W poszukiwaniu ontologicznych podstaw prawa. Arthura Kaufmanna teoria sprawiedliwości [In Search for Ontological Foundations of Law: Arthur Kaufmann’s Theory of Justice]
Instytut Nauk Prawnych PAN (1992)
Arthur Kaufmann is one of the most prominent figures among the contemporary philosophers of law in German speaking countries. For many years he was a director of the Institute of Philosophy of Law and Computer Sciences for Law at the University in Munich. Presently, he is a retired professor of this university. Rare in the contemporary legal thought, Arthur Kaufmann's philosophy of law is one with the highest ambitions — it aspires to pinpoint the ultimate foundations of law by explicitly proposing an ontology, a general theory of knowledge and concept of a person. Kaufmann's work derives, first of all, from the thinking of Gustav Radburch, his teacher, and then from ideas of Karl Engish and Hans-Georg Gadamer. The philosophy undertakes to pursue the ultimate foundation of law, law which is understood by Kaufmann, first of all, as a "concrete judgement" that is, what is right in a concrete situation. Justice belongs to the essence of law and "unjust law" is contradictio in adiectio. Kaufmann opposes all those theories, which as the only foundation for establishing just law (Recht) adopt legal norms (Gesetz). In Kaufmann's opinion , such theories are powerless in the face of all types of distortions of law rendered by political forces. He suggests that the basic phenomenon which needs to be explained and which cannot be disregarded by a philosopher of law is so-called "legal lawlessness" ("Gestzliches Unrecht"). "Legal lawlessness" which forms a part of life experience for the people of twentieth century totalitarian states. It proved "with the accuracy of scientific experiment" that the reality of law consists of something more than bare conformity with legal norms. The existence of lex corrupta indicates that law contains something "non-dispositive" which requires acknowledgment of both law-maker and judge. Kaufmann, accepting the convergent concept of truth and cognition, assumes that "non-dispositive" content, emerging as the conformity of a number of cognitive acts of different subjects (inter-subjective communicativeness and verifiability), indicates the presence of being in this cognition. The questions "What is law?" and "What are the principles of a just solution?" lead straight to the ontology of law, to the question about the ontological foundations of law. Kaufmann discerns the ontological foundations of law in the specifically understood "nature of things" and, ultimately, in a "person". He proposes a procedural theory of justice, founded on a "person". In my work, I undertake to reconstruct the train of thought which led Kaufmann to the recognition of a "person" as the ontological foundation of law. In the first part, the conception of philosophy adopted by Kaufmann, initial characteristics of law — of reality which is the subject of analysis, as well as, the requirements for proper philosophical explanation of law posed by Kaufmann are introduced. In the second, Kaufmann's reconstruction of the process of the realisation of law is presented. Next, the conception of analogy which Kaufmann uses when explaining law is analyzed. In the fourth part, Kaufmann's conception of ontological foundations of law is discussed. A critical analysis is carried out in which I demonstrate that the theory of the ontological foundation of law proposed by Kaufmann and the concept of a person included in it do not allow a satisfac¬tory explanation of the phenomenon of "legal lawlessness" and lead to a number of difficulties in the philosophical explanation of law. Finally, the perspectives of a proper formulation of the issue of the ontological foundations of law are drafted in the context of the analyzed theory. My interest is centered on the conception of philosophy adopted by Kaufmann, according to which the existence of the reality is inferred on the basis of a certain configuration of the content of consciousness, whereas at the point of departure of philosophy of law, the data to be explained is a certain process, which is, basically, a process of cognition, while the reality appears only as a condition for the possibility of the occurrence of the process. I wish to argue that the difficulties which appear in the explanation of law are a consequence of the assumed fundamental philosophical solu¬tions, which seem to be characteristic, though usually not assumed explicitly, in philoso¬phy and theory of law dominant at present in continental Europe. Thereby, I wish to show the significance of ontological and epistemological solutions to the possibility of a proper formulation of the problems posed by philosophy and theory of law. Kaufmann proclaims himself in favour of a philosophy which poses questions about the ultimate foundations of understanding of the reality. In epistemology, he assumes that answers to the questions "What is reality like?" and ultimately "What is real?" are inferred on the basis of uniformity of a cognitive acts of different subjects. Cognition of the reality is accomplished exclusively through the content of conceptual material. The two fundamental questions posed by philosophy of law are "What is just law?" and "How is the just law enacted?" The latter is a question about the process of achieving a solution to a concrete case. Since, in Kaufmann's opinion, law does not exist apart from the process of its realisation, an answer to the question about the manner of realisation of law is of fundamental significance to answering the question: "What is law?" and to the explanation of the question about the ontological grounding of law, which is, as