AHRENS Heinrich — a philosopher of law, b. July 14, 1808 in Kniestedt near Salzgitter (Hannover), d. August 2, 1874 in Salzgitter.
He studied law in Göttingen. There in 1830 he completed his habilitation and thereafter became a professor of law and the political sciences. He lectured in Brussels, Graz and Leipzig. He studied the theory of public and international law, relations between the state and society, and the history and development of law beginning with the history of law among the Romans and Greeks. In his philosophical studies on law and the state, he paid particular attention to ethical inference and the concept of law, as well as the relation of law to the ideas of good and life.
His major works are the following: Cours de droit naturel ou de philosophie du droit (P 1838–1840, L 18926); Die Philosophie des Rechts und des Staates I. Die Rechtsphilosophie oder das Naturrecht auf philosophisch-anthropologischer Grundlage II. Die organische Staatslehre auf philosophisch-antropologischer Grundlage (W 1850–1852); Juristische Encyklopädie (W 1855–1856; Encyklopedia Prawa, Ptb 1862).
He was inspired by K. C. F. Krause's philosophy of law, and developed the idea of treating law autonomously. According to Ahrens, law in analytical terms is an innate idea of the human reason and its cause is contained in the infinity and conditionings of the human essence, while in synthetic terms it is a cosmic realization of Divine justice. He saw the need to provide a foundation for the philosophy of law in ethics. He regarded life itself as the source of a true ethical science of law. He conceived life as the order of laws established by God. The reason must understand this order, and moral-legal freedom must bring this order about. He saw a strict connection between law and morality. Morality includes all legal duties and makes them moral obligations, while law cannot command anything immoral. Natural law as a law of the reason is an organic principle of social phenomena, and the state is one of the forms of natural law's realization. Ahrens emphasized that law is the norm of behavior toward others and oneself, hence although the will (or freedom) is the subjective power that realizes law, the foundation of law is relations among people. These relations must first be investigated to establish law. The aim of law concerns the perfecting of man and society, and the content of law is the good realized in life, and when this is applied to man it is his happiness.
A. Chauffard, Essai critique sur les doctrines philosophiques, sociales et religieuses de Heinrich Ahrens, P 1880; H. Weizel, NDB I 113; E. di Carlo, EP I 113; K. Nasilowski, EK I 199.