International Law, Music and Hope

Professor Pierre d'Argent gave conclusive remarks on International Law when his introductory course of International Law approached to ending. He mentioned his mentor, Prof. Joe Verhoeven, who once compared law school and music school. 


The only thing I tried to do through this course was to introduce you to the language and the grammar of international law. International law is a professional language of justification. In order to engage in the argumentative practice of international law, you need to be familiar with its concepts and fundamental rules, and see how they fit together as a normative system.

Professor Joe Verhoeven, who taught me my first classes of international law and who was my mentor, Professor Joe Verhoeven used to compare law school education with music school education: in order to play music at an advanced level, you need to be able to read music. And for that, you need to learn solfeggio. It is a bit painful from time to time, but that is the only way if you want to be a musician and avoid cacophony. Law is not much different and in order to make a legal argument sound good and persuasive, it has to be phrased nicely into the professional language that law is and it has to fit adequately into the system that the rules and the norms make together.

However, and even if you cannot be a good lawyer without mastering the technique, the solfeggio of law, well law, and international law in particular, is not only a technique. Law is also a hope. It is the hope that common ground and common good can be found, forged and expressed between human beings and between nations, despite their differences.

It is the hope that common language can be found to mediate between us. The hope that, guided by reason and aware of the fragility of life, human beings are capable of valuing what brings them together, rather than what keeps them apart. 

However, this hope, we all know it, this hope is not self-fulfilling. It will only come true if we have the strength, and sometimes also the courage, to make it heard, and to oppose cynicism that too often and too easily puts us asleep. So, I urge you to keep the hope alive.