well, the foundation of justice. The proper solution has to take into account the moment of "non-dispositive" content of law; its positiveness understood as the reality and, at the same time, it has to point to the principles of the historical transformation of the content. Law, in the primary meaning of the word, always pertains, in Kaufmann's opinion, to a concrete case. A legal norm is solely the "possibility" of law and the entirely real law is ipsa res iusta, that which is just in a given situation. Determination of what is just takes place in a certain type of process performed by a judge (or by man confronted with a choice). Kaufmann aims to reconstruct this process. A question about the ontological foundation of law is a question about the ontological foundations of this process. In the analyzed theory it is formulated as a question about the transcendental conditions, necessary for the possibility of the occurrence of the process: how the reality should be thought to make possible the reconstructed process of the realisation of law. Kaufmann rejects the model for finding a concrete solution based on simple subsump¬tion and proposes a model in which concrete law ensues, based on inference by analogy, through the process of "bringing to conformity" that which is normative with that which is factual. Kaufmann distinguishes three levels in the process of the realisation of law. On the highest level, there are the fundamental legal principles, on the second legal norms, on the third — concrete solutions. The fundamental principles of law are general inasmuch as they cannot be "applied" directly to concrete conditions of life, however, they play an important part in establishing norms. A judge encounters a concrete situation and a system of legal norms. A life situation and norms are situated on inherently different levels of factuality and normativeness. In order to acquire a definite law both a norm (system of norms) and a life situation (Lebenssachverhalt) should undergo a kind of "treatment" which would allow a mutual conformity to be brought to them. Legal norms and definite conditions of life come together in the process of analogical inference in which the "factual state" ("Tatbestand") — which represents a norm, and in the "state of things" ("Sachverhalt") — which represents a specific situation are constructed. A "factual state" is a sense interpreted from a norm with respect to specific conditions of life. The "state of things" is a sense constructed on the basis of concrete conditions of life with respect to norms (system of norms). Legal norms and concrete conditions of life meet in one common sense established during the process of realisation of law. Mutatis mutandis the same refers to the process of composition of legal norms: as the acquisition of concrete law consists in a mutual "synchronization" of norms and concrete conditions of life, so acquisition of legal norms consists of bringing to conformity fundamental principles and possible conditions of life. According to Kaufmann, both of these processes are based on inference through analogy. As this inference is the heart of these processes it is simultaneously a foundation finding just law and justice. How does Kaufmann understand such an inference? As the basis for all justice he assumes a specifically interpreted distributive justice grounded on proportionality. Equality of relations is required between life conditions and their normative qualification. Concrete conditions of life are ascribed normative qualification not through simple application of a general norm. More likely, when we look for a solution we go from one concrete normative qualified case to another, through already known "applications" of norms to a new "application". The relation between life conditions and their normative qualifica¬tion has to be proportional to other, earlier or possible (thought of) assignments of that which is factual to that which is normative. Law as a whole does not consist of a set of norms, but only of a unity of relations. Since law is a, based on proportion, relative unity of a norm and conditions of life, in order to explain law in philosophical manner, the question about ontological base of this unity has to be asked. What is it that makes the relation between a norm and conditions of life "non-dispositive"? What is the basis for such an interpretation of a norm and case which makes it possible to bring a norm and conditions of life into mutual "conformity"? This is a question about a third thing (next to norms and conditions of life), with respect to which the relative identity between a norm and conditions of life occurs, about the intermediary between that which is normative and that which is factual and which provides for the process of establishing of norms, as well as, finding solutions. It is the "sense" in which the idea of law or legal norm and conditions of life have to be identical to be brought to mutual "conformity". In Kaufmann's opinion such a sense is nothing else but the "nature of things" which determines the normative qualification of the reality. Since establishment of this "sense" appears to be "non-dispositive" and controlled inter-subjectively (namely, other subjects will reach a similar result) so, in conformity with the convergent concept of truth, the "nature of things" must be assigned a certain ontological status. According to Kaufmann this is a real relation which occurs between being and obligation, between the conditions of life and normative quality. However, it should be underlined that from the point of view of the analyzed system the "nature of things" is a correlate of constructed sense, a result of a construction which is based on the principle of consistent understanding of senses ("non-normative" and "normative") and is not a reality which is transcendent against the arrangement of senses. In Kaufmann's theory, inference from analogy appears to be a process of reshaping the concepts (senses) governed by tendency to understand the contents appearing in relations between that which is factual and that which is normative in a consistent way. The analogical structure of language (concepts) and recognition of being as composed of an essence and existence is an indispensable requirement for the possibility of the realisation of law, based on specifically understood inference from analogy. It is necessary to assume a moment of existence without content which ensures unity of cognition. Existence emerges thus as a condition of the possibility of cognition. According to Kaufmann, the "nature of things" is the heart of inference through analogy and the basis for establishment of finding of law. Inference from the "state of things" to a norm or from a norm to the "state of things" always means inference through the "nature of things". The "nature of things" is the proper medium of objective legal sense sought in every cognition of law. In Kaufmann's view, the question whether the "nature of things" is ultima ratio of interpretation of law or is only a means of supplement gaps in law or whether it is one of the sources of law, is posed wrongly. The "nature of things" serves neither to supplement the gaps nor is it a source of law as, for example, a legal norm may be. It is a certain kind of "catalyst" necessary in every act of making law and solving a concrete case. Owing to "nature of things" it is possible to bring to a mutual conformity the idea of law and possible conditions of life or legal norms and concrete conditions of life. In Kaufmann's conception the "nature of things" is not yet the ultimate basis for understanding the "non-dispositiveness" of law. The relation between obligation and being is determined in the process of the realisation of law. Both the process itself and that which is transformed in this process are given. A question about the ontological bases of "material" contents undergoing "treatment" in the process of the realisation of law and about being which is the basis of regularity of the occurrence of the process arises. Only this will allow an explanation that the result of the process is not optional. Thus, a question about reality to which law refers and about the subject realising the law has to be formed. To this, Kaufmann gives the following answer: that which is missing is man but not "empirical man" but man as a "person". A "person" understood as a set of relations between man and other people and things. A "person" is the intermediary between those things which are different — norm and case are brought to conformity. A "person" is that which is given and permanent in the process of the realisation of law. It determines the content of law, is "subject" of law; this aspect is described by Kaufmann as the "what" of the process of realisation of law. A "person" consists of precisely just these relations which undergo "treatment" in the process. On the other hand, a "person" is "a place" in which the processes of realisation of law occur, it is the "how" of normative discourse, a "person" is that which determines the procedure of the process, being "outside" of it. This aspect of a "person" is connected with the formal moment of law. A "person" being, at the same time, the "how" and the "what" of the process of the realisation of law, is also, to put it differently, a structural unity of relation and that which constitutes this relation (unity of relatio and relata). According to this approach a "person" is neither an object nor a subject. It exists only "in between". It is not substance. Law is the relation between being and obligation. That which is obligatory is connected with that which is general. That which is general does not exist on its own, it is not completely real. Accordingly, a "person" as such is also not real. It is relational, dynamic and historical. A "person" is not a state but an event. In Kaufmann's opinion, such a concept of a "person" helps to avoid the difficulties connected with the fungibility of law in classical legal positivism. A "person" is that which is given, which is not at free disposal and secures the moment of "non-dispositiveness" of law. Kaufmann concludes: "The idea (»nature«) of law is either the idea of a personal man or is nothing". Theory points at the structure of realising law and explains the process of adoption of general legal norms for a concrete situation. The analysis has shown however, that in this theory a satisfactory answer to the question about the ultimate foundations of law is not given. It seems that in the analyzed theory the understanding of human being takes place through understanding of law. What is good for man as a "person", what is just, what a "person" deserves may be determined only against the existing system of law. A "per¬son" adopted as a basis of law is the reality postulated in the analysis of the process of the realisation of law. It is a condition of possibility of this process ( explaining, on one hand, its unity and, on the other hand, the non-dispositive moments stated in this process). A "person" in the discussed theory is entirely defined by the structure of law, it can be nothing more than that which is given in law, what law refers to, what law is about. Being, which is a "person", is constituted by relations between people and objects, the relations which are based on fundamental links between norms and conditions of life established in a process of bringing them to conformity. It has to be assumed