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Friday, April 18, 2014

Emanuele Coccia on Law and Religion

Dear All,

next week's classes will be devoted to a complex and  incredibly fascinating topic: Law and Religion.

Here are two brief introductions to the seminars:

1. The Poetics of the Law in Ancient Judaism
The Tanakh (the jewish “Bible”) is not just a religious book : it is a collection of law books which includes narratives and literary texts. Alexandrine Judaism developed a very detailed theory on the reason why the Law has not to limit itself to using imperative forms and has to adopt a larger variety of rhetoric and literary forms. What is a form of Law, which speaks the language of Literature? 
 2. Law and Biography : from the Gospels to Facebook
The inclusion of the four Gospels in the New Testament (the juridical Appendix to the Tanakh –the Old Testament) represents a sort of revolution in the history of Western normative forms : for the first time four biography were at the center of a Law Book. Which kind of normativity is embodied in a biography ?
 For what concerns the readings, you just got an email with a list of them.
 Prof. Coccia's CV:
Emanuele Coccia is Associate Professor in Social Sciences at the Ecole de Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. His research focuses on the history of christian normativity and on aesthetics. Among his publications are : La trasparenza delle imagine. Averroè e l'averroismo, Milano 2005 (Spanish transl. 2008), Angeli. Ebraismo Cristianesimo Islam, Milano 2009 (with G. Agamben), La vie sensible, Paris 2011 (portuguese transl. 2010, Spanish transl. 2011, Italian transl 2011,  Romanian transl. 2011 ; English transl. forthcoming), and Le bien dans les choses, Paris 2013 (Italian transl. 2014, Portuguese, German and Spanish transl. forthcoming).


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  2. As far as Law and religion are concerned, it is impossible leave out the consideration that compares the Christianity and the Islamic religion. While the first religion, in order to penetrate into society, had to contend with a consolidated law created by the structures of the Roman Empire, the Islamic religion born among the Bedouin population of the Arabian Desert, where the religious leader, Muhammad, was not simply a promoter of a religious belief, but also as a military leader and a the leader of the society. Islamism sprouts in a country without institutions or rules. In some Muslim-majority countries, the Universal Declaration of human rights is not recognized, as it considered linked to a Western concept of the human being, while in Islamic context man is considered subject to divine law. For this Sudan, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia have developed their own Islamic Declaration of human rights. In Islam, the right should be understood as the right of the Community (Umma), not of the person. Islam does not know the word "person"; its synonym is fard (individual). The fard is integral part and employee of the great Islamic society (Umma). In the Umma he has rights and duties. If you leave the religion to atheism or you convert to another religion, you lose all rights. Consequently you are punishable by death. Therefore, the source of rights in Muslim-majority countries is the Islamic community and, ultimately, it is the guarantor of the rights and duties that the Koran and Islamic law, šarīʿa, recognizes, allows and denies.

  3. Plutarch “Parallel Lifes"
    Plutarch is the last of the biggest authors in the Greek Literature, not only for the autonomous value of his works, but especially for the influence he had exercised on the eminent readers of the following periods,such as Shakespeare,Montaigne,who interpreted the antique world through the intermediation of Plutarch. The structure of "Parallel Lifes" wants that the biographies representing the core of the work are collected two by two;generally there is an eminent Greek character together with a Roman one, and each couple is the subject of a comparative valuation led according to ethical criteria. Plutarch,acting out of an educational aim,offers exemplary biographies of men who embody certain moral principles,beyond the constraints of history.Identifying the constants of human action in the infinite variety of events and exigent circumstances,recognizing in men of different background the same moral and psychological force, Plutarch refers the relationship of all these experiences to a single model of humanity in which everyone can identify. The "Parallel Lifes" talks about great men, but choosing who are worthy of being considered great, Plutarch adopts a basic criteria: in the work does not appear a single artist,philosopher or poet who wasn't also a man of action.The virtue, according to Plutarch,is firstly political virtue and the chosen characters essentially offer a moral model."Parallel Lifes" are not history but biography and the biography has a pedagogical intent. Plutarch' heroes possess a strong individuality;their passion, vices and virtues stand like a giant. Many assumptions about the characters belong to the myth; for this reason they are difficult to dismantle. Essential components of the biographer are "ethos", the personality, and " Pracseis", the actions. They are unlike to be separated one from the other: Ethos is relevant to the biographer insofar it manifests itself concretely in the actions: these last ones are significant because are judged capable of revealing the ethos. The biggest difference compared to the historiography is the finality of the historical work: not the investigation of causes but the delineation of the ethos of the characters in their bright or disturbing aspects. Plutarch is fully aware of its intent: do not write back to facts already disclosed by others, but focus attention on what is actually useful in order to highlight the ethical framework of a character. So, for example, memorable sayings or anecdotes could be much more effective than an account of a battle.

  4. Myths are stories and allegories , they are used to explain, with metaphors, complex and high concepts as ethics, theology and cosmology. In the Bible we find literary genres as diverse as the historical epic, the prophetic and apocalypticas , well as various mythological tales. Every religion, indeed, has own mythology that is a set of narratives almost always oral, that highlights characters and situations outside of the time in a historical sense. The myth is a sacred narrative that is considered the truths of faith, and it is given a religious and spiritual significance, but it does not mean that the story is true or false. For example, the Great Flood was a myth that belongs to the collective memory, to something familiar and elementary. The water, like a symbol of purification, became a base of religious rite.

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  6. There was a time in which humans used to believe in magic and for this reason, the explanation of rules and laws was done thanks to the Myth.
    Thanks to the myth communities could explain in a form easy to understand for everyone the existence of seasons and of human lives, or why it is wrong to be arrogant. Thanks to the myth sins were condemned, we can think to Aracne that was turned into a spider for her arrogant behavior or to Icaro that died because he flied to close to the Sun. To avoid this kind of faith Greeks condemned pride.
    Myths can simplify history and political conflicts, for example the Myth of Antigone shows a conflict between natural law and the positive law.
    Many myths point out the importance of obey to Gods, for example Aiace of Locride drowned because he had angered Poseidon saying that he had won at Troy without the help of the gods.
    Myths helped people to understand the world in which they lived, for example Japanese believed that the jellyfish, volcanoes and all the things that were dangerous for them existed because at the time of the wedding of the gods Izanami and Izanagi the woman (Izanami) proposed to the man and because of this lack of respect of the traditions, theirs children were monsters, they had to repeat the marriage proposal, this time the man proposed to the woman and she gave birth to the Japanese islands. Also today writers explain the world around us through stories that have a lot in common with the myths of antiquity. For example Tolkien in his "Lord of the Rings" shows a conflict between Western men and men of the East who has specific meaning in the context of the Cold War.