Coherence in Legal Scholarship: In Search for Connectivity and Unity in Civil Law Doctrine (16th-18th Centuries)

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Old Regime legal scholarship has insufficiently been tested for patterns and clusters within the legal contents that they contain. The legal interpretation of scholars of that period who wrote academic texts has not been scrutinized systematic-empirically for the coherence they were seeking. This paper demonstrates that this lacuna in present-day legal-historical research has a match in legal studies in general, but also that it follows on from assumptions and methodological choices that have long been prevalent among legal historians. A likewise modest attention for coherence, in general, and as established within contemporary legal scholarship in particular, is highly determined by the ambiguity of the act of legal interpretation. This compound act commonly hasn’t been done justice. Data and testable features have been selected on the basis of researchers’ approaches and assumptions in which normative purposes are not absent. In that regard, old legal doctrine is a good test ground for establishing a methodology that aims at capturing coherence seeking. Its analysis cannot serve normative goals. Moreover, because of the advantage of hindsight, legal academic writings of bygone times can serve as basis for assessing coherence in law as enveloping over time and in response to context. Furthermore, the high and virtually exclusive authority of Old Regime legal scholarship makes it fit for analysis on coherence in law in general. This paper formulates modes of interconnectedness that disentangle the act of legal interpretation as reflected in legal scholarship. It illustrates these modes and their evaluation on the basis of scholarly writings of the Early Modern period (c. 1500-c. 1800) regarding cessio bonorum, which was the transfer of property by an imprisoned debtor in return for his liberation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2016


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