A deep examination of the talionic code—“an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, measure for measure”—and its evolution and permutations as a foundation of the justice applied in modern societies.
Apart from being the perfect gift for Supreme Court nominees with no bench experience, Miller’s “meditation” on the talionic code is a rare entertainment. In an ambitious milieu of intellectual focus incorporating word origins, tantalizing glimpses of religious paradoxes and far-reaching historical perspectives wherein Norse sagas buttress Hebrew philosophy, the author (Law/Univ. of Michigan Law School; Faking It, 2003, etc.) explains how the ancients got down to evaluating offenses against honor and meting out repayment in kind long before the intricate labyrinth of a tort court. He also notes that anti-talionic arguments were regularly advanced and tolerated long before Jesus arrived to announce the merits of turning the other cheek. He is at his most engaging in pointing out how the “poetry and poetics of revenge” have become the aesthetics of the most popular and remembered myths. As in the author’s previous single-subject forays into human motivation (courage, humiliation, disgust), he sometimes chases the semantic rabbit down a seemingly bottomless hole, but his lurking suggestion that our litigious society has lost something by refining the talion to the point where money now routinely represents honor is intriguing.
Absorbing discourse on a surprisingly evasive fundament.