Rhetoric of Legal Theory
164 | CCN: 24379
Instructor: Samera Esmeir
This course traces the developments in Western legal theory from the natural legal tradition to the positivist tradition of the nineteenth century. We investigate how the world was articulated in both traditions, as consisting of material and non-material elements, of land and sea and air, of the natural and the divine. We inquire into how a vision of a unified world came into being in the seventeenth century, the place that the sea played in this unification, and the development of the related law of the sea. We also probe the force of the divine and nature that different legal theorists articulated in their depiction of the world, and trace the rise of the modern state as the world’s main constitutive unit. The objective is to think beyond the limitations of our contemporary world order by historicizing it, and along the way examining other legal traditions of thinking about the world and their potentialities in the contemporary moment. The course will be divided into three parts corresponding to three historical periods: the medieval, the early modern, and the modern. Each part will highlight a key text (the required books for the course), in addition to a number of additional texts that you will find in the course reader.
1. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
2. Hugo Grotius, The Free Sea
3. Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth