence in Germany. Although he had studied with Friedrich Carl von Savigny, the head of the so-called Historical School of law, his loyalty was with the adversaries of this leading figure, and the foundation of his legal philosophy has to be sought in Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Eduard Gans, i.e. in Hegalian dialectics. In his most significant work, the two volumes of “Der Zweck im Recht”, he detected a hidden teleology underneath the surface of interests and these unconscious intentions allowed him to found a true philosophy of the positive legal order. The particular egoisms, considered as a system of interactions, results in an inclination that surpasses the egoistic interest of the individual participants in order to present a hidden teleological direction towards the ethical life of the whole legal community and, therefore, towards the absolute value of the concept of law within the legal order (compare Alexander Somek: Die Kaserne des Egoismus – Iherings Genealogie der Moralität, in: Der Kampf um’s Recht – Forschungsband aus Anlass des 100. Todestages von Rudolf von Ihering, ed. Gerhard Luf and Werner Ogoris, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1995, pp. 57-94).

The influence of the legal thought of Rudolf von Ihering has not only been of immense importance throughout Europe, but also considerable for the American Continent. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Roscoe Pound, Karl N. Llewellyn, and Lon L. Fuller have to be considered to have taken profit from the arguments in Ihering to a high degree. However, it is not so easy to determine the precise influence, as there is rather an inclination in the spirit to be detected (for details see Robert S. Summers: Rudolf von Ihering’s influence on American legal theory – A selective account, in: Iherings Rechtsdenken – Theorie und Pragmatik im Dienste evolutionärer Rechtsethik (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse, 3rd Series, No. 216), ed. Okko Behrends, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996, pp. 61-76).

Historical Situation and Systematic Context

As of special interest in our context, and in order to represent a common reference abroad from Switzerland (after all, the author had a short so to say guest performance in Switzerland, at the University of Basel in 1845), we have selected another essay by Rudolf von Ihering, entitled “Ist die Jurisprudenz eine Wissenschaft?”, the inaugural lecture at the University of Vienna on 16 October 1868. Apparently, this speech consists in an answer to the militant offence to jurisprudence by Julius Hermann von Kirchmann in 1848 in his address “Die Wertlosigkeit der Jurisprudenz als Wissenschaft” (ed. Heinrich H. Meyer-Tscheppe, Heidelberg: Manutius, 1988). Ihering had identified the spirit of Roman law directly as legal philosophy behind the actions of its legal order, and his foundation for legal thought, for jurisprudence as well as for legal philosophy consists in the absolute spirit of law that is active within the historical development or evolution of the legal order. This conviction could serve as a starting point to found a veritable philosophy of positive law, indeed, and signify an abolition of natural law theories as undercurrent legal philosophy, in addition and in completion to jurisprudence.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

The differentiated arguments cannot be further condensed at this place. Rather, we have to focus on the main insights that should prove to be important for the future self-understanding of jurisprudence and legal philosophy. “Rechtswissenschaft ist definiert als eine Haltung der ständigen Vergegenwärtigung und Reflexion in Bezug auf die rechtskulturell verpflichtenden Gehalte des Rechts. [...] Die Gefahr des schlechten Positivismus ist dem Recht inhärent und kann sich jederzeit verwirklichen, wenn die Rechtswissenschaft versagt. [...] Die Philosophie liefert die ethischen Grundprinzipien des Rechts, die Rechtsgeschichte die Institutionen des Rechts. Geschichte wird dabei begriffen als der in die Gegenwart hineinreichende Erfahrungsraum des Menschengeschlechts” (Okko Behrends: Iherings Evolutionstheorie des Rechts zwischen Historischer Rechtsschule und Moderne – Eine wissenschaftliche Einordnung des Iheringschen Rechtsdenkens aus Anlass der Herausgabe der Wiener Antrittsvorlesung, in: Rudolf von Ihering, Ist die Jurisprudenz eine Wissenschaft? – Iherings Wie­ner Antrittsvorlesung vom 16. Oktober 1868, ed. Okko Behrends, Göttin­­gen: Wallstein, 1998, pp. 98 s.). In the last consequence, we encounter a historical, yet human historistic theory of law, that includes a dynamic view of the evolutionary development of the legal order as well as of jurisprudence. This prospective is obviously directed towards an understanding of application of the law as a mere automatism. The fulfilment of the idea and ideals of law is not at all self-understanding, rather as an ambitious task for scientific jurisprudence. This scientific discipline, however, is not to be conceived as a merely dogmatic system of the positive legal order, but as humanistic iuris-prudentia with its singular elegant method of a stand-alone science, far beyond legal practice. As the last and latest sources of law, human consciousness and practical needs are identified by Ihering. Historical evolution does not mean natural history with its immanent natural laws, but rather progressive development of the truths that are embedded in human and, therefore, cultural history as a product of the absolute spirit in a Hegelian sense. The prototype of a jurisprudent has to unify jurisprudence, philosophy, and history, therefore. This argument leads to an all new defined relationship between legal theory and legal practice.

