Tuesday, May 18, 2021

925: The Law is the Law........

 If there is one pattern that is discovered not only by homo sapiens but by almost any organism on this earth, then it is causality: IF < event > THEN < consequence >


The famous Venus clay tablet of Ammisaduqa ( ca. 900 BC.), the picture behind me, tells you that IF Venus is in position x, THEN this or that will happen.


This notion of causality dominates our whole existence, from training your dog to the astronomic observations of the Babylonians.


As I mentioned in the previous lecture, we must not make the mistake of assuming that people in the past were less intelligent than we are.


They did the same things we still do today. Take for instance the law. In the contemporary classification of scientific knowledge, no greater step seems to be conceivable than of mathematics and astronomy to legal science. 


Where mathematics is exactly and unambiguous, legal science has the reputation of being inexact and ambiguous. 


But nothing less true in early antiquity. There is no other early antique discipline where the rules have been so clearly formulated as in the Mesopotamic Law. 


The most important difference is that the early antique mathematics is numerical and quantitative, while legal science is verbal and qualitative. 


The oldest known legal text with legal rules dates from the twenty-first century BC. This means, that it is older than Babylonian astronomy, but here we already see the use of causality. 


It is attributed to King Ur-Nammu from UR (2112–2095 BC). With this prince, the last major flowering period of the Sumerians starts, which would last for a century. 


Ur-Nammu was responsible for the construction of temples, city walls, and the construction of an extensive channel system for agriculture. 


Ur-Nammu's laws contain 57 legal rules of which about forty have been found on clay tablets. 


For example, 1) If a man commits a murder, the man must be killed. 


2) If a man steals something, the man must be killed. 


3) If a man kidnaps someone, the man must be captured and pay 15 shekel silver. 


4) If a slave marries a free person, then she must give the firstborn to her owner. 


5) If a man violates the rights of another and deflowers the virgin woman of a young man, then they have to kill that man.


These laws were probably the description of what actually was common practice. There is little room for interpretation. An eye for an eye... lex talionis as the Romans later would call it, the law of retribution.


Various ideas regarding the origins of lex talionis exist, but a common one is that it developed as early civilizations grew 


and a less well-established system for retribution of wrongs, feuds and vendettas, threatened the social fabric. 


Despite having been replaced with newer modes of legal theory, lex talionis systems served a critical purpose in the development of social systems, 


for example the establishment of a body whose purpose was to enact the retaliation and ensure that this was the only punishment. This body was the state in one of its earliest forms.


And thus homo sapiens learned to live in cities and states....


Thank you for your attention again....



MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Rens Bod: "Een Wereld vol Patronen".  2019

The Discussion

[13:19] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): Thank you Herman

[13:19]  Carma   (carma.caerndow) is online.

[13:20] herman Bergson: As you see, thousands of years ago people already organized their police force

[13:21] CB Axel: But did they have courts. Who decided if someone actually committed a crime?

[13:22] herman Bergson: If they had such explicite laws, there has been some enforcer, I'd say

[13:22] herman Bergson: Besides, more famous is Hammurabi, a three centuries later

[13:23] herman Bergson: He erected huge columns on which his 257 laws were in-scripted....

[13:23] herman Bergson: these stones were placed in public places, sothat nobody could say "I didn't know this or that was forbidden or illegal"

[13:24] CB Axel: Unless they couldn't read. :)

[13:24] herman Bergson: That is indeed a correct observation CB :-)

[13:24] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): he was the only one who decided to write those laws?

[13:24] oola Neruda: when I was in Africa... in a vehicle... coming down the "road" toward us was a "mob" and they were very unhappy.... the man with us who could translate said they said that someone...i don't know whom... was a witch and they were on their way to that house to take matters into their own hands.... leading them was a man blowing the horn of some animal.... when you say.... who enforces early law.... that is a sort of example

[13:24] Dien (djdien.bailey) is offline.

[13:25] oola Neruda: if the "boss" does not.... then whom...?

[13:25] herman Bergson: Hammurabi may have had advisers, I guess, Beertje

[13:26] CB Axel: Unfortunately, in the US who is the boss is disputed.

[13:26] herman Bergson: But I assume that there must have existed an enforcing institution in tose days

[13:26] oola Neruda: nods

[13:26] CB Axel: States have their own laws. Religions have their own laws.

[13:26] oola Neruda: villages have their own law

[13:27] herman Bergson: I thought of that too CB while preparing this lecture...

[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): even households have their own law

[13:27] herman Bergson: That special role of the Law in the US

[13:27] Jane Fossett: There must be a common set of ethiics that underliie public and personal 'laws'

[13:28] CB Axel: Rich people aren't held to the same legal standards as less wealthy people.

