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Semiotics of Law, Science of Law and Legal Meaning: analysis of the status of legal dogmatics

Eduardo C.B. Bittar
Traduction de Kavita Lamba

Résumés

Cet article aborde les effets de la crise du sens sur le champ de la science. Le questionnement de cet article a un caractère épistémologique, dans le champ de la science du Droit. Sa tâche est d’étudier comment la crise du sens affecte la science, la laissant vulnérable pour répondre aux énormes défis du 21e siècle. D’où l’importance d’opérer le passage théorique du statut de vérité au statut de véridiction — suivi de l’analyse de la théorie sémiotique, dans la tradition greimassienne —, pour comprendre le discours scientifique comme une pratique de l’énonciation, est mise en évidence. C’est à partir de ce point de vue que la compréhension de la science du Droit, la dogmatique juridique, peut être revisitée étant donné sa tâche en tant que science du sens juridique. Une fois son rôle identifié, la science du Droit est analysée, sous plusieurs aspects, afin d’aboutir à une description compatible avec sa mission actuelle, en état de dialogue avec les autres sciences humaines et sociales. En revisitant le sens des pratiques discursives de la science du Droit, on peut, après tout, aborder ses nouvelles directions, telles que l’objectivité, l’autonomie, la spécialisation, l’heuristique, le langage technique, l’interdisciplinarité, l’environnement technico-cognitif, comme des caractéristiques qui se distinguent par leur compréhension actuelle.

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1. Introduction

1This paper aims to examine, in a context of transformations of the contemporary world, the status and role of the science of Law, by means of an approach of the semiotics of Law. Given that there are many theoretical schools in the field of semiotic theory, the line of analysis of the Greimasian tradition of the Paris School will be adopted. It will be adopted not only for the sake of theoretical preferences, but also for the fact that it will allow a better understanding of the phenomenon studied. Bearing in mind that there is no science without commitment to the method and search for the truth, the knowledge of science is questioned, and re-analysed, in the broader context of a crisis of truth and knowledge. The aim is to investigate how the crisis of meaning affects the production of legal meaning, and the practices of knowledge in the area of the science of Law, so as to emphasise the discussion on the specificity of Legal dogmatics. The analysis of the science of Law carried out here attempts to show that, once detached from the characteristics of the modern method in sciences, its functionality can be used more efficiently to provide answers to the challenges inherent to the 21st century and changes in the way Law has been practised in the contemporary world.

  • 1 See Bittar, 2018a; 2018b, pp. 423-455; 2018c; 2020, pp. 131-150; 2021; and, Bittar, Pierret, 2020a, (...)

2The analytical perspective of this paper is geared towards criticising Legal dogmatics and pointing towards new directions that should be followed by the science of Law, for its own conceptual renewal, and, for this reason, it involves a contribution from semiotic analysis to the self-reflection of the science of Law. This analysis will enable us to realise that the science of Law cannot remain stagnant in its original configuration, which dates back to the 19th century, when Legal dogmatics was composed as a method and model for formatting legal knowledge. In this sense, the analysis and discussion, via the semiotics of Law, will bring an important contribution to the formation of critical self-consciousness, on the part of jurists, about the contemporary status of the science of Law. So, in this field, the contribution of semiotics of Law can be of enormous importance, considering the task of discussing from an outside point of view what the jurists do every time when they discuss the legal concepts in the science of Law. For that purpose, semiotics will be used to trigger the demystification of concepts that have been built based on tradition and to bring to light the need for paradigm shifts. This points to the present time and the renewal of the semiotics of Law. In this sense, this paper represents the culmination of a series of efforts towards the integration of cognitive horizons between the contributions of the semiotics of Law and the issues of the theory of Law, which have been carried out and developed, through scientific articles and books—about which it is not possible here to discuss the arguments, but only point to some of its achievements—,1 over the last years of research.

3In order to do this, the paper is structured in three parts. Part 2 (Semiotics and Semiotics of Law) will emphasise the historical commitment of semiotic theory to the task of understanding meaning, since the emergence of the semiotics project, highlighting the clear commitment of interdisciplinary dialogue that semiotics has always maintained with the other Human and Social Sciences. Part 3 (The crisis of Science and the Science of Law) seeks to insert science into the great crisis situation of the contemporary world, in which a crisis of truth is a part, something that results in affecting the logic of understanding scientific practices. In Part 4 (The new methodological directions of the Science of Law), Legal dogmatics is analysed - which is done with the concepts, categories and resources of the semiotics of Law -, trying to trace its main characteristics in the framework of contemporary scientific practices. Thus, at the end, the paper attempts to take a look at the conditions for the semiotic analysis of the qualities of the science of Law, which are, objectivity, autonomy, specialisation, heuristics, interdisciplinarity, technical language and technical-cognitive environment. It will be this analysis that will allow us to conclude whether Legal dogmatics is prepared for the cognitive challenges of the 21st century.

2. Semiotics and Semiotics of Law: between Signification and Interdisciplinarity

2.1. Semiotics: The Science of Meaning

  • 2 “On peut donc concevoir une Science qui étudie la vie des signes au sein de la vie sociale […]” (Sa (...)
  • 3 “La théorie sémiotique doit se présenter, d´abord, pour ce qu´elle est, c´est-à-dire comme une théo (...)
  • 4 See Landowski, 2014, p. 11.

4Since the beginning of its route as a science, semiotics has taken on the role of a science of meaning. In Cours de Linguistique Générale (1916), Ferdinand de Saussure identified language (langue) as a social institution (institution sociale), and assigned the task of understanding the signs in social life to semiology.2 In the same structuralist theoretical perspective, Algirdas Julien Greimas and Joseph Courtés, in the Dictionnaire (1993), will affirm that the théorie sémiotique corresponds to the theory of signification (théorie de la signification).3 Likewise, Eric Landowski (2014) developed the field of socio-semiotics as the problematization of social meaning.4 As a meta-language, its importance and contribution have only grown in recent decades, considering the prominence assumed by the diversity of approaches and applications that semiotics has been receiving. Note that its method is evolving, its purpose expanding and its questions diversifying.

  • 5 See Greimas, 1981, p. 03.
  • 6 Volli, 2015, p. 13.

5This is what makes Greimas, in Semiotique et Sciences Sociales (1976), define semiotics as both a project and a process. With this approach, French semiotics only intends to affirm that the science of meaning is a project, where it is presented as a field under construction, and that it is a process, where it is presented as savoir-faire and faire-savoir.5 This allows us to understand that, as Italian semiotician Ugo Volli (2015) analyses, the vocation of semiotics is inscribed between two distinct universes, the philosophical universe of the sign and the concrete universe of texts.6

  • 7 “[…] c’est dans la recherche portant sur la signification que les sciences humaines peuvent trouver (...)
  • 8 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 02.
  • 9 See Badir, 2019, pp. 192-201.
  • 10 See Beividas, 2017.

6Semiotics emerges in the midst of Human and Social Sciences, and its stance will remain committed to its founding principles, that is, always adopt a collaborative attitude towards the other Human and Social Sciences. In Sémantique Structurale (1966), Algirdas Julien Greimas identifies the common denominator (dénominateur commun) of Human and Social Sciences in his research on signification.7 Thus, interdisciplinarity is an identifying mark of semiotics, among the Human and Social Sciences, which does not place it above the others, but makes it a necessary path for the analysis of discourse, reinforcing the collaboration with research results of philosophy, psychology, anthropology, history and sociology, as stated by French semiotician Jacques Fontanille (2016).8 Furthermore, recent studies have been pointing to semiotics as responsible for the formation, either of an epistemological narrativity, in the line of analysis by Sémir Badir (2019),9 or of a true third way of knowledge, as a discursive epistemology, in the line of analysis by Waldir Beividas (2017),10 which enables the ‘science of meaning’ as a support function to all the other sciences. If this is valid for the Human and Social Sciences, this should apply, above all, to the science of Law.

2.2. Semiotics of Law: Science of Legal Meaning

  • 11 See Greimas, 1976, p. 70.
  • 12 “Et la théorie qu’on en fait débouche sur la signification — actuelle et potentielle — du droit com (...)
  • 13 “[…] comme un phénomène social de signification — autrement dit, en tant qu’objet sémiotique —, c’e (...)