“Und wenn ich jetzt die Summe ziehe von dem, was ich gesagt habe, so nenne ich die Rechtswissenschaft das wissenschaftliche Bewusstsein in Dingen des Rechts, das Bewusstsein, das nach Seiten der Rechtsphilosophie hin die letzten Gründe zu erforschen hat, denen das Recht auf Erden seinen Ursprung und seine Geltung verdankt, nach Seiten der Rechtsgeschichte ihm folge auf allen seinen Wegen, die es genommen hat, um von Stufe auf Stufe zur höheren Vollkommenheit sich zu erheben, nach Seiten der Dogmatik die zum praktischen Gebrauch geordnete wissenschaftliche Darstellung aller Erfahrungen und Thatsachen, welche den augenblicklichen Höhen- und Endpunkt unserer Erkenntniss und Erfassung des Rechts in sich schliessen”.

There is evidence that Rudolf von Ihering is inspired in his genius by Hegelian philosophy, despite his allusions to evolutionary theory building (compare the differentiated view in Wolfgang Pleister: Persönlichkeit, Wille und Freiheit im Werke Iherings (Münchner Universitätsschriften der Juristischen Fakultät, Abhandlungen zur rechtswissenschaftlichen Grundlagenforschung, vol. 51), Ebelsbach: Rolf Gremer, 1982, pp. 221 ss.). His method is thoroughly humanistic and not at all naturalistic; moreover, he does not ask for help in metaphysics in order to explain the deeper structure of legal order, but rather appeals to the artfulness of reason itself to reconstruct the philosophical grounds of law and jurisprudence. However, the author unfortunately did not have the strength to formulate his proper approach in a concluded systematic manner. “Depressionen waren ihm nicht weniger vertraut als Euphorien, entstanden doch seine Werke unter ‘greulichsten Geburtswehen’. Die sich zuweilen bis zur Impotenz steigernde Mühseligkeit, mit der er produzierte, hinderte ihn daran, sich etwas Geniales zu leisten zuzutrauen” (Hermann Klenner: Ihering’s Kampf um’s Recht, in: Rudolf von Ihering, Der Kampf um’s Recht (1872), Freiburg im Breisgau/ Berlin: Rudolf Haufe, 1992, pp. 146 s.). Nevertheless, his two-volume monography on “Zweck im Recht” has to be considered as masterful writing in legal philosophy and is worth being read in its entirety.

Further Information About the Author

Rudolf von Ihering, born on 22 August 1818 in Aurich (Germany), died on 20 September 1892 in Göttingen, studied jurisprudence at the Universities of Heidelberg, München, and Göttingen, and from 1838 at the University of Berlin, where he received his doctorate in 1842, and where he was a private lecturer. In 1845, he was called to the University of Basel, but only for one year, before going to Rostock, Kiel and Giessen; from 1872, he taught at the University of Vienna, where Eugen Huber counted among his scholars, before settling definitively in Göttingen in 1872.

Rudolf von Ihering had experienced Friedrich Carl von Savigny in person and for sure he knew his writings in detail, as he published a series of essays about “Die historische Schule der Juristen” in the periodical “Literarische Zeitung” (printed in Berlin). However, he cannot be considered as a member of the so-called Historical School of law, and he had a temporary sympathy for the “Interessenjurisprudenz” and founding his very own personal School.

Rudolf von Ihering’s most popular, however not the most important, writing “Der Kampf um’s Recht” has gained wide reception, as it was translated to fifty different languages. In his most significant work, the two volumes of “Der Zweck im Recht”, he detected a hidden teleology underneath the surface of interests and these unconscious intentions allowed him to found a true philosophy of the positive legal order.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Rudolf von Ihering: Der Kampf um’s Recht (1872), ed. Hermann Klenner, Freiburg im Breisgau/ Berlin: Rudolf Haufe, 1992; Idem: Der Zweck im Recht, 2 vols., Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1877-1883.

For Further Reading

Okko Behrends (Ed.): Iherings Rechtsdenken – Theorie und Pragmatik im Dienste evolutionärer Rechtsethik (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-historische Klasse, 3rd Series, No. 216), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996;

Helmut Coing: Der juristische Systembegriff bei Rudolf von Ihering, in: Philosophie und Rechtswissenschaft – Zum Problem ihrer Beziehung im 19. Jahrhundert (Studien zur Philosophie und Literatur des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, vol. 3), ed. Jürgen Blühdorn und Joachim Ritter, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1969, pp. 149 ss.;

Athanasios Gromitsaris: Theorie der Rechtsnormen bei Rudolf von Ihering – Eine Untersuchung der Grundlagen des deutschen Rechtsrealismus, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1989;

Gerhard Luf/Werner Ogoris (Ed.): Der Kampf um’s Recht – Forschungsband aus Anlass des 100. Todestages von Rudolf von Ihering, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1995;

Wolfgang Pleister: Persönlichkeit, Wille und Freiheit im Werke Iherings (Münchner Universitätsschriften der Juristischen Fakultät, Abhandlungen zur rechtswissenschaftlichen Grundlagenforschung, vol. 51), Ebelsbach: Rolf Gremer, 1982.

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