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Where we come from

The University of Graz has always attributed a high status to legal philosophy. Following the foundation of the law faculty in 1778, jurisprudence had initially been taught as „natural law“, based on the classical natural and rational legal writings of Martini and Zeiller. From 1850 on, Heinrich Ahrens (1808-1864) taught legal philosophy. The international public lawyer Alfred Verdross appreciated Ahrens later on for being the renovator of substantive jurisprudence. Since Ahrens had to struggle with increasing political resistance from the ministry, he moved to Leipzig in 1860. In the following, the professorship of jurisprudence was terminated due to a ministerial order. Instead, legal philosophy was then affiliated to the criminal law department and was taught e.g. by Theodor Reinhold Schütze (1827-1897). At the same time, Ludwig Gumplowicz (1839-1909) was a member of the law faculty. He was a determined opponent of the idealistic jurisprudence and stood up for legal research with a historical and sociological orientation.

Later on, the criminal lawyer Friedrich Byloff (1875-1940) took over the lectures in legal philosophy. In 1931, the law faculty of Graz has devoted a venia legendi exclusively to legal philosophy for the first time. When the chair was offered to Johann Mokre (1901-1981), Byloff put up resistance against the analytical and abstract style of his jurisprudence for being too closely oriented to Kelsen’s Pure Theory of Law. The dispute divided the faculty. Mokre emigrated to the US in 1938, returned to Austria in 1948 and finally obtained the ordinary professorship for Jurisprudence, General Theory of the State and Sociology in 1949. He held the chair until 1971.

His successor, Ota Weinberger (1919-2009), taught in Graz from 1972-1989. In 1991, his disciple Peter Koller (born in 1947) received the call for the chair in Legal Philosophy, Legal Theory and Legal Sociology and increased the international reputation of the institute. At the same time, another disciple of Weinberger, the philosopher Peter Strasser (born in 1950) taught in Graz until 2015. Koller has received emeritus status in the same year. His successor Matthias Klatt (born in 1973) now holds the chair since October 2015.

From July 2016 on, Graz Jurisprudence constitutes a department of the newly founded Institute of the Foundations of Law.

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