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Conference Understanding Legal Reasoning: A Role for History and Philosophy in Modern Private Law, 11-12 September 2014

When:Th 11-09-2014 15:00 - 17:00
Where:Het Kasteel, Melkweg 1, 9718 EP Groningen, The Netherlands

The Groningen Centre for Law and Governance (GCL) and the Department of Private and Notarial Law of the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen, will organize the conference Understanding Legal Reasoning, A Role for History and Philosophy in Modern Private Law. The conference will start on 11 September from 15.00-17.00 and will continue on 12 September from 9.30-16.45.

Conference theme

The Connection of Private Law with History and Philosophy

The privileged flow of communication which used to link private lawyers to legal historians and philosophers is nowadays reduced to a trickle. Today, most private lawyers, influenced by a European trend in higher education which encourages specialisation at the expense of foundational subjects, ask themselves why historical and philosophical modules have not yet been removed from the academic curricula in favour of legal subjects perceived as more in line with current developments.

Yet, the European legal systems were developed by jurists who were well aware of the historical and theoretical roots of their science. For example, the Pandectists, the forefathers of the influential German civil code, developed German law largely on the basis of Roman law. Even the English common law contains clear examples of the fruitful relationship linking private law to history and philosophy. Thus, William Blackstone, the author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England – arguably the most systematic and certainly the most influential analysis of English law – and the first Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford University, was an excellent classical scholar.

Whereas the detachment of private law from historical and philosophical investigations has its roots in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, it is during the twentieth century that the fading interest for historical and philosophical studies in Europe becomes an indisputable fact. The demise of Roman law as a system of living law, the expansion of commercial law after the Second World War, the pressure on higher education institutions to produce as many lawyers as possible in the shortest possible time: these are just some of the factors which might have contributed to the decline of the productive cross-fertilisation. For their part, legal historians and philosophers bear their share of responsibility for the present situation: beyond the lively discussion concerning the cultural and legal roots European private law, there have been few attempts to include private lawyers in the modern theoretical and historical debates and to highlight the practical significance of foundational subjects for the enhancement of the legal skills.

More information, the programme, speakers and registration form can be found at the conference pages.