The structural oblivion of Jewish legal thought in the understanding of international law in the interwar years

PhD Project

Just as the fish considers the water it lives in as the only possible condition for all existence, legal thought prevailing in the West seems to consider certain structures of thinking as the only possible condition for the existence of all legal thought. And as the fish concludes from its actual conditions of being the limits of all possible conditions of being, western legal thought concludes from its actual conditions the limits of its possibilities, which I will call the horizon of the possible. This limitation of possible ways of thinking about law determines the framework for processing the structures of divergent legal thought, with the result that it is limited to the horizon of the possible. In other words, when the fish looks at the elephant’s life, it limits the elephant’s entire being to its existence in water.

If one considers the number and significance of German Jewish international legal theorists of the interwar years on the basis of this consideration, the question arises to what extent a specifically Jewish way of thinking about law is expressed in these theories of international law, and how far it has been lost in the reception of these theories. One part of the project examines the different thought structures that mark out the horizon of the possible. It then investigates the question of the extent to which a predominantly Christian thought structure for legal thought has developed in Western Europe and the ways in which it is unable to process the structures of  Jewish legal thought. The inability to process these diverging structures can then lead to their reduction to the prevailing conception of the law. Thus, all that remains after the reception of the Jewish conception of law through the prevailing lens of legal thought are the shadows that correspond to the prevailing structures. Jewish legal thought as an approach to international law has thus been consigned to structural oblivion.

On this basis, the project is dedicated to how authors and recipients imprint their structures of thought when conceiving and receiving conceptions of the law in order to identify the structures in reception that are incompatible with the prevailing mode of legal thought. The study thus provides insights into the relationship of recipients to sources in legal thought and a methodological approach for dealing with German Jewish sources concerned with law.

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