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Rethinking Law and Language

The Flagship ‘Speech’

Jan M. Broekman

The ‘law-language-law’ theme is deeply engraved in Occidental culture, more so than contemporary studies on the subject currently illustrate. This insightful book creates awareness of these cultural roots and shows how language and themes in law can be richer than studying a simple mutuality of motives. Rethinking Law and Language unveils today’s problems with the two faces of language: the analogue and the digital, on the basis of which our smart phones and Artificial Intelligence create modern life.
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INTERMEZZO 2: Job’s other otherness

Jan M. Broekman

Extract



Indeed, Hobbes’ etching and his text speak a new language. Both deeply influenced the centuries after his book and its etching; both expanded fundamental values of social life and a correlative unfolding of Occidental languages. It has seldom been understood that the issue of language, in particular a focus on the word of the other, was essential in Hobbes’ thought formation on the Leviathan. He and his friend Bosse studied the Book of Job, the chosen “other” in extensive, sometimes dramatic, often existential conversations with “The Other,” and who more than once referred to the Leviathan, the large creature of the deep sea with an unknown exact identity.

Reading the text on Job, especially its Chapter 41, must have attracted Hobbes’ attention to the structure of linguistic utterances, which are mentioned here. He and Bosse read the words with which this Chapter opens: “Can you draw out Leviathan with a hook. Or snare his tongue with a line, which you lower?”

Contacting and even mastering the excessive Power named Leviathan, with which Job is confronted as an existential possibility, occurs in the form of a dialogue, and not as a command—a challenge unheard of and only written in vertical lines, rising out of turbulent waves of the deep sea. Moreover, there is the form of an enduring question—a question suggesting that an answer is possible and will be honored, but when and how? It means there is an open possibility of an...

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