It was under the patronage of Alexandre Viala, professor of public law at the UM, that the University of Montpellier had the honour and pleasure of welcoming the Belgian François Ost to award him the title of doctor honoris causa. Portrait of this jurist and philosopher of law who excels in the art of telling the law in order to better think about it.

Yves Cartuyvels, a law researcher at the Facultés universitaires de Saint-Louis-Bruxelles, described his colleague and compatriot François Ost as a ' thinker of the in-between '. A thinker of coherence, a thinker of balance, a thinker of ' links ', this is how he defines himself, to whom the University of Montpellier has just awarded the prestigious title of doctor honoris causa. The recognition of an exceptional academic career that this committed and curious Belgian citizen has built like a bridge. Bridges between law and philosophy, between law and the environment, between law and literature too.

Law and philosophy

It was during the ferment of the 1970s that François Ost, a young man from Brussels, enrolled in law " by family tradition ", he confides in an interview entitled : François Ost, all the horizons of law. The grandson of international law professor Charles de Visscher has a ' secret wish ', however: philosophy. It is to these two disciplines that he will finally dedicate his life, " in a concern to open up the study of law and to think about its relationship to society ", underlines Alexandre Viala, professor of public law at the UM, director of Cercop and sponsor of this honorary graduation. Books such asA quoi sert le droit? Law or the empire of the third party published this year, bear witness to this permanent desire to decontextualise the law in its uses and purposes.

At the beginning of the 1980s, with a thesis on the philosophy of law in hand - which dealt with the mythological drifts of legal rationality - François Ost began his career as a teacher by becoming a professor at the Saint-Louis-Brussels Law Faculty, of which he was dean between 1982 and 1993. He also taught at the European Academy of Legal Theory, which he founded in 1989, as well as in Geneva, at the Collège de France and at the University of Montpellier, where, in close collaboration with Cercop, he set up a university diploma in legal philosophy in 2002.

Law and the environment

At the same time, the jurist continued his research work, which he gave a profoundly interdisciplinary dimension to in the editorial line of the Revue Interdisciplinaires des études juridiques, which he founded in 1978. He developed " a critical view, a view constructed, enriched and sharpened by interdisciplinarity, whether it be through philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, psychoanalysis or ecology ", recalled Carine Jallamion, vice-dean of the Montpellier Faculty of Law, during this solemn ceremony. Ecology is particularly important in François Ost's career. The Centre d'étude du droit de l'écologie, which he founded in 1989, offers the very first training in environmental law in French-speaking Belgium.

" In the 1980s, I was part of a generation that, rightly or wrongly, probably wrongly, considered that the social problem had been solved, that it was taken care of by the welfare state, but that it was necessary to take the measure of another threat, which was the ecological threat," says François Ost in this same interview. He then published Nature outside the law or What future for environmental law?

This ecological awareness is also reflected in his civic commitment. He joined the board of directors of the Greenpeace association, where he sat for about ten years before creating, with friends, the Foundation for Future Generations, of which he is still chairman today. " Very often when you are in action you lack perspective. On the other hand, when you are at university, you sometimes lack a point of anchorage in reality. We can see how the go between academic expertise and civic commitment can be fruitful for both ", he summarises when asked about the dual dimension he gives to his work.

Law and literature

A third pillar supports the architecture of François Ost's thought: the articulation between law and literature. An " unlikely marriage, even a dangerous liaison ", comments the academic who for years illustrated legal cases with examples taken from literature. It was finally in the United States that he found his inspiration in the " Law and Literature " movement, which he brought to the university faculties of St Louis, first in the form of a course, then through numerous publications. Telling the Law, at the Sources of the Legal Imagination, Shakespeare, the comedy of law, Faust or the frontiers of knowledge but also Sade and the law, are just a few examples of his work on the subject.

Theatre is also part of his palette and the play Antigone voilée will give him the opportunity to revisit the question of the veil and the yardstick of this mythological figure of resistance to oppression. More recently, it is in the form of stories that François Ost is continuing his exploration of the links between law and literature with the publication in 2019 of the collection If I Were Told the Law and the New legal tales in 2021. " Telling the law in order to better think about it, considering it as a culture rather than a technique, understanding it from the point of view of the case and not only of the rule, this is my answer to the question "Why tales? " concludes the man with whom the University of Montpellier can now count.