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Access_open Legal Philosophy as an Enrichment of Doctrinal Research Part I: Introducing Three Philosophical Methods

Journal Law and Method, January 2020
Keywords interdisciplinary research, reflective equilibrium, argumentation, philosophical analysis
Authors Sanne Taekema and Wibren van der Burg
AbstractAuthor's information

    In this article, we discuss a particular form of interdisciplinary legal research. We focus on a discipline that may be fruitfully combined with doctrinal research, namely philosophy. The aim of this article is to give an account of the methods of philosophy that are most relevant and useful for doctrinal legal scholars. Our focus is therefore mostly on legal philosophy and the philosophical subdisciplines closely related to it, such as political philosophy and ethics. We characterize legal philosophy in three complementary ways: as an activity, as insights, and as theories. We then discuss three methods of legal philosophy: argumentation analysis and construction, author analysis and reflective equilibrium. In the practice of research these three methods are usually combined, as we will show with various examples.


Sanne Taekema
Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Wibren van der Burg
Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

    Legal doctrinal scholarship engages with the problems of legal practice: it systematizes, comments on, evaluates and debates what goes on in law. These activities do not occur in a vacuum: they are embedded in scholarly traditions and theories. This paper discusses the role of the theoretical frameworks used in legal research and has two related aims. First, it aims to provide some practical conceptualizations and guidelines regarding theoretical and normative frameworks that are useful to understand and conduct legal research. Second, it aims to investigate the relationships between different kinds of normative frameworks and their relationship to empirical work. In the second part, an argument is made for a pragmatist understanding of the interplay between normative theorizing and empirical study. How do these work together in judgments about the state of the law?


Sanne Taekema
Erasmus School of Law, Rotterdam; taekema@law.eur.nl.

    By conducting methodological assessments, legal researchers decide which lines of inquiry are worth pursuing. Two aspects of such assessments are highlighted in this article. The first aspect is to construct promising lines of inquiry. The second aspect is to clarify provisionally the potential of various promising lines of inquiry. Clarifying and calibrating such potential through discourse with fellow researchers are essential. Increased awareness of how legal researchers decide which lines of inquiry are worth pursuing is vital to contemporary discourse about legal methodology.


Synne Sæther Mæhle
Associate professor, Faculty of Law, University of Bergen, Norway

    In this paper, an attempt is made to work out a methodology for comparative legal research, which goes beyond the ‘functional method’ or methodological scepticism.
    The starting point is the idea that we need a ‘toolbox’, not a fixed methodological road map, and that a lot of published, but largely unnoticed, research outside rule and case oriented comparative law offers varying approaches, which could usefully be applied in comparative research. Six methods have been identified: the functional method, the structural one, the analytical one, the law-in-context method, the historical method, and the common core method. Basically, it is the aim of the research and the research question that will determine which methods could be useful. Moreover, different methods may be combined, as they are complementary and not mutually exclusive.This paper focuses on scholarly comparative legal research, not on the use of foreign law by legislators or courts, but, of course, the methodological questions and answers will largely overlap.


Mark Van Hoecke
Professor of Comparative Law at Queen Mary University of London, and Professor of Legal Theory and Comparative Law at Ghent University

mr.dr. Maria Geertruida IJzermans

    In this article I plead for utilitarianism as guideline for the editor. The article consists mostly of rebuttals of a number of traditional objections against utilitarianism. In particular (but not exclusively) the following objections are discussed:

    1. It is impossible to predict the consequences of legislative measures.

    2. Legislation should be evaluated procedurally (democratically), rather than by a substantive standard.

    3. Utilitarianism allows the sacrifice of the interests or even rights of some on behalf of those of others.

    4. Utilitarianism leads to results that are sometimes strongly counterintuitive.


    A substantial part of the article consists of a discussion of coherentism as method for, amongst others, normative reasoning.


Jaap Hage

    This paper raises two methodological questions from a philosophical perspective: (i) what is involved in a functionalist approach to law and (ii) what should be the focus of such an approach? To answer these questions, I will take two steps with both. To begin with, I argue that Pettit’s view on functionalist approaches may be made relevant for law; functionalist accounts target a virtual mechanism that explains why a system will be resilient under changes in either the system or its environment. Secondly, I make a distinction between two interpretations of his key-concept ‘resilience’, one in mechanical, the other in teleological terms. With regard to the second question I will take two steps as well. I argue why it does not make sense to ascribe wide functions to law, followed by a plea for a limited view on the function of law. This limited view is based on a teleological understanding of the law’s resilience. I argue that these two modes are interrelated in ways that are relevant for the interdisciplinary study of law.


Bert van Roermund
Artikel

Access_open Source-usage within doctrinal legal inquiry: choices, problems, and challenges

Journal Law and Method, June 2014
Keywords methodological challenges, doctrinal legal inquiry, source-usage, methodology, method
Authors Mr. Marnix Vincent Roderick Snel LLM, MA
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article provides an overview of the methodological challenges that scholars are confronted with in relation to use of legislation, case law and literature commentaries within doctrinal legal inquiry. Therefore it employs a systematic literature review and a supplementary explorative expert-consultation among legal scholars of Tilburg University. Although the scope of the research is still limited, it shows that doctrinal legal inquiry is subjected to more and other methodological challenges surrounding the source-usage than one might expect. This insight may contribute to the further development of the meta-discipline ’law and methodology’ and simultaneously allows for more methodological awareness among doctrinal legal scholars.


Mr. Marnix Vincent Roderick Snel LLM, MA
Marnix Snel is a PhD researcher at the Research Group ‘Methodology of law and legal scholarship’ at Tilburg University. I thank prof. Rob van Gestel, prof. Jan Vranken and Dr. Arie-Jan Kwak for their comments on earlier draft version of this article.

    Public law is sometimes said to deal with distributive justice. Such allocation issues are at least very dominant when public authorities grant only a limited number of public rights (authorizations, subsidies, etc.) and the number of applicants exceeds this maximum. The characteristics common to these ’limited public rights’ raise the question whether there are some general allocation rules applying to any allocation of limited public rights. This article shows how economic allocation theory can be helpful in constructing general allocation rules as a corollary of general legal principles. Allocation theory turns out to provide for general concepts and results clarifying general allocation rules and revealing mutual connections. Extending this allocation perspective from limited public rights to public law in general requires the hidden allocation issues in public law to be unveiled.


Johan Mr.dr. Wolswinkel
C.J. Wolswinkel LLM MSc PhD is Assistant Professor at the VU University Amsterdam and participates in the research programme Public Contracts: Law and Governance of the VU Centre for Law and Governance. This article expands some methodological issues developed in his PhD thesis De verdeling van schaarse publiekrechtelijke rechten. Op zoek naar algemene regels van verdelingsrecht (The Hague: Boom Juridische uitgevers 2013).
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