7From the moment semiotic theory launches itself into the task of analysing a semiotic-object, it finds a practice of discourse in Law, formed on the basis of a natural language (langue naturelle). In Sémiotique et Sciences Sociales (1976), Algirdas Julien Greimas and Eric Landowski released the initial drafts of a project and a process of great validity in the field of Law. Thus, the semiotics of Law is seen as the science of legal meaning, with legal discourse being a particular case of the more extensive analyses of discourse.11 This means that the semiotics of Law is connected to the topics and interests of socio-semiotics—as a functioning social subsystem, as Swiss jurist Pierre Moor (2010) points out—,12 because it sees its purpose as a social phenomenon of signification (phénomène social de signification).13

  • 14 See Landowski, 2014, p. 11.
  • 15 Vide Greimas, 1976, p. 73.
  • 16 “La position du sémioticien ne peut, dans cette perspective, être qu’une position analytique, à la (...)

8Thus, the semiotics of Law matters not only in the understanding of legal meaning, but also in the understanding of the processes of social interaction that engender legal meaning.14 It can be said that Law deals with issues arising from the natural world, social world and subjective world, in the manner of an external referent to legislative discourse.15 This is how Landowski (1988) will identify the task of the semioticist, in the field of Law, as an observer capable of exercising a comprehensive and analytical view of the way legal discourse manifests.16

9Along this line of reasoning, a broad, interdisciplinary, discursive and narrative view, conferred by semiotics on the science of Law, only contributes to making Law a more self-conscious knowledge of its own limits. And this is because, while jurists express their know-how as a power-to-do, they normally fail to consider the other social aspects that surround Law. Semiotics thus offers, the conditions for an attitude of permanent revision of the limits of Law. By affirming that the production of legal meaning is socio-semiotically conditioned, semiotics strengthens the thesis about the understanding of social and cultural origins of Law - local, situated and problematic -, and not the thesis about the technical and analytical origins, universal and abstract, of legal discourse. With this, semiotics contributes to relativizing the ‘great truths’ that surround the formative culture of the science of Law as mythical manifestations.

  • 17 “Legal semiotics can be conceived as a bridge between interdisciplinary knowledges integrating cogn (...)
  • 18 See Moor, 2010; See Wagner, 2010; See Bittar, 2018.

10In the field of Law, the semiotics of Law seeks to handle the approximation of Law and Language. For no other reason, French semioticist Anne Wagner (2010) points to the idea that the semiotics of Law may work as a bridge between knowledge with a cognitive integration function.17 The bridge formed between these two worlds has been a fruitful field for the analyses of legal discourse, in recent decades. This link has made it possible, above all, to strengthen the theory of Law,18 enabling it to be understood in a way that goes beyond the usual and restricted limits of the legalist view, which belongs to the science of Law.

  • 19 “We have in mind a specific sphere, possessing signs, which are assigned to the enclosed space. Onl (...)
  • 20 See Greimas, 1976, p. 75.
  • 21 “Legal discourse therefore derives from a specific and particular language. Globally, it nurtures a (...)

11And, in this regard, the interdisciplinary collaboration between the semiotics of Law and the theory of Law brings the understanding of legal discourse of social phenomena closer, given that these are studied by the Human and Social Sciences. And this is because—following the concept of Semiosphere by the semioticist Yuri Lotman (2005)—,19 semiosis implies the relationship of inter-dependence between society and culture. Now, for its production, legal discourse is connected to legal meaning through a practice involved in socio-cultural dynamics. This is what has made it possible to describe and analyse legal language as meta-semiotic, which is developed to a specialised and technical degree,20 and its state of permanent evolution should be considered, as a result processes of fusion (fuzzy) of semantic horizons.21

3. The crisis of the Sciences and the Science of Law

3.1. The Crisis of Sciences: Crisis of Meaning and Crisis of Truth

  • 22 See Lipovetsky, 2003; Bauman, 1998.
  • 23 See Bittar, 2020, pp. 131-150.

12Today, the world is marked by a severe crisis of meaning, diagnosed by the studies undertaken in the field of sociology.22 The crisis of meaning is revealed, also, as a crisis of truth. The crisis of truth corresponds to a loss of references capable of providing security for social action. The crisis of truth is implicated in a greater crisis, that is, the crisis of the project of modernity, which has been called the post-modern context. The crisis of truth has been implying a crisis of credibility of the institutions that are anchored in the great parameters of Western modernity. In present times, the issues of fake news and hate speech are only the most known as current versions of this crisis. But if we analyse further, we can see that we have a crisis in the project of modernity. The increase in complexity, acceleration of life, environmental crisis are some these symptoms, bearing in mind that Science perceives the crisis where the scientific method meets the crisis of meaning and, therefore, the crisis of truth. It is possible to say that the form and method of modern Science are no longer the condition sufficient for the scientific practices of the 21st century, which has created challenges for all scientific knowledge and practices. The form and method of modern Science were deeply marked by cartesian and positivist traditions, which divide and separate in order to know, and this appears to be insufficient to offers as necessary answers to the contemporary challenges, including the confrontation of the creation of a cosmopolitan culture of Law—as it has already been identified as a specific study on the subject—,23 which requires the conscientious vision and gathering of knowledge.

  • 24 Cf. Greimas, 2014, p. 117.
  • 25 Cf. Ibid., p. 122.

13But, the crisis of meaning is not a new phenomenon of the beginning of the 21st century, as it had already been noted since the end of the 20th century. The Sémiotique française was at the forefront in trying to identify and respond to this profound transformation that was already affecting the understanding of Science. Having full knowledge of the crisis of meaning and crisis of truth, in the essay Le contrat de véridiction, contained in the work Du sens II : essais sémiotiques (2014), Algirdas Julien Greimas strove to convert every scientific search for truth (vérité) by the idea of a contract of veridiction (contrat de véridiction).24 In addition, he made us realise the fusion of horizons between the field of knowing (savoir) and the field of believing (croire), studying the presence of faire-savoir scientifique as an effect of meaning (effet de sens)25 of discourse. Now, this is precisely what clearly places Science within the scope of make-appear-true (faire-paraître-vrai).

  • 26 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 03.

14It is in this way that, aware of the crisis of meaning since the end of the 20th century, semiotics has shifted the problematisation of truth from the field of ontology to the field of discourse, resuming the studies of rhetoric. As a science of meaning, the contribution opened up by semiotics will become central to several fields of knowledge that use it for the analysis of discourse, especially when facing the challenges imposed by the 21st century, in regards to the circulation of information and search for quality of life, as detected by the concerns of French semioticist Fontanille (2016).26

  • 27 See Guilhaume, 2014, pp. 35-37.

15This will be important for all Human and Social Sciences, and it would be no different for the science of Law. The broader understanding of the global processes of integrations among people, the reciprocal construction of legal discourse as cultural constructions, the approximation of the boundaries of legal meaning by economic integration, the definition of common world challenges (climate change, terrorism, etc.) which will have to be faced by the construction of common legal equivalences, the emergence of a new statute for animal rights,27 are only some examples of the tasks that will occupy the approximation of the boundaries of semiotics with the boundaries of the science of Law. Thus, it can be said that the science of Law is better equipped, stocked and prepared for the challenges of the 21st century if it can open up its boundaries to dialogue with the knowledge that are being produced in the field of semiotics.

3.2. The Science of Law: Methodological Status and Function

  • 28 See Atienza, 2017, p. 168.

16The science of Law is made up of a scientific discourse aimed at the technical understanding of legislation, its practical applications and developments. It is interesting to note that the science of Law also receives the designation, especially in Civil Law systems, of Legal dogmatics. The expression Legal dogmatics (dogmatica giuridica, Italian; dogmática jurídica, Spanish; dogmatique juridique, French; dogmática jurídica, Portuguese), which is widely used in continental Europe and Latin America, originated in between the 18th and 19th centuries, as Spanish jurist Atienza (2017) notes.28 In debates on the theory of Law, there are many differences as to the designation of the science of Law. Currently, however, two groups of contention in this respect can be identified, namely, (i) a group that argues the methodological status of the science of Law, and, (ii) a group that argues the function of the science of Law.

  • 29 Vide Vaquero, 2013, p. 61.
  • 30 See Atienza, 2017, p. 186.
  • 31 “Elle est bel et bien vulnérable” (Rouvière, 2011, p. 537).

