The Reality of International Legal Theory – Reality in International Legal Theory


ESIL IGITLP European Conference Series on the Theory and Philosophy of International Law

Second ECTPIL and iCourts Conference, to be held 19–20 May 2022 at the University of Copenhagen


Reality and realism are two important topics in 21st century theoretical thought about international law. Theory must, one argument goes, remain connected to the reality of the law – the real law – in order to be relevant to the practices and arguments of lawyers. Various shades of (international) legal realist argument vie with approaches foregrounding empirical aspects and methods to find out about the law and how it is ‘lived’. Both acceptance by peers as well as research funding is dependent on fulfilling the requirement of ‘interdisciplinarity’, which often focuses heavily on the socio-empirical over normative aspects of law. The philosophy of legal science or theory of legal scholarship (Rechtswissenschaftstheorie) has a lot to say about such arguments and requirements, both in its deconstructive and in its constructive modes. Another way of thinking about ‘reality’ is the way in which international legal theoretical arguments, approaches, schools or theorems are actually used – both by scholars and practitioners. How is theory used and abused, how is it practised?

Both sets of issues concern the way in which ‘theory’ deals with ‘reality’ in one way or another. This conference is an open forum to analyse this relationship, to expose fault-lines and to explore trajectories. The Second ECTPIL and iCourts Conference will draw on these and other under-researched questions.

The Conference is organised by the TEMPTATION research project at iCourts, the Centre of Excellence for International Courts at the University of Copenhagen in conjunction with the European Society of International Law’s Interest Group on International Legal Theory and Philosophy. It is convened by Jakob v.H. Holtermann (iCourts), Jörg Kammerhofer (University of Freiburg) and Panos Merkouris (University of Groningen, IGILTP).

Confirmed contributions include a key-note speech by Mikael Madsen (iCourts) and presentations by Arthur Dyevre (KU Leuven), Andreas Føllesdal (PluriCourts), Brad Roth (Wayne State), Urska Sadl (EUI) and Nora Stappert (Leeds).



  • Please submit an abstract of no more than 500 words in a text file (.docx, .odt etc. – not .pdf) to Only one abstract per author or team of co-authors will be considered.
  • In addition to the abstract, please include the following information for all co-authors:
    • name and affiliation;
    • contact details, including email address and phone number;
    • CV, including a list of relevant publications.
  • We are looking for a wide range of voices and takes on this topic from all corners of international legal scholarship and practice – both established and early career scholars, practitioners and ‘stakeholders’ – representing a wide range of views, including critical and mainstream, ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’. In selecting the speakers, we will aim to secure a balance of views, backgrounds and approaches.
  • The deadline for the submission of abstracts is Monday, 14 February 2022. The selection committee endeavours to inform applicants of its decision on Monday, 28 February 2022. Successful applicants are expected to submit a paper of 3,000–5,000 words no later than Tuesday, 19 April 2022 and will be expected to limit their presentation to 20 minutes.
  • The organisers will be able to at least partially cover speakers’ travel and accommodation costs.

Call for papers: The Reality of International Legal Theory – Reality in International Legal Theory (pdf)





Please register on this link no later than May 17, 12:00.

To watch the event online, please register here for the Zoom link.


If you have any questions or concerns, send these to