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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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Chapter 2: Hobbes’ frontispiece

Jan M. Broekman


The frontispiece of Hobbes’ Leviathan became famous. This work of art represents the main lines of the philosopher/statesman’s ideas. They refer to: (a) the power of the Sovereign and the position of the citizen; (b) the composure of the Torso that symbolizes State and Sovereignty in the eyes of the citizen; (c) the main feature of language in function; (d) the features of individualism implied; and (e) the legal consequences of the frontispiece image. The latter focus on a contractual interpretation of social life under the power of the Sovereign, which appears as a prescript for the citizen’s speech. Hobbes introduces here a linguistic model, later named the “Speaker–Hearer Model,” which determines our understanding of language even now. Traditional interpretations of Hobbes’ thought do not notice that connotation, although it is foreshadowed in the frontispiece of his widely read book.

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