Judges of the European Court of Human Rights as dialecticians: rhetorical context and Plato’s theory of naming

Available in Russian

Author: Anita Soboleva

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2017-3-34-46

Keywords: author and audience of a legal text; international courts and judges; judicial decisions; legal rhetoric; Plato; Plato’s theory of naming


The parts of modern European constitutions and international conventions that proclaim fundamental rights, are similar in their wording and content. The rights to liberty and security of person, to private and family life, to protection from arbitrary detention and deprivation of liberty, to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, to access to court and fair trial are formulated in seemingly the same way. The legitimate aims, justifying the restrictions of some rights, are also standard and usually include national security and territorial integrity, public order, public health, public morals and protection of others. At the same time, the judges of national courts of the Council of Europe member states and international judges may seemingly apply the same texts to seemingly the same situations differently and arrive to opposite results. Can we argue that the national judges limit themselves with the interpretation of existing rules while the international judges dare to create the new rules? In the present article this problem is considered as a classical rhetorical trichotomy of “author–text–reader”, where the analysis is centered around the questions of whether we can consider the judges as authors or as readers, how judges construct their audience, and whether the text of the judicial decision should be regarded as an interpretation or as an original text, from which new rules may originate and which has its own plot and intent. Do international judges “write” rather than “read” the text of the European Convention on human rights and fundamental freedoms? In trying to find the answers, the author of the article refers to Plato’s theory of naming, described in “Cratylus”, and suggests to think about the role of judges as name-givers and name-overseers, that is dialecticians.

About the author: Anita Soboleva – Candidate of Philological Sciences, LL.M., Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics; Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Soboleva A. (2017) Sud’i Evropeyskogo Suda po pravam cheloveka kak “muzhi-dialektiki”: ritoricheskiy kontekst i platonovskaya teoriya imeno­vaniya [Judges of the European Court of Human Rights as dialecticians: rhetorical context and Plato’s theory of naming]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, no.3, pp.34–46. (In Russian).


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