The Splendour of Form: Scholastic Jurisprudence and 'Irrational Formality'

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Abstract:

The Western legal tradition portrays itself as a tradition of rationality. Although this tradition is rooted in the academic treatment of law at the medieval university, medieval juridical mannerisms seem to be anathema to Weberian 'formal rationality.' Scholasticism has become the synecdoche for the problems we moderns have when trying to access medieval thought. Medieval Scholastic jurisprudence seems prima facie strangely formalistic, guided by ambitions that are incomprehensible to the 'modern mind'. Yet medieval jurisprudence is not as remote from us as it might seem at first glance. This paper aims to demonstrate that what connects the medieval and the modern jurist are aspects of legal discourse that cannot be explained in 'rational' terms. To this end, it focuses on the legal aesthetics of the Scholastic jurists, drawing mainly on the works of Erwin Panofsky and Umberto Eco.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5235/175214811798043621

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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  • Law and Humanities is a peer-reviewed journal, providing a for for scholarly discourse within the arts and humanities around the subject of law. For this purpose, the arts and humanities disciplines are taken to include literature, history (including history of art), philosophy, theology, classics and the whole spectrum of performance and representational arts. The remit of the journal does not extend to consideration of the laws that regulate practical aspects of the arts and humanities (such as the law of intellectual property). Law and Humanities is principally concerned to engage with those aspects of human experience which are not empirically quantifiable or scientifically predictable.
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