The Declamatory Tradition of Normative Inquiry: Towards an Aesthetic History of Legal and Political Thought

Jus Cogens 1 (2):151-171 (2019)
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Abstract

This paper offers an example of what may be called ‘an aesthetic history of legal and political thought’. Such a task engages in theorising historically the features of aesthetic traditions that enable and further normative inquiry, i.e. an exploration of the norms and values that might contribute to the good life and the common good. The three features offered in this paper as useful to identifying such aesthetic traditions are communality and interactivity, experimentalism, and exemplarity. The paper shows how each of these features is present, in particular ways, in one specific aesthetic tradition, namely the declamatory tradition. Tracing the declamatory tradition back to Ancient Rome, and examining its influence in the English Renaissance, especially in Sir Thomas More’s response to Lucian’s declamatory thema, Tyrannicide, the paper argues that the particular ways in which declamatory practice combines the above three features enables those engaged in it to pursue normative inquiry. The paper argues that the integration of these three features is especially visible in one aspect of declamatory practice, namely the introduction and exchange of colores, i.e. changes in the narrative, introduced by declaimers and their audiences, which shed light on the possible motivation of a character, and thereby also invited shifts in affective allegiance and evaluative perspective. The paper argues that it is in large part through such introduction and exchange of colores that the declamatory tradition enables and furthers normative inquiry, and thus also offers a good reason for including the declamatory tradition in ‘an aesthetic history of legal and political thought’.

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Maksymilian Del Mar
Queen Mary University of London

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