Eye for an Eye by William Ian Miller

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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).
 

About William Ian Miller

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William Ian Miller is Professor of Law at the University of Michigan.
 
Published December 19, 2005 by Cambridge University Press. 278 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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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 mon...

Nov 01 2005 | Read Full Review of Eye for an Eye

BC Books

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It starts off with a scene that shows promise that the film is going to be something different, something edgy and “out-there” with the (quite in detail) depiction of a brutal rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl while her mother hears everything over a cell phone, helpless to do anything to hel...

May 04 2008 | Read Full Review of Eye for an Eye

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