17Regarding the group of contention concerning the methodological status of the science of Law (i), some important theoretical positions from the study of some jurists quoted here can be listed. Chilean jurist Vaquero (2013) will distinguish five normative models of thought that seek to discuss the method of understanding of the science of Law, distinguishing the normativist, realistic, argumentativist, technological and critical models.29 Spanish jurist Atienza (2017) will consider it much less a science, because, in his view, it does not bear any similarity to other sciences, so it will be designated as a techno-praxis by him, or even, as a technified praxis.30 For positions more sceptical than this, such as that of French jurist Rouvière (2011), it is doubtful that the science of Law has actually managed to outline a modern scientific method, and cannot even qualify as a science.31

  • 32 See Machado, 2014, p. 366.
  • 33 See Terré, 2015, p. 159.
  • 34 See Millard, 2006, p. 19.
  • 35 See Ibid., p. 26.

18Regarding the group of contention concerning the function of the science of Law (ii), other theoretical positions can be listed. In Portuguese law, for the jurist Machado (2014), the role of the science of Law is to strengthen legal foresight and certainty.32 In French law, the jurist Terré (2015) states that the doctrine juridique, or even, the science juridique, corresponds to the opinion of jurists (opinio doctorum).33 On the other hand, French jurist Millard (2006) will state that positive law appears as an object language (language objet) to the science of Law,34 given that its role is to describe existing law.35

3.3. The Crisis of the Science of Law

  • 36 See van Hoecke, Ost, 1998, pp. 201-207.

19By changing the geography of the distribution of the areas covered by legal norms, phenomena such as globalisation, interculturalism and integration of people redefine the way in which the structure of modern Law was known. In the paper Legal doctrine in crisis (1998), Hoecke and Ost have already identified the acceleration of law (i); the specialisation of knowledge (ii); the proliferation of actors (iii); the pluralisation of legal systems (iv); informational chaos (v) as factors of crisis of legal doctrine, inviting the re-systematisation of European Law and intercultural dialogue as a permanent challenge.36

20In practice, it is a matter of recognising the limits of form-Law, as it was known under the conceptual architecture of the project of modernity, that is, the project of formation of the Nation-State, and the way in which positive Law was conceived and shaped to it. The Nation-State emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries lacking the unification of Law, the standardisation of the sources of Law and legal positivism as a method of understanding the science of Law. Legal positivism, as a manifestation of a nationalist legalism, was the basis for the formation of the modern State, shown today to be an absolutely insufficient paradigm for the foundation, explanation and philosophical support of Law. As a fruit of modernity, legal positivism is the scientific ideology that remains impregnated in the common beliefs of Law. But these recent changes throw contemporary science of Law into the realm of the crisis of meaning of many of its practices, insofar as the science of Law has not transformed its method of understanding since then. This will alter the way of understanding in which the modern method made the arrangement of the legal-dogmatic method possible.

  • 37 See Bittar, Pierret, 2020 a, pp. 07-08.

21Although every crisis generates doubts, it is understood that every crisis also brings with it the possibility of the science of Law to undergo the reconstruction of its self-understanding. Thus, on one hand, the crisis of legal meaning opens up the opportunity for the science of Law to reaffirm its autonomy, based on its approximation to the advances promoted by the other Human and Social Sciences. Human and Social Sciences are capable of supplying, in the way of cognitive complementarity, the shortcomings of the science of Law. This view has been affirmed for some years now, in recent publications,37 and points towards a different view of the way in which the science of Law should exercise its autonomy, that is, based on interdisciplinarity and inter-cognitive complementarity with other branches of knowledge.

22Equally, general semiotics and the semiotics of Law can contribute vividly to pointing out the need for this transformation. The simple understanding that Law is a discourse, and that all discourse is socially and culturally based, prevents jurists from fixing their beliefs in the eternity of legislation, preparing them for living with the challenges brought about by the transformations of the 21st century. This makes it possible to affirm that the autonomy of the science of Law is no longer synonymous with methodological isolation and purity in the treatment of the purpose, but rather leads to the search for a broad vision, connected to planetary transformations, and the ability to respond to the challenges of justice in the 21st century. For example, the following emerging issues can be considered: artificial intelligence; animal rights; climate change; cultural heritage.

  • 38 “D’un côté, une fétichisation de la parole codifiée, une complète servilité et un attachement à la (...)
  • 39 “Au sein de ce jeu polémique, la rhétorique de l’autorité s’établit comme une voie stratégique, par (...)
  • 40 See Zinna, 2009, p. 71.

23Thus, at present, the crisis of meaning—understood as a crisis of meaning of the project of modernity—cannot be answered, except with the collaboration of openness to globalization, the understanding that every discourse is dynamic and is in a movement of intercultural exchange and, above all, that the methodological and positivist isolation only contribute to the confinement of legal knowledge. The science of Law will be destined to be insufficient if it persists in practices of knowledge that are confined to cognitive horizons inherited from the 19th century. In this sense, the study of an example can be used, which is, the analysis of the importance of legal interpretation and the value of the codification of law. This legal problem was discussed in a paper, recently published (Bittar, 2021 b),38 where the French Code Civil is analysed based on the contributions of the semiotics of objects, following the line of analysis of the studies by Jacques Fontanille. There, it was discussed how much the model of literal interpretation, based on the idea of searching for total security of legislative discourse (Vérité’s search model), derived from the project of modernity, has become out-dated in responding to the challenges of the discourse practices of Law, in today’s times, considering that the discourse of the legislator only authorises the mise en scène of the jeu polémique instituted among those who litigate for rights disputed before the Courts, based on divergent interpretations of legislative discourse (model of véridiction).39 Here, in this example, the acte d´écriture (ius dicere)40 is studied as a founding act of legislative discourse, which makes the contribution that is proper and specialised of semiotics, in an approximation of the universe of problems and issues of Law, able to bring something that the science of Law could never do with the same skill and precision on its own.

24Therefore, the crisis of truth does not mean a death of epistemological horizons, but the pluralisation of interdisciplinary perspectives, recognising that these are capable of affirming legal meaning as a process connected to social, cultural and political meanings of new times. For this, interdisciplinarity is required too, as a way of guaranteeing the approximation and reduction of the complexity of the phenomena being studied.

4. The New Methodological Directions of the Science of Law: a Semiotic Analysis

  • 41 See Greimas, 2014, p. 124.
  • 42 See Bittar, Pierret, 2020a, p. 06.

25If the science of Law, from a semiotic point of view, can be understood as a practice of scientific discourse, the status of the search for legal truth (vérité juridique) can be transformed into the status of the search for veridiction (véridiction juridique) in legal discourse. This small conversion does not carry out a mere exchange of words, it converts the science of Law into an exercise of faire-persuasif.41 This conversion does not work as a recipe, but enables a consciousness that expands the jurists’ horizons, from their methodological confinement to the linguistic consciousness of their task. In addition, this conversion provides the attraction of the linguistic turn, derived from the studies by Ludwig Wittgenstein—already identified in another previous study —,42 already operating within legal knowledge, since the end of the 20th century, to the consciousness of the consequences that still remain to be drawn from the linguistic-discursive understanding of reality. For jurists, these consequences involve a consciousness of the practice of legal discourse, understood as a socio-culturally-dependent discourse, which points to the need to break free from the bonds of scientific autonomy as methodological isolation in order to unfreeze the beliefs, myths and epistemological limits of legal knowledge. Within the scope of the science of Law, the tasks of Law & Society and Law & Language should not only go hand in hand, but should also be persistently debated to avoid the methodological self-closure of the science of Law becoming hegemonic again. Thus, keeping these statements in mind it is still important nowadays, as long as the science of Law is not only challenged to rethink itself, it still seems to rely and repeat the same formulas that guided its initial formation.

  • 43 See Greimas, Courtés, 1993, p. 322.

26In the analysis carried out for semiotics, in the Dictionnaire (1993), by Algirdas Julien Greimas and Joseph Courtés, the entry scientificité points to the fact that scientific research is identified as being a cognitive activity (activité cognitive), mobilised by the want-to-do (vouloir-faire) and by the must-do (devoir-faire), by the search for knowledge (quête du savoir).43 Moreover, the semiotic approach recognises that, from the narrative point of view, the object-of-value of the science of Law is knowledge (savoir)—undergoing a transformation of states, from non-knowledge (E1) to knowledge (E2)—, to the extent that the legitimacy of scientific discourse is strictly dependent on the reputation and competence acquired for its exercise. The actant of scientific discourse can only enunciate scientific content, as long as he has acquired the discursive competence for its exercise, inserting himself, among practices and institutions, before audiences that will be the enunciators for scientific debates.

