Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

Paul Amselek's Phenomenology of Law and the Intersubjective Context of Legal Interpretation

Maria Gołębiewska

Thursday 2 December 2021

12:50 - 13:30

Zoom 1-1

Paul Amselek—a lawyer and a philosopher by education—is above all the author of works in the field of theory and philosophy of law. To a lesser degree, he deals with analyzing specific legal cases and discussing particular legal determinations, reached in certain specialized fields of law. In his philosophical reflection, Amselek focuses on methodological (among other things, the methodology of legal proceedings, law-making, and case description) and epistemological matters (among other things, recognition of the rules of law, the limits of their application, clarification of the status of norms, sanctions, and facts) by making ontological assumptions, both the implied and the explicitly declared ones. His examination of the philosophy of law falls within the context of three research traditions in the humanities and the social sciences: 1) phenomenology, 2) legal hermeneutics, and 3) legal language analyses, which go beyond hermeneutics, as they recognize both the provisions of law and passed verdicts based thereupon as specific speech acts.

The aim of the presentation is to characterize and analyze Paul Amselek’s research approach (philosophical as well as legal-theoretical) to legal interpretation, and to attempt a further clarification of the said standpoint in the context of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology. The paper provides an outline of Amselek’s assumptions and theses about legal interpretation, considered in the broad context of phenomenological theses pertaining to intersubjectivity and intersubjective objectification.

It should be underscored that Amselek attempts to harmonize the theses of Edmund Husserl’s essentialist, idealist phenomenology with the theses posited by Adolf Reinach in his realist phenomenology by predominantly drawing from the late works of Husserl, created in the 1930s. From these works, he adopted the concept of intersubjectivity, conceived of as Lebenswelt (lifeworld)—the cultural horizon of meanings and senses specific for human communities, allowing the objectivization of achievements and cognitive results of individuals. He also refers to John L. Austin’s theory of speech acts, which he considers to be a development of Reinach’s concept of language-based legal acts. This evocation of a pragmatic notion of linguistic meaning enables Amselek to blend the theses of phenomenology with those of hermeneutics, which opens language-based legal acts to interpretation.