[13:28] herman Bergson: I guess that killing and stealing are rejected in all societies indeed, Jane

[13:28] Jane Fossett: no you can kill people who commit crimes

[13:29] oola Neruda: then we get despots or people like Hitler... who break it down to their... "law"

[13:29] herman Bergson: The way we deal with legal matters is completely different from those day of 2100 BC

[13:29] oola Neruda: or trump

[13:29] herman Bergson: But in a number of cases we still call for retribution....

[13:30] oola Neruda: "lock him up!"

[13:30] CB Axel: And that's the problem. Laws are only used for punishment. There's no attempt to rehabilitate people.

[13:30] herman Bergson: the death penalty is still such an example

[13:31] oola Neruda: crucify him

[13:32] herman Bergson: these days there is more attention for changing the behavior of the criminal instead of using pure retaliation

[13:32] CB Axel: Not in the US.

[13:33] oola Neruda: agree, CB

[13:33] herman Bergson: In the Netherlands there is

[13:33] CB Axel: Except, of course, for rich white men who "have learned their lesson."

[13:33] Jane Fossett: it vacillates in US.

[13:33] CB Axel: Yes. I Sweden, too, Herman.

[13:33] CB Axel: I wish Bejiita was here.

[13:33] oola Neruda: rich white lawbreakers go to a pseudo country club

[13:34] oola Neruda: in the US

[13:34] herman Bergson: It's a well known phenomenon oola :-)

[13:34] CB Axel: The prison system in Sweden, I've heard, is all about rehabilitation.

[13:34] Jane Fossett: if you break a 'moral law' why is there retribution

[13:35] herman Bergson: there isn't, I'd say

[13:35] oola Neruda: depends on your income... can you hire a lawyer

[13:35] herman Bergson: It is what banks say.....

[13:35] Jane Fossett: we have a great many moral/ legal conventions

[13:35] herman Bergson: What we do is not illegal, Yet what they do is sometimes highly questionable from amoral perspecive

[13:36] Jane Fossett: abortion, suicide, assisted death

[13:36] oola Neruda: saying the vote is fake

[13:36] Jane Fossett: :-)

[13:37] oola Neruda: MONEY

[13:37] CB Axel: Yes, Jane. As far as I'm concerned those issues are between a person and their god.

[13:37] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): how can you punish one who committed suicide?

[13:37] oola Neruda: I agree with you both

[13:38] Jane Fossett: suicide was in the original laws of the US

[13:38] CB Axel: Beertje, don't allow them to be buried in a church yard?

[13:38] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): lol, is that a punishment?

[13:38] Jane Fossett: it was I assume a crime against society

[13:38] CB Axel: It is for the religious.

[13:38] oola Neruda: for some...it is

[13:39] oola Neruda: very afraid of not being in the church yard

[13:39] herman Bergson: Our present law system isn't based only on retribution anymore

[13:39] CB Axel: I don't understand how in this day and age people can cling so tightly to a religion.

[13:40] oola Neruda: there are MANY....

[13:40] oola Neruda: MANY

[13:41] herman Bergson: Punishment can exisit  in a form of compensation (for a loss e.g.) or in the form of replacement (repair the destroyed goods) and of course still in the form of retribution ( e.g. imprisonment)

[13:41] oola Neruda: and banishment... still in some countries... like Africa

[13:41] herman Bergson: I wonder about that too, CB ^_^

[13:42] Jane Fossett: there's a clear distinction between 'tort' and 'criminal' law

[13:42] herman Bergson: banishment is retribution

[13:43] oola Neruda: Carrivaggio was banished and it was pure Hell for him

[13:43] herman Bergson: and so was it intended to be, I guess, oola

[13:43] oola Neruda: nods

[13:43] herman Bergson: you ruin my life, then I ruin your life

[13:44] Jane Fossett: definition of 'ruin' varies

[13:44] oola Neruda: Pope put a price on his head.... literally...bring me his head

[13:45] oola Neruda: his self portraits from that period show you what a hell it was for him

[13:45] Jane Fossett: :-)

[13:46] herman Bergson: As you see, our legal science and thinking about justice has come a long way, from direct retribution thinking to the complex situation of today

[13:47] herman Bergson: and all this based on our ability to think in terms of IF...THEN,....

[13:48] herman Bergson: So, if I say, thank you all again for your participation.....

[13:48] herman Bergson: THEN you know next thing he says is

[13:48] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ....^_^

[13:48] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): :))

[13:48] Jane Fossett: :-)

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