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Eye for an Eye

$26.00 USD

  • Date Published: January 2006
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9780511134128

$ 26.00 USD
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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Daring and original thesis
    • The only book of its kind
    • Of interest to academic as well as general audiences
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Getting even, as the biblical precept implies, is the essence of justice, according to this engaging essay. It's a simple idea, but Miller … finds a world of social complexity in humanity's efforts to get the accounting right. Miller offers a discursive, erudite, idiosyncratic but illuminating reappraisal of our urge to settle scores.' Publisher's Weekly

    'Miller gives the Hebrew scriptures an interesting going-over looking for examples, then ranges back to their juridical origins in the legal codes of Babylon and Sumer. He's at his most passionate on the literature of Icelandic sagas, which is one of his great academic specialties … Miller is at his best when he digresses most completely into literary and film criticism. His chapters on Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' and Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven' are about as good as you can get.' Los Angeles Times

    'Clearly, Miller aims to provoke when he claims our ancestors had a better idea about how to repay a wrong than we do now … Though at points Miller seems earnest in his call for a return to blood-thirstier times, he also argues-quite sensibly - that the American system of criminal justice can be overly detached from the wrongs it intends to right.' Corporate Counsel

    'William Ian Miller has written a marvellous book that I found absolutely riveting. Eye for an Eye succeeds brilliantly in demonstrating that the lex talionis was often meant and taken literally; that it still plays a powerful, if submerged, role in our thinking about revenge and justice today; and that, in practice, it was not nearly as brutal or unfair as other, putatively more civilized ways of dealing with the need for revenge. The book is superbly written and often hilariously funny. I loved it.' Wendy Doniger, University of Chicago

    'In Eye for an Eye William Ian Miller provides a full-bodied defense of retributive justice, of just desserts, and of an explicitly arithmetic approach to right and wrong, that counts up the eyes, limbs, bodies, and lives on our various social fields of battle, and seeks to right the scales. Miller shows just how pervasive this drive to account for our rights and wrongs has been in legal history, how deeply we continue to feel it, and how limply inadequate are our modern liberal and utilitarian understandings of justice that try so aggressively to purge this elemental instinct from our law and laws. Provocative, erudite, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny - it is also, often, convincing. Where it is not, it is nevertheless successful: Miller tells his stories in such a way as to make palpable just how much we have sacrificed, as we've turned our collective backs on the age-old project of seeking the precise correction of commensurate wrongs.' Robin West, Georgetown Law Center

    '… this is a superb book. The reading is easy, even entertaining, and the arguments might just change the way you think of justice, debt, payment and satisfaction. Miller resoundingly demonstrates that legal history can be exciting.' The Cambridge Law Journal

    'This is a refreshing and thought-provoking book … a superb book … Miller resoundingly demonstrates that legal history can be exciting.' The Cambridge Law Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2006
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9780511134128
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    Preface: a theory of justice?
    1. Introductory themes: images of evenness
    2. The Talion
    3. The Talionic mint: funny money
    4. The proper price of property in an eye
    5. Teaching a lesson: pain and poetic justice
    6. A pound of flesh
    7. Remember me: mnemonics, debts (of blood), and the making of a person
    8. Dismemberment and price lists
    9. Of hands, hospitality, personal space and holiness
    10. Satisfaction not guaranteed
    11. Comparing values and the ranking game
    12. Filthy lucre and holy dollars

  • Author

    William Ian Miller, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    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.

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