november, 2018

07nov4:00 pm6:00 pmDetlef von Daniels: 'Legal Pluralism and the Problem of Evil'


Event Details

It is my pleasure to invite you to a Hart Seminar featuring Detlef von Daniels: ‘Legal Pluralism and the Problem of Evil’. This is an optional pre-read seminar, and the reading will be circulated to registered attendees one week prior to the event.

Abstract: From its very beginning, the debate on (global) legal pluralism has been dominated by two fundamental issues, the question of the appropriate understanding of law and the question of the appropriate ethical theory or ethical practice. The “problem of evil” is not part of the canonical questions raised in this debate. It might even appear to be too fundamental (“metaphysical”) or too remote to be dealt with in this context. Crimes against humanity, as an instance of extreme evil, will arguably be condemned by all sides in the debate, whereas the human condition, that people are free to choose or agree in different courses of action, good and evil ones, is usually taken for granted from a legal perspective. I will, however, show that the problem of evil is the third unacknowledged underlying question of the debate. To this end, I will explore in-depth the disputes at three crucial historical moments to reveal how considering the problem of evil illuminates hidden aspect underlying the debate. I will start with a discussion of the origins of legal pluralism in the work of Eugen Ehrlich and argue that even though he championed the social forces of living law he lacks the conceptual means to address their unsettling side-effects emerging at his time. I will then show that Ehrlich’s counterpart Hans Kelsen found himself in a theoretically equally unfortunate situation. I will end with a meditation on a scene in Jonathan Littell’s novel The Kindly Ones that explains how the very practice of scholarship might inevitably be consumed by the night of the 20th century. Together these three genealogical explorations show why legal pluralism needs to understand itself as a post-foundational enterprise.

Detlef von Daniels is Academic Coordinator of the International Justice and Institutional Responsibility research group at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He studied Philosophy, History of Art, and Public Law and holds an M.A. degree from the University of Freiburg and a doctorate in philosophy from Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. Before coming to Berlin, he held postdocs and lectureships at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard, the University of Witten/Herdecke, and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. Dr. von Daniels is interested in the intersections between jurisprudence and philosophy, both in current theorizing and in the history of ideas. He has published a book entitled “The Concept of Law from a Transnational Perspective” and numerous articles in political and legal philosophy.

Dr. von Daniels’s seminar is part of our Hart Seminar Series, which features a diverse group of leading scholars working at the intersection of law and philosophy. Hart Publishing contributes generous support to make the seminar series possible.


(Wednesday) 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


University of Surrey School of Law

Frank Whittle Building (AB) Fifth Floor, Guildford, GU2 7XH

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