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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(228mm x 152mm x 24mm)
Cambridge University Press
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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US Kirkus Review »
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)
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Author Biography - William Ian Miller
William Ian Miller is the Thomas G. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. He has also taught at Harvard University, Yale University, The University of Chicago, and the Universities of Bergen and Tel Aviv. Professor Miller holds a JD and a PhD in English, both earned at Yale. His various books, including most recently Faking It (2003), The Mystery of Courage (2000) and The Anatomy of Disgust (1997), have enjoyed critical acclaim throughout the world.