Skip to main content

Justice ‘Under’ Law: The Bodily Incarnation of Legal Conceptions Over Time

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

Romans 6:14—King James Bible (Cambridge ed.).

Abstract

The article uses embodiment and the experiential basis of conceptual metaphor to argue for the metaphorical essence of abstract legal thought. Abstract concepts like ‘law’ and ‘justice’ need to borrow from a spatial, bodily, or physical prototype in order to be conceptualised, seen, for example, in the fact that justice preferably is found ‘under’ law. Three conceptual categories of how law is conceptualised is examined: law as an object, law as a vertical relation, and law as an area. The Google Ngram Viewer, based on the massive library of books that Google has scanned, has been used to study legally relevant conceptions over time within each of these three categories, from 1800 to 2000. In addition, the article suggests a type of analytical method of ‘metaphor triangulation,’ that is, the replacement of prevailing metaphors with unusual ones in order to increase the level of awareness of what conceptual content the prevailing metaphors involve.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    For more on the details of Ngram Viewer, see http://books.google.com/ngrams/info [last visited 18 November 2013].

  2. 2.

    An even stronger claim, although not referring to a spatial relation, would be the one Judge Dread, the fictional ‘enforcer’ in a dystopian future played by Sylvester Stallone, does when arresting an entire block: “I am the law”, Judge Dredd, 1995 [41].

References

  1. 1.

    Engberg, Jan, and Kirsten Wølch Rasmussen. 2010. Cognition, meaning making, and legal communication. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 23: 367–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2014. Karl Renner and (Intellectual) Property—How cognitive theory can enrich a sociolegal analysis of contemporary copyright. Law & Society Review 48(1).

  3. 3.

    Hutton, Christopher. 2009. Meaning, time and the law: Ex post and ex ante perspectives. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 22: 279–292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Gibbs, Raymond W. 2005. Embodiment and cognitive science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Kövecses, Zoltan. 2008. Conceptual metaphor theory. Some criticisms and alternative proposals. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 6(1): 168–184.

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Lakoff, George. 1986. A figure of thought. Metaphor and symbol 1: 215.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Lakoff, George. 1987. Women, fire and dangerous things: What categories reveal about mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Lakoff, George. 1993. The contemporary theory of metaphor. In Metaphor and thought, 2nd ed, ed. A. Ortony, 202. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Lakoff, George. 2005. Don’t think of an elephant: Know your values and reframe the debate. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

  10. 10.

    Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. 1999. Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Winter, Steven L. 2001. A clearing in the forest: Law, life, and mind. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Yu, Ning. 2008. Metaphor from body and culture. In The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought, ed. R.W. Gibbs, 247. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Berger, Linda L. 2004. What is the sound of a corporation speaking? How the cognitive theory of metaphor can help lawyers shape the law. 2 J. Ass’n Legal Writing Directors 169.

  15. 15.

    Berger, Linda L, 2007. Of metaphor, metonymy, and corporate money: rhetorical choices in Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance regulation. 58 Mercer Law Review 949.

  16. 16.

    Berger, Linda L. 2009. How embedded knowledge structures affect judicial decision making: A rhetorical analysis of metaphor, narrative, and imagination in child custody disputes. 18 S. Cal. Interdisc. L.J. 259.

  17. 17.

    Johnson, Mark L. 1987. The body of the mind: The bodily basis of meaning, imagination, and reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Johnson, Mark L. 1993. Moral imagination: Implications of cognitive science for ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Johnson Mark L. 2002. Law incarnate. 67 Brooklyn Law Review 950.

  20. 20.

    Johnson, Mark L. 2007. Mind, metaphor, law. Mercer Law Review 58: 845–868.

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Joo, Thomas W. 2001. Contract, property and the role of metaphor in corporations law. UC Davis Daniel J. Dykstra Memorial Corporate Governance Symposium.

  22. 22.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2011. Metaphors and norms. Understanding copyright law in a digital society. PhD Thesis, Lund Studies in Sociology of Law, Lund University.

