Law as a Linguistic Instrument Without Truth Content? On the Epistemology of Koskenniemi's Understanding of Law
30 Pages Posted: 3 May 2016
Date Written: May 2, 2016
The most significant merit of Martti Koskenniemi’s legal epistemology consists in decisively radicalizing the “linguistic turn” in jurisprudence. This radicalization entails the claim that law should be understood not only as a specific language, but as a language without truth content, regardless of whether this truth is assumed to have universal or even only contextual validity. The innovative potential of Koskenniemi’s approach becomes even more evident if we consider it in the light of a short overview of the main strands of legal philosophy. However, the most far-going assertion of Koskenniemi’s legal philosophy – namely that legal propositions do not contain any inherent truth content, nor do they refer to an external source of reliable validity – is also its most contestable tenet. Indeed, the most recent philosophy of language maintains that neither language in general, nor the language of the law in particular, can be regarded as devoid of truth content. As a consequence, the legal professional cannot be just allowed to use the law as an instrument at the service of his/her preferences, but should justify his/her position by resorting to the linguistic content in which law, without assuming a metaphysical or ontological substance, is lastly rooted.
Keywords: Koskenniemi, Law and Language, Legal Philosophy, Legal Theory
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