that man as a "person" is a subject of law only as far as realising law "treats" given senses according to their current configuration. The system of law is a starting point and it describes in content what man is as a "person". Moreover, being a "person" is the condition for entering legal relations. Consistently, Kaufmann writes that "empirical man" is not the subject of law, man is not "out of nature" a "person". People become "persons" due to the fact that they acknowledge each other as "persons" — acknowledging, at the same time, law. This acknowledgement is a con¬dition of existence, of the possibility of the occurrence of process of realisation of law and of constituting legal relations which ultimately constitute a "person". Kaufmann assumes, that law tends towards a moral aim: it may and must create an external freedom, without which the internal freedom to fulfil moral obligations cannot develop. However, this postulate is not based on the necessary structure of human being. From the point of view of his system, it is nothing more than only a condition for the possibility of the occurrence of the process of the realisation of law — lack of freedom would destroy the "how" of this process. Thus, the postulate to protect the freedom of personal acts has to be interpreted, in accordance with the analyzed theory, as a postulate, the fulfilment of which aims ultimately at the accomplishment of the very same process of realisation of law itself and not the realisation of a given man. Kaufmann considers a "person" to be an element which unites the system of law as a whole. Law is a structure of relations, which are interdependent and inter-contingent. Consequently, a "person" which is to form the ontological basis of law has to be entity consisting of all relations. Being also the "how" of the process of realisation of law, if a "person" is to warrant its unity, it has to be a common source for all procedures. Hence, a single "person" would constitute a subject of law. Man appears to be only a moment of a certain entirety, realisation of which should be an aim of his actions. Law, creating a "person" as an object and subject of law becomes a primary entity. In the analyzed theory, the basis for determination of aims which law sets to man is not the allocation of man-subject to something which improves him but rather, such relation is only just constituted by law. A question appears, why should aims set in law also be the aims of "empirical man"? Why is this "empirical man" to be punished in the name of a "person" understood in such a way? If, however, it is assumed that what is man is determined by a system which is superior to him, then man has to be understood only as a part of a whole and there are no grounds to prohibit istrumental treatment of man and so the road to all aspects of totalitarianism might be opened. A problem of the application of created theory to the reality arises, the reality which the theory pretends to explain. Ultimately in his theory Kaufmann does not give any systemic grounds for a radical questioning of the validity of any legal norms. Every new norm becomes an equal part of system of norms. It is only its interpretation and application to given conditions of life that may be disputable, however, this refers to all norms without exception. Cohesive inter-pretation of norms and applications is necessary and sufficient for the acquisition of just law. New norms have to be interpreted in the light of others, correspondingly, the other norms require reinterpretation in the light of the new ones. Contradiction in interpretation of a norm does not form a basis for questioning norms but may serve only to question the manner of their interpretation (understanding). Therefore, no grounds exist to assume any legal norm as criminal or unjust, and in consequence, to question any consistently realised system based on formally, properly established norms, as "legal lawlessness". As law and a "person" do not exist without the process of realisation of law, the role of legal safety becomes crucial as the condition for the possibility of the occurrence of the process of realisation of law. Denying legal safety would be tantamount to negation of law in general (also of moral law) as negation of safety takes away, at the same time, the basis for occurrence of the process of realisation of law. Moreover, any lack of legal safety would also mean lack of a basis for the existence of man as a "person". Kaufmann's thesis, that civil disobedience is legalized only when it has a chance to lead to success, consistent with his concept of the foundations of law, seems to point directly to conclusions which deny the facts taken under consideration and doubtlessly Kaufmann's own intentions, since it would have to be assumed that accordingly there are no grounds to question a legal system in force based on violence which secures its operation. Force finally seems to determine which one of the mutually irreconcilable normative systems constitute law and which does not. A legitimate position is one which leads to success, it is the weaker system which is negated. If so, then basically violent imposition of law is not an act directed against the law in force but, to the contrary, realisation of law. In the context of the new system the former system of law may be talked about as unjust solely in the sense of being incapable of being consistently united with the new. However, at the base, ultimately, lies force which reaffirms differences and excludes from the process of realisation of law certain norms and their interpretations. Kaufmann was aiming at grounding of that which is "non-dispositive" in a certain given framework of interpretation. Nevertheless, he does