The 18th International Roundtable for the Semiotics of Law (IRSL 2017, hosted by the Cardozo Law School in collaboration with the University of Roma Tre – Law School), will take place from 25 May to 27 May 2017.
The use and practice of exemplarity are rooted in classic rhetoric, literature, politics and law. Because of the shift from pre-modern to modern ways of thinking – as modern knowledge came to privilege abstraction over exempla, the general over the singular and particular – exemplarity lost its way.
The aim of this Roundtable is to discuss how in the contemporary legal discourse exemplarity regained relevance in human and legal thought: it constitutes the “compromise” between different orders: positive law (civil law, common law) and natural law, general and particular, abstract and concrete, societal and individual. Exemplary judgments (at a national and at an international level, e.g. Landgericht Köln – N. 151 Ns 169/11; Enel v. Costa; Scordino v. Italy) bridge the divide between traditional dichotomies, such as Common Law/Civil Law and positive law/natural law — by linking the ordinary (cases that are already described by a norm, which provides for them) and the extreme (cases that challenge the normative order because they are not yet provided for by law).
The legal exemplary case embodies the tension betweenordinary – extraordinary and general – singular, and at the same time it offers a model, a solution to “go through” that tension. The tension between ordinary and extraordinary is, in the law, related to the essential juridical tension between facts and norms. From a philosophical perspective, exemplary and paradigmatic forms are elements that constitute the hermeneutic parameters of a given context.
In its many forms, exemplarity entails the dialectical oscillation around an internal divide: whether it comes as paradeigma or paradigm, as exemplum, exemplar, or mere instance, as Exempel or Beispiel, as model or precedent, exemplarity mediates between the singular and the general. Especially in philosophy, the use of examples has often been devoted to the mere didactic illustration of general concepts for those unable to understand them without assistance from concrete cases or instances. “Examples are thus the go-cart of judgment,” as Immanuel Kant’s well-known dictum goes, “which he who is deficient in that natural talent cannot afford to dispense with” (CPR: B 174).
Natural law re-emerges through exemplarity in the form of the “just” reason in the specific case: the single narrative in the single case challenges the ratio legis by proposing a new and different ratio. The particular and the universal are given in the same form through the exemplary case because they express a contradiction between extra-legal values and abstract and general rules.