Normative Contradictions in International Law: Implications for Legal Philosophy


  • Hans KÖCHLER University of Innsbruck, Austria,



Rule of law; validity of norms; justice and law; normative contradictions; jus cogens; sovereignty; national interest; power politics; United Nations


In order to be perceived as legitimate by those subject to it, a system of legal norms should be free of contradictions. The very idea of justice is incompatible with an erratic interpretation and, subsequently, arbitrary application of norms. Systemic contradictions make actions by state authorities unpredictable. However, at the domestic as well as at the international level, considerations of power and interest have often made of the respective body of norms a “hermeneutical minefield.” The international legal order in particular contains contradictions even between the most basic principles such as state sovereignty, self-determination and the rules of international humanitarian law. While, at the national level, the authority of constitutional courts may help to eliminate contradictions and inconsistencies, there exists, apart from limited regional arrangements, no such separation of powers at the international level. The lecture analyzes, inter alia, the systemic, destabilizing impact of normative contradictions in exemplary cases related to the interpretation of the United Nations Charter and draws conclusions in terms of the philosophy of law.


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Author Biography

Hans KÖCHLER, University of Innsbruck, Austria,

Professor (Em.) of Philosophy, University of Innsbruck, Austria,
President of the International Progress Organization, Co-president
of the International Academy for Philosophy




How to Cite

KÖCHLER, H. (2016). Normative Contradictions in International Law: Implications for Legal Philosophy. WISDOM, 7(2), 78–94.