  • 44 See Bittar, 2018, pp. 449-453.
  • 45 See Garapon, Lassègue, 2018, pp. 12-13.
  • 46 See Hage, 2003, pp. 221-243.

27Thus, this approach leads to a very single contribution that the semiotics of Law can bring to the self-understanding of the science of Law, which is, that it is possible to understand Law as a legal system44 that operates with legal meanings unrelated to social reality, which are in a deep state of instability, making the cognitive activity of the science of Law an activity with the following characteristics: (i) legal concepts are as useful as they are unstable; (ii) legal institutes are as objective as they are controversial; (iii) the practices of Law are as ritual and traditional as they are subject to deritualisation and modernisation;45 (iv) legal reasoning is as logical as it is subject to defeasibility;46 (v) legal discourse is as clothed in argumentative authority of jurists as subject to academic fads and fugacity of its presuppositions.

28Here lies the heart of the analysis of this paper. Thus, what seems a simple change of terms, from truth (vérité) to veridiction (véridiction), implies a profound alteration of models of understanding of the science of Law. These (v) characteristics point to a considerable change in the tradition of understanding the science of Law that emerges from the view of Legal dogmatics. In this alone, the semiotics of Law would have already brought an immense contribution to the science of Law. But, in addition to these characteristics, then, other important and central (vii) characteristics of the science of Law will be analysed, given that in each topic it will be possible to demonstrate that the semiotics of Law contributes to conferring a new status to the practices of legal savoir-faire.

29When these characteristics are present, the analysis of the science of Law undertaken by the semiotics of Law becomes inviting, faced with this, its main characteristics, such as: (i) objectivity; (ii) autonomy; (iii) specialisation; (iv) heuristics; (v) technical language; (vi) interdisciplinarity; (vii) technical-scientific environment. These points will be examined in the following items.

4.1. The Objectivity of the Science of Law

  • 47 See Kelsen, 1976.
  • 48 See Greimas, 1976, p. 28.

30The objectivity of the science of Law is much more a discursive claim, than an appropriately epistemological guarantee. Objectivity was an important key of understanding for Legal positivism, the example of tradition formed around normative positivism by Hans Kelsen, in his work Reine Rechstslehre (1934).47 This discursive claim is exercised through a series of operations of enunciation, among which the objectifying débrayage should be highlighted,48 which offer the illusion of neutrality, impersonality, exemption and impartiality of the discursive practices of the science of Law. This theoretical conception is very characteristic of modernity. Thus, once the objectivity of the science of Law is reduced to operations of enunciation that seek the effect of the meaning of truth, its own characteristics are revealed, namely: opinionative (i); hermeneutic (ii); persuasive (iii); argumentative (iv).

  • 49 See Greimas, 2014, p. 123.
  • 50 See Machado, 2014, p. 361.

31In the essay Le contrat de veridiction, published in Du sens II (2014), Greimas notes that the detachment of the referential view allows the théorie sémiotique to identify the objectifying camouflage in scientific discourse,49 an effect of meaning (effet de sens) that conceals an enunciation with the appearance of truth (vérité). Now, the jurist’s objectifying camouflage is the discursive recurrence that makes him—in case of doubt, suspicious about the veracity of his discursive enunciations—invoke the authority of legislation. This makes the technique of producing legal dogmatics knowledge highly dependent on legislative discourse.50

  • 51 See Atienza, 2017, p. 181.

32One of the main discursive strategies of the science of Law seeks to camouflage the objectivity of scientific discourse—while referring to a universe of certainty, foresight and correctness—, where it makes legal truth (vérité jurique) appear as a direct result of the authority of legislation, which normally reduces the meaning of the science of Law to a mere action of transliteration of normative discourse, and, therefore, the legislator’s action. Evidently, in addition to objectifying débrayage, other discursive enunciation techniques are very common in the science of Law: a.) the approximation of scientific discourse to legislative discourse, in order to create the impression of a literal proximity to legal texts; b.) the use of technical and formal language;51 c.) the use of standard-arguments, based on the authority of other jurists, in search of recognition and authority.

33It is still important pointing out that the alleged objectivity of the science of Law is diluted, in an immense field of non-unanimity among the opinions of jurists, which makes the huge divergences among jurists evident, in the various specialities in which it manifests. This dilutes the objectivity of the science of Law—and, at the same time, it also dissolves the legal positivism pretence of developing a science capable of representing a hard core of stable, secure and perpetual legal knowledge—in the diversity and difference of jurists’ opinions, even if their opinion is reasoned and substantiated, the opinion demonstrates the technical-advisory nature of the jurists’ tasks. Consensus and dissent belong to the discourse practices of jurists.

34Thus, from universal, objective and stable knowledge, we move towards local, opinionated and unstable knowledge. This has both benefits and drawbacks. Indeed, on the one hand, there is an increase in the degree of legal insecurity, but at the same time on the other hand, there is recognition of the limits of the scientific-discursive practices of the science of Law. But, even so, the science of Law retains its usefulness in present times, as it is capable of generating plural reading and interpretations, as well as providing reasons and, therefore, arguments of authority—based on the prestige and renown of jurists. These plural readings and interpretations are mobilised in various contexts to substantiate judicial decisions according to needs, the degree of solution sought, the political orientation and the audience. In this sense, scientific discourse produced by Legal dogmatics is a cognitive reinforcement of the discursive authority of judicial discourse.

4.2. The Autonomy of the Science of Law

  • 52 See Kelsen, 1976.

35The autonomy of the science of Law is generally associated with a form of knowledge reduced to the descriptive understanding of legislation. Especially, the modern theoretical concept of the Reine Rechstslehre (1934), by Hans Kelsen, pointed exactly in this direction, and exercised a true hegemony over the understanding of practices inherent to the science of Law.52 Within this frame, autonomy appears as a consequence of object-of-knowledge. However, the autonomy of the science of Law is not guaranteed by the cognitive reduction assumed in the object-of-knowledge approach. In other words, the reduction of the world for the identification of the object proper to the science of Law is not a sufficient guarantee of its scientific status. Today, operating in this way means compressing the field of work of the science of Law, through processes of cognitive alienation, producing a risky disconnection between Law & Society. And this is because the discourse of the science of Law is harmed by becoming a discursive practice that is weakened, de-contextualised, cold and dependent on the positivity of legislation.

36In addition, the use of methodological resources outside its domain, such as the search for legitimacy in the empirical methods of the natural sciences, is also not a guarantee that their results will be more certified either. By proceeding in this manner, the science of Law obscures its connection with the dynamic reality of social, cultural, political and economic interactions, in order to become a practice meta-modelled by naturalist methods, which are inconsistent with the propriety of phenomena studied by jurists.

  • 53 See Bittar, 2018c, pp. 30-55.

37This enables us to understand that, nowadays, the autonomy of the science of Law can only be affirmed when a dialogue with Human and Social Sciences is recognised. And this task is something inherent to the perspective of a critical concept, developed within the scope of the theory of Law, to which the language sciences and the Human and Social Sciences have lots to contribute, in a fusion of interdisciplinary cognitive horizons, where the inter-discursive exchanges serve as feedback to the incompleteness of horizons that is inherent to each branch of knowledge.53 But, the dialogue with the achievements of the other Human and Social Sciences is only possible if there is cognitive openness and keen perception that legal meaning is always in motion. Any slight social change will result in the appearance of changes in legal meaning, hence the alarm of change will always be sound beforehand by the Human and Social Sciences, to echo in the field of Law, instigating jurists to perceive new social conditions. The autonomy of the science of Law, at this point, makes the juridical conscience of the jurists an activity of permanent relationship with social changes.

38This leads to the conclusion that the best quality of the science of Law is the capacity to deal with the polymorphic nature of socio-legal meaning of our times. This points to the fact that the view of legal positivism is out of date, and needs to be reshaped in the light of more contemporary concepts of theory of Law. This enables us to see that the increase in the technical level of the science of Law is an ambition that should continue to be pursued in the cognitive horizon of the practices of scientific-legal discourse, which can in no way imply that the science of Law is disconnected from the dynamics and socio-semiotic transformations of the macro-environment of semiosis in which it is more broadly inserted.

4.3. The Specialisation of the Science of Law

  • 54 “Jurisprudence in recent decades has become increasingly abstract, specialized, and narrow. Analyti (...)