not provide foundations for the understanding of phenomena, which he undertakes to explain at a point of departure. Instead of explaining them the theory negates the possibility of their existence. The reality postulated in regard to "non-dispositive" moments of the reconstructed process of acquiring law consist of a specifically understood "person", which appears in Kaufmann's conceptions as a condition of the possibility of the realisation of law. According to this approach understanding of a "person" may be only a function of law. To understand "legal lawlessness" and foundations of justice it is necessary to look for such theory of law in which understanding of man as a "person" and being is not a function of understanding of law (in which a "person" is not only a condition for possibility of reconstructed process of realisation of law; for possibility of cognition processes). It seems necessary to start from theory of being and a "person" based on broader experience than the one assumed by Kaufmann and reconstruct the ontological foundations of the process of realisation of law only in such perspective. Kaufmann points out that that to which law refers is ipsa res iusta a concrete relation of man to other people and things. This relation, in his theory, appears to be basically only just constituted by law (normative senses "applied" to conditions of life). Therefore, understanding the relation between a given man and other people and things which constitute the aim of his actions, that is understanding of good, is enacted against the background of constitution of senses; constitution which is a result of a process aiming towards consistent understanding of particular contents (of nor¬mative and non-normative senses). "Being" is secondary towards constructed senses it is only their correlate. The primary relation consists of relation of a man to law (system of norms), while the secondary relation is one of man to something which is the aim of his action (relation between man and good). Considering such approach it is difficult to envision a satisfying answer to the fundamental question: why does law put concrete man under any obligation to obey it? The source of this problem can be seen in reduction of the base for understanding good to content of obligation formulated in auto-reflection. Such reduction seems to be a consequence of Kaufmann's adoption of "convergent concept of truth" and in con¬sequence his recognition of indirect, essentialistic grasp of reality formulated in concepts as the basic and only foundation of theory of being and of law. In view of such an approach, analogy of law, concepts and being is the condition for the possibility of the process of transformation of senses which aims at consistent interpretation of all law. Existence is postulated with respect to the possibility of unity of experience and cognition. However, also a different approach to understanding of the problem of being and good is possible. In spontaneous cognition being is affirmed, first of all, not as a certain, non-contradictory, determined content, but as something existing. Together with a cer¬tain content (passed indirectly through notions) existence of being is co-given. The basis for unity of being is not formed by the consistence of content, as it is in the case of the theories departing from the analysis of cognition processes, but by an act of existence realising content (essence). Such an approach makes it also possible to go beyond the convergent concept of truth. It is worth mentioning that allocation of an agent to good is realised not only by the content of duty. A statement that something is good is primary with respect to determination of this good in content. The recognised good always bears some content, however, there are no reasons to base the concept of good exclusively on indirect, formulated in concepts cognition. As primary, can be adopted the relation of man to good and not of man to law. Determination in content appears to be only an articulation of aspectual cognition of being, as an object of action. In such a case the basis for relative unity of norm and conditions of life is not the "nature of things" understood as correlate of sense but it is relation to good based on internal constitution of man as potential, not self-sufficient being. It does not mean, that the moments of the process of realisation of law singled out by Kaufmann are not important to determination of what is just. He, quite rightly, points to significant role played by norms in the evaluation of concrete situations, in man's search for closer specification in content of good innate to him. The structure of process of determining law for a concrete situation, to a great degree corresponds to the processes of determining law which take place not only in the legal sciences. Kaufmann's analyses of the process of realisation of law show the complexity of the structure of these processes and point towards important moments allowing a better understanding of law and man. Nevertheless, these analyses cannot be a basis for construction of philosophical theory of law, theory which hopes to point out the ultimate, ontological foundations for understanding law. Kaufmann's results may become fully valid only in a more general perspective including broader experience at the point of departure.
Archival date: 2015-11-21
View upload history
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
No citations found.
Added to PP index
562 ( #2,660 of 33,187 )
Recent downloads (6 months)
103 ( #2,655 of 33,187 )
562 ( #2,660 of 33,187 )
Recent downloads (6 months)
103 ( #2,655 of 33,187 )
How can I increase my downloads?
Monthly downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.