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Eye for an Eye by William Ian Miller

Eye for an Eye (original 2006; edition 2005)

by William Ian Miller

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Title:Eye for an Eye
Authors:William Ian Miller
Info:Cambridge University Press (2005), Hardcover, 278 pages
Collections:Your library

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Eye for an Eye by William Ian Miller (2006)



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This was a fascinating book presenting a a far different, and more interesting, take on the meaning of justice than most people would form for themselves. Writing about various ages, from Mesopotamia to honour societies, from ancient practices to the formation of the modern court system, Miller presents modern justice as merely a codification of the concept of 'an eye for an eye'.

Referencing sources both modern and ancient, including the Bible, the Torah, Shakespeare and Harvard Law Reviews, Miller makes his point thoroughly and often. My main gripe with this book (and the one thing that prevented me from completing it) is that it tended to become quite repetitive - I feel it could have been quite a bit shorter. Having said that, the author makes some good points and this book is worth reading. ( )
  seldombites | Feb 15, 2012 |
  leeinaustin | Apr 18, 2010 |
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And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
---Exodus 21.23-25
For Joseph Weiler: soldier, teacher, friend
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This book is, in its peculiar way, a theory of justice, or more properly an antitheory of justice.
We are used to seeing Justice figured as a strong woman, bearing a sword, sometimes crowned with sprigs of a plant - laurel or grain stalks - blindfolded perhaps, and surely bearing scales.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521856809, Hardcover)

Analyzing the law of the talion--an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth--literally, William Ian Miller presents an original meditation on the concept of "pay back". Miller's unique theory of justice offers redemption via retaliation. It espouses the view that revenge is a highly structured phenomenon that requires a deep commitment to balance in order to get even in a strict but fair manner. As a result, we find that much of what is assumed to be justice, honor and respect is just a way of providing a means of balancing or measuring valuations. Moreover, according to its biblical roots, the law of the talion implies that the value of an eye can only be matched with another eye, suggesting that body parts are to be considered units of valuation. Pursuing this further, the talion seems to require such parts as a preferred means of payment. Thus body parts have a justified claim not only as money, but as the most valued type of payment as well--by uniquely fulfilling the most demanding (and thus most honorable) means of compensation. Applying this concept to the real world, Miller argues that Shylock's pound of flesh wager can be justified circumstantially in The Merchant of Venice and that blood oaths effectively ensure the most lasting bonds of trust over time. He also analyzes other societies and cultures, comparing the ancient and seemingly more primitive with their modern counterparts, by gauging the role of the talion, as a means of maintaining honor within them. Sadly, the ancient and more primitive seem to have functioned more righteously, for the most part, because the execution of violent retaliation was tightly controlled by the talion and accordingly limited its excesses. William Ian Miller is the Thomas G. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. He has also taught at Harvard, Yale, Chicago, and the Universities of Bergen and of Tel Aviv. The recipient of a J.D. and a Ph.D. in English, both from Yale, Professor Miller has written other books including Faking It CUP (2003), The Mystery of Courage (2000) and The Anatomy of Disgust (1967).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:40 -0400)

"This book is a historical and philosophical meditation on paying back and buying back, that is, on 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 does not stop there. It seems to demand that eyes, teeth, and lives are also to provide the means of payment. Bodies and body parts have a just claim to being the first and most precise of money substances. In its highly original way, the book offers a theory of justice, but not an airy theory. It is about getting even in a tough-minded, unsentimental, but strangely humane and respectful way. And it finds that much of what we take to be justice, honor, and respect for persons requires, at its core, measuring and measuring up."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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