39The specialisation of the Science of Law is generally associated with the growing nature of the ramification, abstraction, terminological differentiation and connection of legal meaning with sectorial practices that develop in social life.54 There are sociological factors linked to the development of modernity—such as the functional division of labour, the increased circulation of information, the widening of cognitive boundaries—, which are determining the conditions for the functioning of socialisation processes, and, also, expanding the horizons of sciences.

  • 55 See Greimas, 1976, p. 76.

40The more society changes, expanding its social practices, the more regulation by legislation will become differentiated. Thus, the way in which Legal dogmatics will respond to these transformations of the modernisation process will involve an increase in cognitive separation, an increase in the technical degree and dissociation of common horizons. This is what will cause the universe of the science of Law to be articulated in micro-universes of legal discourse, as Greimas (1976) makes us realise.55

41The specialisation of the science of Law has reached such a high level and has branched out to such an extent, that, today, we can no longer speak of the science of Law in the singular, but rather sciences of Law in the plural. This pluralisation of the branches of the science of Law—which, in turn, make multiple interfaces with other areas of knowledge of natural sciences and Human and Social Sciences—, means that the boundaries of the field of legal knowledge have been greatly extended. This may be seen as the positive character of the specialisation of legal knowledge.

42But, specialisation produces, simultaneously, an increasing detachment of specialists from what could be seen as the common foundations of the science of Law. The result is that specialists will develop a micro-vision of the science of Law—focused on the micro-universe of specialised legal discourse—, to the point of becoming a local, terminologised, technical and monodisciplinary vision. This may be seen as the negative character of the specialisation of legal knowledge.

  • 56 See Bittar, 2018c, pp. 30-55.

43The correction of this process does not consist of abandoning the technical and specialised development of the science of Law, but rather in the understanding that the more it specialises—forming distanced and sectorised cognitive corners—, the more important the task of the theory of Law becomes. This means that the specialisation promoted by the science of Law should be accompanied by the generalisation promoted by the theory of Law. The task of the theory of Law is to nurture the horizons of the science of Law, through open cognitive inputs, extracted from the bridge of connection created with the other Humans and Social Sciences, in order to avoid the self-closure of understanding that the jurists develop with the process of specialisation of knowledge.56 And this is because only the theory of Law is able to maintain the macro-vision required for a holistic analysis of Law.

44Only the breadth and criticality, provided by the theory of Law, enables the specialised legal meaning to be reinserted into the wider environment of macro-semiotic processes of the production of legal meaning, which restores the jurists’ ability to exercise a holistic reading of the object-Law. And this is how, reciprocally, the theory of Law enables the correction of the speciality of the science of Law, while the latter operates the necessary advances towards increasing sectoral legal security.

4.4. The Heuristics of the Science of Law

45Heuristics is a characteristic of the science of Law, insofar as one admits that the opinions expressed by jurists will become entangled in the academic debate—in the decision-making debate, or public debate—, in the form of bundles of convergent and divergent juridical opinions. Juridical opinions then provide grounds for legal theses regarding legislation, given that they cannot be narrowed down into a single field of understanding. Thus, the science of Law offers conditions for an exercise of scientific reasoning in order to allow the scientific contradiction to manifest itself in various contexts, before the most diverse audiences.

46In contrast, therefore, from the reassuring image of unanimity and stability of jurists’ technical opinions, it is not unusual to see a landscape interspersed with dissent, debates and divergent opinions. This reveals an important characteristic of the science of Law, namely that, as a practice of discourse—highlighted by the semiotic analysis—, its exercise involves more a rhetorical controversy than epistemic consensus. This is how the faire-persuasif of jurists is always controversial, a target of knowing (savoir) and believing (croire), being adopted as opinion in an instrumental way, in a heuristic-argumentative use in the field of legal reasoning.

  • 57 Perelman, 1999, p. 243.
  • 58 Perelman, Olbrechts-Tyteca, 2019, pp. 20-25.
  • 59 See Ricœur, 1990, pp. 115-132.
  • 60 “Ces nouveaux paradigmes discursifs, le positivisme scientifique et l’esthétique romantique ne reco (...)

47Here, it is clear how much the heuristic-argumentative role of legal discourse must be understood in the measure of its rhetorical use, something that has been stressed since the studies developed by the École de Bruxelles, especially by Chaïm Perelman and Olbrechts Tyteca, in the Treatise on Argumentation (Traité de l'Argumentation, 1958), where they tried to emphasise that the rationality of Law is part of practical rationality,57 while directed at specific audiences.58 Currently, more than ever,59 semiotics has been reinforcing the approximation of cognitive horizons with the tasks developed by rhetoric—something which remained static for many years, for historical reasons—,60 exactly in the sense of enabling the rhetorical uses of discourses to be more deeply understood, something which may be of great importance for the scope of future studies of the semiotics of Law and theory of Law.

  • 61 See Lopes, Beividas, 2007, p. 33.

48Here and there, the legal theses sustained by jurists may be victorious or defeated, depending on the audience-recipients. Legal theses can become hegemonic or non-hegemonic, depending on their assimilation by academic practices or decision-making practices. So, in line with French semiotics, given that persuasion, veridiction and argumentation are integral components of scientific practices,61 the science of Law reveals itself to be a science of argument-for and argument-against.

  • 62 See Greimas, 2014, p. 124.
  • 63 See Lopes, Beividas, 2007, p. 33.

49The analysis undertaken by Greimas (2014), in the essay Le Contrat de véridiction, allows us to say that it is certain that natural sciences are more related to demonstration and Human and Social Sciences are more related to argument, but all scientific practices are taken as practices of scientific enunciation and, therefore, linked to the field of persuasive doing (faire persuasif).62 This is what allows us to state very clearly that persuasive doing (faire persuasif)63 accompanies the science of Law in the various discursive environments in which it manifests itself, through the opinionative activity of jurists.

50This enables us to state that the search for the science of Law is, more than just speak-true. The search is for rhetorical efficacy, capable of generating influence over certain audiences to which it is addressed, as such: i) the judge-audience: aiming to influence judicial decisions; ii) the pedagogical-audience: aiming to influence in teaching and legal formation; iii) the scientific-audience community: aiming to influence the opinion of scientific peers, whether in the local scientific community, or in the world scientific community; iv) the micro-universe-of-discourse audience: aiming to influence sectorial practices, within a specific branch of Law, the example of concrete practices in the consumer area for Consumer Law, concrete practices in the labour area for Labour Law, concrete practices in the civil area for Civil Law.

4.5. The Technical Language of the Science of Law

  • 64 “[…] en l’occurence, le vocabulaire métalinguistique forgé par la théorie et la doctrine […]” (Land (...)

51Legal language is offered as a technical and specialised language, derived from natural language, and which usually characterises the way in which jurists communicate with each other. And, in fact, as Landowski (1988) points out, the use of its own terminology and grammar gives legal language the aspect of autonomous and scientific language.64

  • 65 See Terré, 2015, p. 165.

52However, what must be stressed is the fact that legal language is a universe of discourse, in a constant state of transformation, terminologised by the activity of juridical production (production juridique) of the legislator, shared by a community, the community of jurists. And, as French jurist Terré (2015) pointed out, the community of jurists (communauté des juristes) forms a scientific community (communauté scientifique).65 Considering that legal language offers knowledge endowed with power, it establishes social control as a discursive activity, highly dependent on the speciality of jurists.

  • 66 See Garapon, 1999, p. 61

53The reproduction and multiplication of terms, concepts, institutes and categories of legal knowledge, which are shared and practised as a result of the discursive legitimacy of jurists, give the dynamics of legal language its character of an exclusive space, with restricted access. Added to this fact that legal knowledge, especially, with regard to the practice of Law, is exercised within legal procedures, which build the conditions for the affirmation of a ritual truth, that is, a truth marked by their own specific dynamics of the legal ritual. The latter re-evokes the past of the facts in the present in order to establish the conditions for a trial, as can be inferred from the analysis by French jurist Antoine Garapon (1999).66 Thus, the technical character of legal language reaffirms the difference between common opinion and the opinion of jurists, so as to confirm the place of social power exercised by the scientific community of jurists.

  • 67 See Machado, 2014, p. 375.

54The counterpart of legal knowledge as a practice of knowledge linked to legal meaning is the responsibility for engendering legal security and certainty. It is to this extent that Portuguese jurist Machado (2014) will state that the function of legal language is to increase security and certainty, improving the processes of decidability.67

4.6. The Interdisciplinarity of the Science of Law

  • 68 See Ibid., pp. 371-372.
  • 69 See Kelsen, 1976.
  • 70 See Atienza, 2017, p. 181.

