In the Beginning Was the Word: Paradigms of Language and Normativity in Law, Philosophy, and Theology

Mountbatten Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 5, 2001

34 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2006  

Jonathan Yovel

NYU School of Law - Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice; University of Haifa - Faculty of Law; Yale Law School

Abstract

This essay attempts to delineate, trace, and reconstruct the main features of three interacting language paradigms significant in legal discourse, practice and theory: rhetoric, representationalism, and performativity. The examples discussed are narratives of institutionalized and customary law that share linguistic attributes with literary forms and theological puzzles. Law, as a complex linguistic activity, is thus placed in a long tradition of linguistic theory ranging from Plato and Protagoras to Wittgenstein, Austin and the linguistic turn (Sapir-Whorf); as well as supernatural uses of law, exercised both by divine fiat and lesser practices - namely the linguistic aspects of magic - especially in determining rights and settling disputes.

Keywords: legal language, rhetoric, performativity, theology, representationalism, linguistic turn and law, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, law and magic

Suggested Citation

Yovel, Jonathan, In the Beginning Was the Word: Paradigms of Language and Normativity in Law, Philosophy, and Theology. Mountbatten Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 5, 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=951371

Jonathan Yovel (Contact Author)

NYU School of Law - Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice ( email )

New York
United States

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905
Israel

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203.435.5911 (Phone)

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