Skip to main content


Final Report Summary - LEGAL DISCURSIVITY (Discursivity. A philosophical inquiry into legal history)

The programme 'Legal Discursivity, a philosophical inquiry into legal theory' aimed at giving a new and rigorous definition of legal discursivity in order to consequently target normative theory and, as such, the very heart of practical rationality. More precisely, the research aimed at clarifying both the foundations and the stakes behind the attempt to put language at the heart of practical reason. With this aim in view, the following questions were investigated:
1. was legal semantics not understood properly because of a flawed underlying philosophy of language?
2. while this led many contemporary thinkers to try to ground justice beyond language in nature, life, recognition, justification etc. could one, on the contrary, gather systematically all the relevant dimensions of language pervading the reflection on the logic of legal discourse, both in philosophy of law and legal theory?

To address these questions the research was conducted in the framework of an original and systematic approach. The literature on the subject had rather aimed at analysing legal discourse from a rhetorical, communicational, formal and rather piecemeal approach. I questioned this presupposition from a post-structuralist point of view (for further details refer to my workshop in Berlin), by focussing more on the importance of underestimated aspects of language such as interpretation, reflexivity and translation. In so doing I tried to put into perspective the contemporary conception of legal discursivity and, further, the very nature of practical reason.

In addition, the legal discursivity research was carried out through an interdisciplinary methodology combining an in-depth analysis of the specificity of natural logic, i.e. language, as opposed to formal logic, readings in legal theory about discursivity and a comparison of Ricoeur and Habermas philosophy of law.

Briefly stated, the results of the research were the following: the project reached a non trivial understanding of the idea that language was at the centre of practical reason by underlining the role of translation as the beating heart of a discursive conception of justice.

Briefly stated, the results of the project were as follows:
1. the comparison between formal logic and natural language (see my work on Granger) and the full comprehension of discursive semantics explained why justification could never be fully formalised nor reduced to argumentation
2. the legal theory literature on discursivity showed a general misunderstanding of the importance of the interpretive, i.e. hermeneutic, dimension of legal language
3. attempts to radicalise the philosophy of justice beyond language, through the notion of recognition of 'life', fell short of a 'third way', paved by J.M. Ferry and François Ost, which combined Ricoeur and Habermas thoughts and focussed on the decentred reflexivity of translation
4. a philosophy of translation was needed for a contemporary theory of justice (practical reason), in order to promote a flexible intercultural dialogue, particularly in the digital era.