Research Focus & Method

The questions with which scholarship engages always have a dimension of timelessness.

Scholars who are sufficiently familiar with the histories of their respective fields of enquiries are often struck by the way contemporary questions can plausibly be traced to the works of classical Greek philosophers. That is why the works of classical philosophers always remain interesting and relevant for good legal philosophical scholarship.

But the truly pertinent questions of a particular period of time also have a dimension of singularity and uniqueness, recognition of which requires more than familiarity with or even expertise in some or other tradition or history of inquiry. Recognition of the truly pertinent research questions of one’s time requires, in fact, the willingness and ability to suspend familiarity and expertise with existing traditions and modes of inquiry for purposes of noting the very specific and unique ways in which a specific period of time, the time in which one lives, confronts one with questions that are significantly unprecedented.

The legal philosophical research undertaken at the University of Luxembourg would like to present itself as fundamentally alert to this unprecedented dimension of research questions. That is why we can describe our focus and method very specifically in terms of the phenomenological reductions that Husserl highlighted as the crucial element of his phenomenological method. These phenomenological reductions basically entail a suspension of preconceived perceptions of reality for purposes of observing the primordial ways in which reality gives itself to consciousness. The primordial ways in which reality is given cannot be observed if observation is always already steeped in some or other theoretical orientation or conviction. We are of course aware of the vexing epistemological questions and objections that can be raised against this understanding of the phenomenological method. We are aware of the deep paradoxes that haunt phenomenology.

How can phenomenology jump over the obstacle of the theory-ladenness of perception that Quine described so devastatingly, might one ask. We cannot go into these questions here. Suffice it to state here that we understand the phenomenological method as a via negativa, that is, as a constant variation of theoretical perspectives that undoes the privileged theoretical presuppositions of any particular mode of inquiry so as to expose their theoretical “blind spots”. This is where the significance of the broad inter-disciplinary orientation and the many scholarly voices announced within it above becomes evident. The considerable range of scholarly voices with which our research engages effectively keeps multiple perspectives in play that constantly question and displace one another.

How does our time reveal itself to us then? In what ways does our time require legal philosophy and legal theory to suspend familiar approaches so as to come to grips with the unique questions that it faces today? Please have a look at our research projects to read some of our responses to this question.