Rechtsgefühl und Rechtsbewusstsein

Max Rümelin

Max Rümelin, Rechtsgefühl und Rechtsbewusstsein, Rede gehalten bei der akademischen Preisverteilung am 6. November 1925, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1925, 80 pp.


In his speech in 1925, Max Rümelin as the chancellor of the University of Tübingen addresses an explicitly legal philosophical question, i.e. the relationship between sentiment or feeling, on the one hand, and consciousness or awareness, on the other hand. More than fifty years before then, his father, Gustav von Rümelin, as chancellor of the University of Tübingen from 1870 until the succession by his son, has held a lecture on this subject, that must have been, however, of no remarkable interest for the students and the public of his time. But times have changed and after the virulent discussions on method in jurisprudence in Germany the subject has gained greater interest, indeed, due to the so-called “Gefühlsjurisprudenz”.

Historical Situation and Systematic Context

The answer from the Historical Law-School to the question in case has consisted in the so-called “Volksgeist”. “Heute ist das alles von Grund auf anders geworden. Die rechtsphilosophische Neigung der Juristen hat sich auch auf das Problem des Rechtsgefühls erstreckt und hat eine ganze Reihe von Aufsätzen und Abhandlungen über den Gegenstand hervorgetrieben. In der ganzen juristischen Literatur, und ebenso in der Judikatur des Rechtsgerichts, begegnet man an allen Ecken und Enden einer Bezugnahme auf Rechtsgefühl, Rechtsbewusstsein, Rechtsüberzeugung und gleichbedeutende Begriffe. [...] Damei ist ein lebhafter Streit über die Bedeutung des Rechtsgefühls für das Rechtsleben und die Rechtswissenschaft entstanden, und im Mittelpunkt dieses Streits steht die Frage, ob und in welchem Sinn das Rechtsgefühl oder das Rechtsbewusstsein eine Quelle für die Rechtfindung im konkreten Fall sein könne”.

Content, Abstracts

The very notion of sentiment or feeling of law can vary and present shades from classical opinion iuris, the conviction that a normative pattern be part of the legal order, to the flagrant impression of injustice. Psychological investigations and common sense reflections seem not to conduct the question to its solution, however. A specific judgment is always based on reflective thought, of philosophically reflecting considerations. In order not to become purely dogmatical, such reflections have to take into consideration the problems of customary law and possible vacant spaces within the legal order to be filled by the judicial organs that are called to fill these gaps. Legal consciousness is closely linked with the collective sentiment to build a legal organised community, according to Max Rümelin. “Dazu treten bald in grösserem, bald in geringerem Umfang und in mannigfacher Mischung Vorstellungen über bestimmte Regeln dieses Zusammenlebens mit verschiedenartigem Inhalt. Vorstellungen, die sich auch auf das äusserlich gesetzte Recht beziehen und solche, die ein richtiges Recht zum Gegenstand haben. Die letzteren kann man wieder in Gerechtigkeits- und Zweckmässigkeitsvorstellungen einteilen, je nachdem sie die im Gemeinschaftsleben zu verfolgenden Ziele oder die zur Erreichung bestimmter vorausgesetzter Ziele erforderlichen Mittel ins Auge fassen”. In the course of the discussion of these highly philosophical questions, Rümelin constantly refers to the authority of Eugen Huber. In contrast to the solution provided by Huber, Rudolf von Ihering has supposed a natural impulse to the law, and has in consequence limited the outreach of any affection, sentiment or feeling, or let us name it faculty of judgment, to a minimum. Eventually, Rümelin does not propose a founded conclusion and the tension between a postulated cognition of the law and the indispensable legal judgment in the course of the application of law is not resolved, cannot be resolved in terms of mere methodology.

Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

Towards the end of the argumentation the assumption becomes more and more convincing that by using concepts such as “Freirechtsschule” or “Gefühlsjurisprudenz” – in quarrel with rationalism, positivism and natural law theories, and with subjectivity or objectivity, and with relativism and absolutism – the crucial question of how to deal with the creative moment within the act of application of the legal order, with the actively practised judgment cannot be brought to an end. Today the field, where the question in case is most controversially discussed, consists in the relationship between legal principles and legal norms, respectively relatively abstract norm and more concrete norms.

Further Information About the Author

Max Friedrich Gustav von Rümelin, born on 15 February 1861 in Stuttgart, died on 22 July 1931 in Tübingen, has been chancellor of the University of Tübingen between 1908 and 1931, after having been nominated as a rector of the same institution already two years before and has been an ordinary professor since 1895. Before being engaged in southern Germany he already was a professor for jurisprudence, roman law and civil procedural law at the Martin Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg. As a member of the “Akademische Gesellschaft Stuttgardia”, he participated in the development of a liberalism typical for Baden-Württemberg. In 1930, he obtained a doctorate honoris causa in theology, and in 1931 in political science. Especially his academic speeches as a president of his university must have been a must have read lecture for Swiss jurisprudents in this period of time. In particular his last address as a chancellor in 1930, entitled “Erlebte Wandlungen in Wissenschaft und Lehre”, represents a kind of quintessence of past and current specific conceptions of jurisprudence and can serve as a reference for further development.

Although not having explicit relations with Switzerland (apart from being an intimate friend of Eugen Huber among others), Max Rümelin deeply influenced Swiss jurisprudence by establishing the so-called “Interessenjurisprudenz” at the University of Tübingen with the eminent exponents of Philipp Heck (he taught there between 1901 and 1928). Not only geographic neighbourhood, but also the fact that a great number of Swiss lawyers have spent some time at the University of Tübingen justifies the selection of some crucial writings of this eminent representative of German jurisprudence of his time.

For more information, please refer to:

August Hegler: Zum Gedächtnis von Max von Rümelin, Reden gehalten am 6. November 1931, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1931.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Max Rümelin: Juristische Begriffsbildung – Akademische Antrittsschrift, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1878; Idem: Erlebte Wandlungen in Wissen­schaft und Lehre, Rede gehalten bei der akademischen Preisverteilung am 6. November 1930, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1930; Idem: Eugen Huber, Rede gehalten bei der akademischen Preisverteilung am 6. Novem­ber 1923, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1923; Idem: Reden und Aufsätze, Tübingen: H. Laupp, 1875.

For Further Reading

Nikolas Hasslinger: Max Rümelin (1861–1931) und die juristische Methode (Beiträge zur Rechtsgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, vol. 81), Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 2014;

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


You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: Rümelin Rechtsbewusstsein.