Trialogical International Law ─ Introduction to the Series

18 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018

See all articles by Anne Peters

Anne Peters

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Date Written: October 23, 2018


The introduction to the Max Planck Trialogues on the Law of Peace and War explains the method which informs the novel scholarly format. Each volume deals with one current problem of the ius contra bellum, ius in bello and ius post bellum and gives a floor to three authors whose geographical, professional, theoretical, and methodological backgrounds and outlooks differ greatly. The format thus seeks to accommodate the pluralism and value changes in the current era of a shifting world order and rising nationalism and populism. The aim is to bring to light the cultural, professional, and political pluralism which characterises international legal scholarship, and to exploit this pluralism as a heuristic device.

The format manifests and espouses multiperspectivism, building on the insight that legal concepts depend on the (diverging) perspectives of those who create, apply, interpret, and criticise the law. International law in particular is a multi-perspectival phenomenon. Each volume exposes that and how political factors and intellectual styles influence the scholarly approaches and legal answers. The trialogical setting encourages the situated participants to decenter their perspectives. By explicitly focussing on the authors’ divergence and disagreement, a richer understanding of the legal issue at hand is achieved, and the legal challenges and possible ways ahead are identified. This praise of pluralism does not contradict or overtake the scholarly ideal of intersubjective comprehensibility. Scholarship should aim for universal intersubjective comprehensibility, allowing scholars with diverging geographical, educational, or theoretical background to understand an argument or a research finding ─ regardless of sex, nationality or religion. It is submitted that the aspiration to a discursive, procedural, and bottom-up universalism in international legal scholarship is not logically or intrinsically a ‘false’ universalism which merely camouflages particular interests. Utilising perspectivism and situationality, the Trialogues might modestly contribute to the attempt to build a bottom-up legal universalism without plunging into legal absolutism. Starting from the pragmatic assumption that people can make moral and learning experiences which force them to step out of the moral and epistemic framework they are used to, a Trialogue is one way to tease this out.

Keywords: multiperspectivism, epistemic nationalism, global order shift, pluralism, universality of international law, inter-subjective comprehensibility

Suggested Citation

Peters, Anne, Trialogical International Law ─ Introduction to the Series (October 23, 2018). Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper No. 2018-27, Available at SSRN: or

Anne Peters (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120


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