A deep examination of the talionic code-"an eye for an eye, a tooth
for a tooth, measure for measure"-and its evolution and
permutations as a foundation of the justice applied in modern
societies. Apart from being the perfect gift for Supreme Court
nominees with no bench experience, Miller's "meditation" on the
talionic code is a rare entertainment. In an ambitious milieu of
intellectual focus incorporating word origins, tantalizing glimpses
of religious paradoxes and far-reaching historical perspectives
wherein Norse sagas buttress Hebrew philosophy, the author
(Law/Univ. of Michigan Law School; Faking It, 2003, etc.) explains
how the ancients got down to evaluating offenses against honor and
meting out repayment in kind long before the intricate labyrinth of
a tort court. He also notes that anti-talionic arguments were
regularly advanced and tolerated long before Jesus arrived to
announce the merits of turning the other cheek. He is at his most
engaging in pointing out how the "poetry and poetics of revenge"
have become the aesthetics of the most popular and remembered
myths. As in the author's previous single-subject forays into human
motivation (courage, humiliation, disgust), he sometimes chases the
semantic rabbit down a seemingly bottomless hole, but his lurking
suggestion that our litigious society has lost something by
refining the talion to the point where money now routinely
represents honor is intriguing. Absorbing discourse on a
surprisingly evasive fundament. (Kirkus Reviews)
This book is a historical and philosophical meditation on paying
back and buying back, that is, it is about retaliation and
redemption. It takes the law of the talion - eye for an eye, tooth
for a tooth - seriously. In its biblical formulation that law
states the value of my eye in terms of your eye, the value of your
teeth in terms of my teeth. Eyes and teeth become units of
valuation. But the talion doesn't stop there. It seems to demand
that eyes, teeth, and lives are also to provide the means of
payment. Bodies and body parts, it seems, have a just claim to
being not just money, but the first and precisest of money
substances. In its highly original way, the book offers a theory of
justice, not an airy theory though. It is about getting even in a
toughminded, unsentimental, but respectful way. And finds that much
of what we take to be justice, honor, and respect for persons
requires, at its core, measuring and measuring up.
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