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Smith, Carel

Smith, Carel

Carel Smith, born in Hilversum, the Netherlands, in 1958. Ph.D. from Leiden University. Associate Professor of Jurisprudence at Leiden University.

Fellow (1 February 2014 – 30 June 2014)


Research Question

What are the conceptual metaphors that govern the main controversies of legal theory?

Project Description

This project questions the way legal theory is being governed by conceptual metaphors. The main idea is that metaphors structure the way we theorize about the law. This project will demonstrate that the core assumptions in some of the most persistent controversies of legal theory, such as meaning and interpretation, the foundation and validity of the law, and free will, are rooted in conceptual metaphors. The project proposes a different framing of these controversies. It regards the law as an institution, that is, as a phenomenon that emerges out of the collective patterns of self-referential activity. Concepts such as “free will”, “conscience”, and “meaning” can be conceived of as social phenomena, governed by public standards, despite the experience of being private. By exposing the governing metaphors, and the way they affect legal practice, as well as by developing an institutional approach, this project contributes to a better understanding of the phenomenon of the law, and suggests new and innovative ways for how to deal with the complexities of legal adjudication.

Selected Publications

1) (2011) The Vicissitudes of the Hermeneutic Paradigm in the Study of Law: Tradition, Forms of Life, and Metaphor, Erasmus Law Review, March, pp. 21-38

2) (2009) The Rhetoric of Sincerity, E. Van Alphen, M.G. Bal en C.E. Smith (eds.), Stanford CA: Stanford University Press

3) (2008) ‘Some Varieties of Linguistic Interpretations’, in: E. Pattaro & C. Faralli (Eds.), Ratio Juris, Vol 21/4, pp. 505-517

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