Rudolf von Jhering (1818 - 1892)

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Birthplace: Aurich, Lower Saxony, Germany
Death: Died in Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
Occupation: Geheimer Justizrat
Managed by: Malka Mysels
Last Updated:

About Rudolf von Jhering

Rudolf von Ihering was a most famous German scholar of jurisprudence. His grand daughter, Hedwig Born (Ehrenberg) was married to the nobel prize physicist, Max Born.

Rudolf von Jhering (also Ihering) (22 August 1818 – 17 September 1892) was a German jurist. He is known for his 1872 book Der Kampf ums Recht (The Struggle for Law), as a legal scholar, and as the founder of a modern sociological and historical school of law.

Jhering was born in Aurich, Kingdom of Hanover. He entered the university of Heidelberg in 1836 and, after the fashion of German students, visited successively Göttingen, Munich, and Berlin. Georg Friedrich Puchta, alone of all his teachers, appears to have influenced him.

After graduating doctor juris, Jhering established himself in 1844 at Berlin as privatdocent for Roman law, and delivered public lectures on the Geist des römischen Rechts, the theme that may be said to have constituted his life's work. In 1845, he became an ordinary professor at Basel, in 1846 at Rostock, in 1849 at Kiel, and in 1851 at Giessen.

At each of these seats of learning, he left his mark; beyond any other of his contemporaries he animated the dry bones of Roman law.

The German juristic world was still under the dominating influence of the Savigny cult, and the older school looked askance at the daring of the young professor, who attempted to adapt the old to new exigencies and to build up a system of natural jurisprudence. This is the keynote of his famous work, Geist des römischen Rechts auf den verschiedenen Stufen seiner Entwicklung (1852-1865), which for originality of conception and lucidity of scientific reasoning placed its author in the forefront of modern Roman jurists.

It is no exaggeration to say that in the second half of the 19th century. the reputation of Jhering was as high as that of Savigny in the first half. Their methods were almost diametrically opposed. Savigny and his school represented the conservative, historical tendency. In Jhering, the philosophical conception of jurisprudence, as a science to be utilized for the further advancement of the moral and social interests of mankind, was predominant.

In 1868, Jhering accepted the chair of Roman Law at Vienna, where his lecture-room was crowded, not only with regular students but with men of all professions and even of the highest ranks in the official world. In 1872, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria conferred upon him a title of hereditary nobility.

The social functions of the Austrian metropolis became wearisome, and Jhering gladly exchanged its for the repose of Göttingen, where he became professor in 1872. That year, he had read at Vienna before an admiring audience a lecture, published under the title of Der Kampf ums Recht (1872; Eng. trans., The Struggle for Law, 1879). Its success was extraordinary. Within two years it attained 12 editions, and it has been translated into 26 languages. It this, his most famous work, Jhering based his theory of duty in the maintenance of one's rights, firstly, on the connection between rights and personality; and secondly, on the solidarity of law and rights. The relation of rights to personality is explored. In truth, our rights involve a parcel of our social worth, our honor. Whoever violates our rights, attacks our worth, our honor.

This work was followed five years later by Der Zweck im Recht (2 vols., 1877-1883). In these two works is clearly seen Jhering's individuality. The Kampf ums Recht shows the firmness of his character, the strength of his sense of justice, and his juristic method and logic: to assert his rights is the duty that every responsible person owes to himself. In the Zweck im Recht is perceived the bent of the author's intellect. But perhaps the happiest combination of all his distinctive characteristics is to be found in his Jurisprudenz des taglichen Lebens (1870; Eng. trans., 1904). A great feature of his lectures was his so-called Praktika, problems in Roman law, and a collection of these with hints for solution was published as early as 1847 under the title Civilrechtsfalle ohne Entscheidungen.

Aside from shorter positions at Leipzig and Heidelberg, Jhering continued to work in Göttingen until his death.

Among others of his works were the following: Beiträge zur Lehre vom Besitz, first published in the Jahrbücher für die Dogmatik des heutigen römischen und deutschen Privatrechts, and then separately; Der Besitzwille, and an article entitled Besitz in the Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften (1891), which aroused at the time much controversy, particularly on account of the opposition manifested to Savigny's conception of the subject.

See also Scherz und Ernst in der Jurisprudenz (1885); Des Schuldmoment im römischen Privat-recht (1867); Das Trinkgeld (1882); and among the papers he left behind him his Vorgeschichte der Indoeuropaer, a fragment, has been published by v. Ehrenberg (1894).

For an account of his life, see also M. de Jonge, Rudolf v. Jhering (1888); and Adolf Merkel, Rudolf von Jhering (1893).

His oldest son was a German-Brazilian zoologist Hermann von Ihering (1850-1930).

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The von Jhering famly can trace back more than 10 generations to Sebastian Jhering (1371-1436)

See under "Media" for document of family tree chart showing connections to

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Franz Rosenzeig (1886-1929)

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Rudolf von Jhering's Timeline

1818
August 22, 1818
Aurich, Lower Saxony, Germany
1850
October 9, 1850
Age 32
Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
1852
1852
Age 33
1856
August 4, 1856
Age 37
Germany
1892
September 17, 1892
Age 74
Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
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