55The interdisciplinarity of the science of Law is associated to the dimension of the method with which it seeks to deal with the object-of-knowledge. The interdisciplinary method adds something to the science of Law that seeks to overcome the traditional criticism of being a science marked by isolation among the other Human and Social Sciences.68 The Austrian theorist, Hans Kelsen, even propagated the concept according to which the modern scientific method for Law implied a radical separation between Law and morals, between Law and politics, between Law and other cognitive horizons, as can be seen in his Reine Rechstslehre (1934).69 In this regard, Spanish jurist Atienza (2017) notes that Legal dogmatics, in the way it is practiced and known, has been exercised in isolation from other social knowledge.70

  • 71 See Klinkenberg, 2021, pp. 13-25.

56Here, once again, semiotics of Law allows a more open view of the practices of legal discourse. And this, insofar as semiotics is interested in valuing a method that challenges the sciences in general, including the science of Law, to dialogue, as stated by Klinkenberg (2012).71 Therefore, interdisciplinarity is identified here as being the main mark of contemporary science of Law, capable of overcoming the cognitive isolation derived from the hegemonic scientific view of the legal positivism. Currently, the jurist’s methodological isolation is seen only as a demonstration of epistemological alienation.

57Interdisciplinarity enables the pluralisation of contacts between cognitive borders, which increase the degree of circulation of information and integration of epistemological horizons. On one hand, this pluralisation brings with it an increase in connections and the widening of our horizons of analysis, making the science of Law more critical, open and plural. On the other hand, this pluralisation increases the risk of mismatches, cognitive insecurity and dilution of monodisciplinary certainties. In a certain sense, legal truth (vérité juridique) is invited to be mixed with other scientific-discursive practices, which add to its interior the quality, the doing and cognitive input that help to dilute the feeling of isolation.

  • 72 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 02.

58In this sense, interdisciplinarity adds dynamism to legal meaning, bringing innovations that are consolidated in the form of new discursive practices. Given that the most traditional discursive practices of the science of Law are characterised by repetition (i), tradition (ii) and authority (iii), interdisciplinarity has the ability to positively modify scientific-legal discourse. It should be emphasised that these three characteristics are not enough to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, which has already been demanding increasing efforts of understanding and adaptation—as Human and Social Sciences warn—, as French semioticist Fontanille (2016) points out.72 Thus, semiotics invites the science of Law to engage in interdisciplinarity as a way of improving its form and method, thus avoiding the risk of not being able to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

  • 73 “It can be observed that law and language are closely linked to social and cultural events within a (...)
  • 74 “Théorie intégrée dans les autres Sciences Sociales, au même titre qu’elles : elle est aussi une Sc (...)

59At this point, it is clear that the function of Law, by overflowing the boundaries of the Nation-States and localist culture of Law, takes on the dimension of a world-culture, pluralised in universes of intercultural interaction,73 showing its commitment to the great challenges of regulating the common planetary future to which all people, cultures and legal traditions are bound. This is the way interdisciplinarity favours the insertion of discourse practices of the science of Law into the midst of the discourse practices of Human and Social Sciences.74 This allows the multi-frontier vocation of the science of Law to be further accentuated.

  • 75 “Positive et négative, idéaliste et réaliste, une théorie du droit peut alors dialoguer avec la soc (...)

60But, it should be noted that this is more than a question concerning the actuality of the method of the science of Law, because what is evident in our times is that this is a condition of survival of every modern scientific practice. Therefore, interdisciplinarity is offered as an invitation (i), a summons (ii) and an offer (iii). Interdisciplinarity invites (i) the understanding of a universe in motion, whose dynamism is inapprehensible by the singularity of knowledge. Interdisciplinarity calls (ii) to the challenge of inter-discursive transit in the construction of content qualified by cognitive exchange. Interdisciplinarity offers (iii) a dialogic method,75 which emphasises cognitive openness as an exercise in overcoming the enclosure of Legal dogmatics discourse. Finally, it must be said that interdisciplinarity will be the only way to allow intercultural, global and trans-national exchange between legal knowledge developed in an inter-systemic way in the different cultures of a world in the process of integration.

4.7. The Technical-cognitive Environment of the Science of Law

61The science of Law is not developed only as vulgar and informal knowledge, but as technical, institutional and ritual knowledge. The technical character of its enunciations, the institutionality of its practices and the rituality of its formulas separate its discursive practices from the possibility of becoming a common knowledge again.

  • 76 See Jackson, 1991, p. 31.
  • 77 “Ce travail est collectif : il faut insister tout autant à ce point. Tous les discours juridiques y (...)

62This allows us to understand that the science of Law is developed in the technical-cognitive atmosphere of the legal system’s environment, as a manifestation of knowledge shared by jurists (currently, on a local-regional scale; in the future, on a global and transnational scale). That is why, for English jurist Jackson (1991), the working logic of what can be called—in Greimasian tradition—semiotic groups (groupes sémiotiques) is identified here.76 This is what makes—in Swiss jurist Pierre Moor’s opinion—legal signification a collective work of communication.77

  • 78 See Terré, 2015, pp. 163-164.

63This is how the function of the science of Law can only be understood in the larger environment of the legal system, that is, in the circulation of knowledge and discursive practices that it engenders. In fact, it creates a technical-cognitive environment that, once it produces the circulation, reproduction and invention of legal theses and legal opinions, it contributes to the improvement of the judicial decisions and legislative production.78

  • 79 See Bittar, 2018a; Bittar, 2018b, pp. 423-455.

64Thus, there is a movement, within the practice of legal discourse, which is the circular character and which unites legislative, decision-making, bureaucratic and scientific discourse, within the legal system. Legal theses and legal opinions of scientific discourse provide reasons, being assimilated by decision-making discourse and legislative discourse, engendering modifications of the whole legal system, understood here as a system of legal signification.79

65This points to the fact that the science of Law is neither endowed with the being-able-to cause-doing (pouvoir-faire-faire) of normative discourse: the juridical production (production juridique), nor with being-able-to cause-doing (pouvoir-faire-faire) of decision-making discourse: the juridical verification (vérification juridique). However, the science of Law is endowed with cognitive-hermeneutic power, which is exercised on the basis of persuasive-doing (faire-persuasif), which engenders conditions for the attainment of its systemic function before the totality of the discursive practices of Law.

  • 80 See Bittar, 2018a, pp. 335-343.
  • 81 See Habermas, 2003, p. 150.
  • 82 See Bittar, 2018, p. 333.

66The science of Law lies between the power to legislate and the power to decide, being a form of cause-knowing (faire-savoir) applied utility that provides arguments for the practice of Law,80 endowed with the power of persuasion, since Law is a system of knowledge and a system of action, as stated by German philosopher Habermas (2003).81 In a previous study, the role of scientific discourse could already be found, among other legal discourse, as a discursive practice of understanding and interpretation, critical of other legal discourse,82 exercised as an argumentative knowledge. This power is exercised by the persuasive influence in the formation of legal opinions based on it.

67And, in this, the science of Law is responsible for a task that produces legal meaning. From a perspective of semiotic analysis, focused on the understanding of the dynamics of legal discourse, it is clear that the science of Law cannot offer the security required by the ideals of legal positivism, which overloaded the tasks of scientific-legal discourse, in order to discharge excessive expectations regarding the role that the rule of Law would play in the formation of the Nation-States.

68Hence, what the science of Law can offer are only reasons, which enables the formulation of laws and justification of legal decisions. The science of Law offers cognitive-argumentative authority—built on the basis of the accumulation of knowledge, the acuity of analysis, the lines of thought and the cognitive debate of opinions—, which is organised in the form of theoretical traditions, which makes it possible for its systemic function to be two-fold: (i) on one hand, the preservation of knowledge; (ii) on the other hand, cognitive innovation. This dual dynamic of the science of Law no longer allows to sustain any attempt to restore the myth of legal truth (vérité juridique).

  • 83 See Machado, 2014, p. 359.
  • 84 “Legal doctrine has two aims: describing and systematising the law” (Van Hoecke, Ost, 1998, p. 197)

69But, this dual dynamic of the science of Law defines it—as Portuguese jurist Machado (2014) acknowledges—as an effort of interpretation (i), construction (ii) and systematisation (iii).83 This is precisely where it converges with what van Hoecke and Ost (1998) say.84 And this is enough to define the science of Law as a discursive practice certifying legal content, which make it a guarantor of circularity of legal meaning.