  23. 23.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2012. Conceptions in the code: What ‘the copyright wars’ tells about creativity, social change and normative conflicts in the digital society. Societal Studies 4(3): 1009–1030.

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2013. Copy me happy—The metaphoric expansion of copyright in a digital society. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 26(3): 615–634.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2012. Metaforerna och Rätten. Retfærd Nordic Journal of Law and Justice 2(137): 69–93.

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2013. Conceptions, categories, and embodiment—Why metaphors are of fundamental importance for understanding norms. In Social and legal norms, ed. Matthias Baier. Towards a socio-legal understanding of normativity: Ashgate Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2013. Metaphors, law and digital phenomena: The Swedish pirate bay court case. International Journal of Law and Information Technology. 21(4): 329–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Tsai, Robert L. 2004. Fire, metaphor, and constitutional myth-making. 93 Georgetown Law Journal 181.

  29. 29.

    Winter, Steven L. 2007. Re-embodying law. 58 Mercer Law Review.

  30. 30.

    Winter, Steven L. 2008. What is the “color” of law? In The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought, ed. R.W. Gibbs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Winter, Steven L. 2013. Frame semantics and the “internal point of view”. In Current legal issues colloquium: Law and language, ed. Michael Freeman, and Fiona Smith. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Glucksberg, S. 2008. How metaphors create categories—Quickly. In The Cambridge handbook of metaphor and thought, ed. R.W. Gibbs. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Kövecses, Zoltán. 2005. Metaphor in culture. Universality and variation Cambridge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2013. Rätten som Rum, Kropp och Kontext: Det Konceptuella Förtingligandets Rättsvetenskapliga Relevans. Tidsskrift for Rettsvitenskap 126(3): 343–363.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Rosch, Eleanor. 1975. Cognitive representation of semantic categories. 104 J Experimental Psychology 192.

  36. 36.

    Rosch, Eleanor. 1978. Principles of categorisation. In Cognition and categorization, ed. Eleanor Rosch, and Barbara B. Lloyds. Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Andersson, Tom. 1994. Conceptual polemics. Dialectic Studies of Concept Formation: Lund University Cognitive Studies.

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Damjanović and De Witte. 2008. Welfare Integration through EU law: The Overall picture in the light of the Lisbon treaty. European University Institute EUI LAW 2008/34.

  39. 39.

    Peccarelli, Anthony M. 2000. The meaning of justice. 12 The Journal of the DuPage County Bar Association.

  40. 40.

    Murrow, Gail Bruner, and Richard W. Murrow. 2012. A biosemiotic body of law: The neurobiology of justice. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 26: 275–314.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Judge Dredd, 1995, movie, directed by Danny Cannon.

  42. 42.

    Russ Jr. William A. 1934. Radical Disfranchisement in Texas, 1867–70. 38 The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 40.

  43. 43.

    Burton, S.J. (ed.). 2000. The path of the law and its influence: The legacy of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Gillette, C. P. 1998. Lock-in effects in law and norms. 78 Boston University Law Review 813.

  45. 45.

    Larsson, Stefan. 2011. The path dependence of European copyright. 8 SCRIPT:ed. A Journal of Law, Technology & Society 8.

  46. 46.

    De Sousa Santos, Boaventura. 1987. Law: A map of misreading. toward a postmodern conception of law. Journal of Law and Society 14(3): 279–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    De Sousa Santos, Boaventura. 1995. Three metaphors for a new conception of law: The frontier, the Baroque, and the South. Law & Society Review 29(4): 569–584.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Mayer-Schönberger, Viktor, and Kenneth Cukier. 2013. Big data—A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think. Boston och New York: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stefan Larsson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Larsson, S. Justice ‘Under’ Law: The Bodily Incarnation of Legal Conceptions Over Time. Int J Semiot Law 27, 613–626 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-013-9341-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Embodiment
  • Conceptual metaphor
  • Law and justice
  • Law and embodiment
  • Law and metaphor