Epistemic Forces in International Law
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Epistemic Forces in International Law

Foundational Doctrines and Techniques of International Legal Argumentation

Jean d’Aspremont

Epistemic Forces in International Law examines the methodological choices of international lawyers through considering theories of statehood, sources, institutions and law-making. From this examination, Jean d'Aspremont presents a discerning insight into the way in which international lawyers shape their arguments to secure validation within the international law community.
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Chapter 2: Sources

Jean d’Aspremont


The sources of international law are often seen as the most cardinal doctrine of international law. This is not surprising. In the modern international law designed at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the doctrine of sources was not only what allowed international law to emancipate itself from the arbitrariness of both metaphysical consideration or voluntarism. It also was the tool by virtue of which international law takes control of the identification of its own rules. Needless to say that this modernist institution has been the object of various attacks throughout the last century. Albeit weakened and contested, the doctrine of sources has nonetheless survived such broadsides and maintained itself as one of the most foundational doctrines of international law. From the communitarian perspective of this book, it is interesting to note that the centrality of the doctrine of sources is reinforced by its prominent role in the socialization of international lawyers. Being socialized as an international lawyer,often means, being trained to identify international law according to the criteria provided by the doctrine of sources. In that sense, it is no coincidence that in certain parts of the world, textbooks always begin with an exposition of the doctrine of sources even before looking at the identification of the subjects. It suffices to take English-speaking textbooks of international law, which, subject to a few exceptions, make the study of sources precede that of the subjects of international law.

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