Ethics, Morals and International Law in EJIL (Oxford)

EJIL 1999

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Ethics, Morals and
International Law

Alexander Boldizar* and Outi Korhonen**

Abstract

In April 1998 a large interdisciplinary conference on ‘The Turn to Ethics’ took place at Harvard University. The conference investigated such phenomena as the recent establish-ment of courses in ethics in numerous academic institutions, the explosion of literature on the subject, and the use of the rhetoric of ethics in public life at large. Our aim in this article is to bring the international legal discipline into contact with this overall phenomenon and to relate the interdisciplinary discussion reflecting on it to international law. To start, we offer a broad sense of the critical views on ethics that enliven the contemporary discussion. We then apply these views to international legal scholarly trends, revisiting formalist, idealist and what we call strategic stances towards international legal work. In the third part, we illustrate in two case studies how legal opinions of the ICJ and of individual judges can be understood in the light of this discussion. In concluding we suggest what a turn to ethics may and may not mean for the international lawyer and how the various ‘turns’ may be negotiated.

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