  • 85 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 08.

70When approached in this way - to respond to the vocation of semiotic analysis and methodological project of sémiotique française—,85 the science of Law reconnects to the concrete challenges of its time. Whether from the perspective of semiotics of the 1960-90s, or from the perspective of current semiotics (2000-2020), the contributions of discourse analysis not only strengthen the reconnection of the practices of meaning as cultural practices, but they also create sufficient critical conditions to disband the mythologies and the liberal and positivist ideologies, which inspired the concept of Legal dogmatics. With interdisciplinary horizons open, the science of Law once again becomes part of Human and Social Sciences, and this connection is what enables scientific inter-discursiveness to correct the defects of the fracture between Law & Society, and the defects of the split between Law & Culture. Somehow, the science of Law becomes a knowledge sufficiently prepared for the great challenges of the 21st century, considering its tasks within the discursive practices in circulation in the legal system.

Conclusions

71Semiotics, as a science of systems of meaning, has a major role to play when it comes to analysing discourses. Scientific discourse cannot be seen as an exception, and currently, in line with the Saussure-Greimas tradition, one can even speak of the emergence of a discursive epistemology. This paper sought to go deeper into this problematization, aiming to create conditions for a greater contribution of epistemological input from semiotics and the semiotics of Law, to the discussions that are specific to the theory of Law. The semiotics of Law can make an important contribution, by clarifying the path of self-understanding of the science of Law.

72To this extent, it can be said that the analysis of discourse collaborates to disband myths and ideologies from the period of the formation of the science of Law, understood as Legal dogmatics. Thus, it is clear that the greatest contribution Semiotics of Law can offer to the theory of Law is none other than identifying what it lacks most: a critical analysis of legal discourse. In this sense, this paper was dedicated to understanding the challenges of the scientific discourse of the science of Law in a new context, for which the categories that guided the formation of modern Science are out-dated and unable to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. The crisis of the project of modernity engendered a crisis of meaning, the science of Law cannot start from the premises proper to modernity in crisis. Normally identified by the nomen of Legal dogmatics, it is studied here amidst the crises of sciences, knowledge and contemporary scientific practices. Usually known for its isolation, especially in the model of Legal Normativism by Hans Kelsen, the science of Law is reinserted, through interdisciplinarity, into an environment of dialogue and dynamic connection with the other Human and Social Sciences.

73Throughout the analysis of this paper, it was possible to ascertain the advantages of replacing the status of legal truth (vérité juridique) with the status of legal veridiction (véridiction juridique), based on the terminological turn operated by Greimasian semiotics. This approach does not only emphasis the discursive nature of Law, reconnecting the relationship between Law & Language, but also operates a second effect, which is to reconnect Law & Society. With this, the shift from the conception from truth (vérité) to the conception of veridiction (véridiction) will allow legal discourse to operate the change from ontological to discursive, and is seen as a social practice, which makes justice a continuous and inter-discursive construction of society around its own challenges of coexistence and regulation.

74And this is because legal discourse is once again considered a practice of discourse, which coexists with social and cultural practices, which allows for the reconnection of interdiscursive relations of reciprocity, as a bridge of access from society to Law, and vice-versa. It is this reciprocity that confers dynamism, actuality and cooling to the self-understanding that the science of Law has of itself. Besides, with this approach, the science of Law is now interpreted as a discursive practice that exercises a faire-persuasif. If all scientific practice implies demonstration and argumentation, as modalities of faire-persuasif, the science of Law presents itself as a technical exercise, due to the nature of technical language, and polemical-rhetorical, in the search for the persuasion of audiences-recipients. To the extent that the science of Law receives a semiotic treatment and analysis, it is now approached as a practice of enunciation of scientific-legal discourse. On one hand, this allows us to demystify the status of legal truth (vérité juridique), which has been clouded by the characteristics and influences of the modern project of science. The Cartesian and positivist characteristics of modern Science are insufficient to meet the current challenges of the science of Law, but it remains stagnant in the formative vision of Legal dogmatics, in the period of the origin of the Nation-States. On the other hand, this allows us to unlock a critical and current understanding of the science of Law, which contributes to understanding of how to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, and also with the dynamic tasks imposed by the circularity of legal meaning in operation within the legal system.

75The main conclusion of this paper is that the science of Law should be seen and interpreted as the science of legal meaning. This already means something different from the previous tradition: it is not the science of legislation, but the science that discusses, interprets, analyses and persuades around the circularity (intra-systemic and extra-systemic) of legal meaning. This approach consolidates the importance of the semiotics of Law for the theory of Law. Thus, the Greimasian semiotic analysis of the science of Law provides a current, critical approach that facilitates the renewal of the understanding of its role, in connection with current challenges. There are many acquisitions and analytical advantages to be gained from the re-orientation of the understanding of the science of Law, based on the Greimasian-semiotic perspective. The dissolution of myths that surround the science of Law, and which affect the culture of Law up to this day, is one of the most important tasks of the critical understanding of Law, and in this, semiotics can make an enormous contribution. For no other reason, within the limits of this paper, we have tried to highlight seven aspects of revision of the concept of the science of Law as Legal dogmatics, in order to open up the perspectives and lead the science of Law to a revision of paradigms and internal orientation.

76Thus, the understanding brought by semiotics does not only point to a mere alteration of terms, as it relativizes, revitalizes and significantly modifies the form of self-understanding of Law, once it has now assumed that Law does not have an ontological status, but corresponds to a practice of discourse. These seven aspects will be pointed out here, considering the internal turn of its concepts: i) objectivity: from a concept of universal, objective and stable knowledge, towards a concept of local, opinionated and unstable knowledge; ii) autonomy: from a concept marked by epistemological isolation, to a concept marked by cognitive complementarity; iii) specialisation: from a concept of knowledge marked by specialisation, to an understanding of knowledge marked by reciprocity between specialisation and generalisation, from the internal relationship between the science of Law and the theory of Law, the latter being assumed as the bridge of connection with the other Human and Social Sciences; iv) heuristics: from a concept founded on unanimity and epistemic consensus, to a heuristic-argumentative concept, marked by polemics, controversy and diversity of technical opinions, where a persuasion plays a decisive role in discursive activities; v) technical language: from a concept marked by technical, cold and objective language, which sees technical security and truth as synonymous, with a view to producing stability, to a concept marked by procedural and ritual guarantees for the exercise of juridical veridiction (véridiction juridique); vi) interdisciplinarity: from a concept marked by methodological isolation, to a concept marked by interdiscursive exchange that places science of Law in the middle of Human and Social Sciences; vii) technical-cognitive environment: from a concept marked by statics based on legislation, to a concept based on systemic circulation of legal meaning, in connection with the transformations of the social macro-environment and socio-cultural transformations.

77These acquisitions already allow us to identify the potential for transformation that semiotics of Law can add to the major tasks of the theory of Law, especially with regard to a re-evaluation of the role of the science of Law, in our times. This understanding allows us to emphasise the rhetorical-discursive turn in the self-understanding of the epistemological status; of the science of Law, of a science capable of responding for the truth (vérité)—, from the ontological perspective—deductively derived from the legal system, to a science that deals with legal meaning, as a practice of knowing-how-to do (savoir-faire), and points out solutions linked to the practical exercise of Law, in the context of social-cultural transformations of each historical period. But, at the same time, these seven aspects analysed do not lead to an epistemological scepticism, which would nullify the role of the science of Law; a change of approach does not imply abandoning the project of searching for an understanding of the functions that the science of Law has to play with the legal system. Thus, these aspects are indicative of the importance, persistence and function of the science of Law, even if its initial characteristics of formation have been altered, adapted and modified in preparation for the reception of new dynamics of meaning, as demands of new frontiers in the 21st century.

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Notes

1 See Bittar, 2018a; 2018b, pp. 423-455; 2018c; 2020, pp. 131-150; 2021; and, Bittar, Pierret, 2020a, pp. 03-23.

2 “On peut donc concevoir une Science qui étudie la vie des signes au sein de la vie sociale […]” (Saussure, 1972, p. 33).

3 “La théorie sémiotique doit se présenter, d´abord, pour ce qu´elle est, c´est-à-dire comme une théorie de la signification” (Greimas, Courtés, 1993, p. 345, Sémiotique).

4 See Landowski, 2014, p. 11.

5 See Greimas, 1981, p. 03.

6 Volli, 2015, p. 13.

7 “[…] c’est dans la recherche portant sur la signification que les sciences humaines peuvent trouver leur dénominateur commun. En effet, si les sciences de la nature s’interrogent pour savoir comment sont l’homme et le monde, les sciences de l’homme se posent, de façon plus ou moins explicite, la question de savoir ce qu’ils signifient l’un et l’autre” (Greimas, 1966, p. 05).

8 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 02.

9 See Badir, 2019, pp. 192-201.

10 See Beividas, 2017.

11 See Greimas, 1976, p. 70.

12 “Et la théorie qu’on en fait débouche sur la signification — actuelle et potentielle — du droit comme sous-système social : elle est donc bien un ensemble de propositions normatives” (Moor, 2010, p. 319).

13 “[…] comme un phénomène social de signification — autrement dit, en tant qu’objet sémiotique —, c’est un élément vital du travail de recherche que de pouvoir, à tout moment, s’assurer que les questions qu’ils se posent — considérées par hypothèse, entre ‘sémioticiens’ comme sémiotiquement pertinentes — sont bien, en même temps, du point de vue des ‘juristes’, des questions juridiquement pertinentes” (Landowski, 1988, p. 126).

14 See Landowski, 2014, p. 11.

15 Vide Greimas, 1976, p. 73.

16 “La position du sémioticien ne peut, dans cette perspective, être qu’une position analytique, à la fois compréhensive et distanciée” (Landowski, 1988, p. 134).

17 “Legal semiotics can be conceived as a bridge between interdisciplinary knowledges integrating cognitive, linguistic and communicative aspects” (Wagner, 2010, p. 78).

18 See Moor, 2010; See Wagner, 2010; See Bittar, 2018.

19 “We have in mind a specific sphere, possessing signs, which are assigned to the enclosed space. Only within such a space is it possible for communicative processes and the creation of new information to be realized” (Lotman, 2005, p. 207).

20 See Greimas, 1976, p. 75.

21 “Legal discourse therefore derives from a specific and particular language. Globally, it nurtures and develops itself from words of different cultures and countries. This fuzzy, evolutive, plural language is a source of progress” (Wagner, 2010, p. 78).

22 See Lipovetsky, 2003; Bauman, 1998.

23 See Bittar, 2020, pp. 131-150.

24 Cf. Greimas, 2014, p. 117.

25 Cf. Ibid., p. 122.

26 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 03.

27 See Guilhaume, 2014, pp. 35-37.

28 See Atienza, 2017, p. 168.

29 Vide Vaquero, 2013, p. 61.

30 See Atienza, 2017, p. 186.

31 “Elle est bel et bien vulnérable” (Rouvière, 2011, p. 537).

32 See Machado, 2014, p. 366.

33 See Terré, 2015, p. 159.

34 See Millard, 2006, p. 19.

35 See Ibid., p. 26.

36 See van Hoecke, Ost, 1998, pp. 201-207.

37 See Bittar, Pierret, 2020 a, pp. 07-08.

38 “D’un côté, une fétichisation de la parole codifiée, une complète servilité et un attachement à la littéralité des mots du Code Civil ; une attitude qui a illuminé une grande partie de la tradition de l’École de l’Éxégèse, au xixᵉ siècle, et qui est généralement devenue caduque. De l’autre, une émancipation de la parole de l’interprète, par rapport à la parole codifiée, qui lui confère un pouvoir d’interprétation autorisant des attitudes créatives par rapport aux mots du Code Civil ; une attitude aujourd’hui amplement acceptée” (Bittar, 2021b, p. 15).

39 “Au sein de ce jeu polémique, la rhétorique de l’autorité s’établit comme une voie stratégique, parcourue par les parties procédurales, afin d’aboutir à une décision judiciaire” (Bittar, 2021b, p. 15).

40 See Zinna, 2009, p. 71.

41 See Greimas, 2014, p. 124.

42 See Bittar, Pierret, 2020a, p. 06.

43 See Greimas, Courtés, 1993, p. 322.

44 See Bittar, 2018, pp. 449-453.

45 See Garapon, Lassègue, 2018, pp. 12-13.

46 See Hage, 2003, pp. 221-243.

47 See Kelsen, 1976.

48 See Greimas, 1976, p. 28.

49 See Greimas, 2014, p. 123.

50 See Machado, 2014, p. 361.

51 See Atienza, 2017, p. 181.

52 See Kelsen, 1976.

53 See Bittar, 2018c, pp. 30-55.

54 “Jurisprudence in recent decades has become increasingly abstract, specialized, and narrow. Analytical jurisprudence, dominated by legal positivists, has traveled the furthest in this direction” (Tamanaha, 2017, p. 02).

55 See Greimas, 1976, p. 76.

56 See Bittar, 2018c, pp. 30-55.

57 Perelman, 1999, p. 243.

58 Perelman, Olbrechts-Tyteca, 2019, pp. 20-25.

59 See Ricœur, 1990, pp. 115-132.

60 “Ces nouveaux paradigmes discursifs, le positivisme scientifique et l’esthétique romantique ne reconnaissent plus le rôle joué par la rhétorique durant plus de deux millénaires” (Fiorin, 2020, p. 02).

61 See Lopes, Beividas, 2007, p. 33.

62 See Greimas, 2014, p. 124.

63 See Lopes, Beividas, 2007, p. 33.

64 “[…] en l’occurence, le vocabulaire métalinguistique forgé par la théorie et la doctrine […]” (Landowski, 1988, p. 130).

65 See Terré, 2015, p. 165.

66 See Garapon, 1999, p. 61

67 See Machado, 2014, p. 375.

68 See Ibid., pp. 371-372.

69 See Kelsen, 1976.

70 See Atienza, 2017, p. 181.

71 See Klinkenberg, 2021, pp. 13-25.

72 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 02.

73 “It can be observed that law and language are closely linked to social and cultural events within a specific period of time and space” (Wagner, 2010, p. 78).

74 “Théorie intégrée dans les autres Sciences Sociales, au même titre qu’elles : elle est aussi une Science Sociale, à la condition qu’elle sache utiliser des instruments conceptuels qui sont aussi ceux des Sciences Sociales” (Moor, 2010, p. 305).

75 “Positive et négative, idéaliste et réaliste, une théorie du droit peut alors dialoguer avec la sociologie et la politologie aussi bien qu’avec la philosophie de la justice, parce qu’elle peut s’y coordonner sans trahir sa spécificité” (Ibid., p. 320).

76 See Jackson, 1991, p. 31.

77 “Ce travail est collectif : il faut insister tout autant à ce point. Tous les discours juridiques y participent, chaque catégorie dans sa fonction propre, mais avec la même méthodologie” (Moor, 2010, p. 311).

78 See Terré, 2015, pp. 163-164.

79 See Bittar, 2018a; Bittar, 2018b, pp. 423-455.

80 See Bittar, 2018a, pp. 335-343.

81 See Habermas, 2003, p. 150.

82 See Bittar, 2018, p. 333.

83 See Machado, 2014, p. 359.

84 “Legal doctrine has two aims: describing and systematising the law” (Van Hoecke, Ost, 1998, p. 197).

85 See Fontanille, 2016, p. 08.

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Eduardo C.B. Bittar, « Semiotics of Law, Science of Law and Legal Meaning: analysis of the status of legal dogmatics »Signata [En ligne], 13 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2022, consulté le 13 juillet 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/signata/4129 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/signata.4129

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Auteur

Eduardo C.B. Bittar

Associate Professor of the Department of Philosophy and General Theory of Law of the Faculty of Law of the University of São Paulo (Brazil - USP). He was President of the National Association for Human Rights (ANDHEP, 2009-2010). He was 2nd Vice-President of the Brazilian Association of Philosophy of Law (ABRAFI – IVR, 2009-2016). He was a Full Member of the UNESCO Chair in Education for Peace, Human Rights, Democracy and Tolerance. He was Visiting Professor at the Università di Bologna (2017), Université Paris-Nanterre (2018) and Collège de France (2019). He is a Full Member of the Research Group Human Rights, Democracy, Politics and Memory of the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo (IEA/ USP). He is a N-2 Researcher at the National Council for the Scientific Research in Brazil (CNPq). Member of the Association for Semiotic Studies (IASS/AIS, 2022). Member of the Association Française de Sémiotique (AFS, 2022).
Email: edubittar[at]uol.com.br

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