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May, Reinhard Albert (1983) An Enquiry in Comparative Jurisprudence: Similarity and Disparity Between Dharma, Li and Nomos. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This enquiry deals with comparative jurisprudence in a cross-cultural perspective. Three most prominent indigenous conceptions, the topoi of dharma, li, and nomos, are subsequently investigated and accordingly juxtaposed. Their formative and post-formative periods, the last roughly until between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D., are taken into consideration. No doubt, all three topoi represent significant world conceptions, a deeper understanding of which is prerequisite for an appropriate treatment. The enquiry commences with the Hindu Indian tradition of dharma avoiding as far as possible a descriptive vocabulary that is largely borrowed from an Occidental terminology; the same applies for the topos of li. Due to a still widely-observable ignorance of Hindu Indian jurisprudence, dharma figures in the centre of interest, and is therefore treated comparatively comprehensively. Next, considerable care is taken to focus on the Chinese li; and thirdly an essentially philosophic description of the ancient Greek topos of nomos is juxtaposed to the preceeding. As this implicit comparison reveals to an attentive observer, vague correspondences among fundamental disparities outweigh the similarity between the three topoi. Though dharma and li can be described as regulative ways of life, dharma is for India (Hinduism) what li is for China, and both are counterparts of what nomos was and became, the externally imposed constitutional (legal) order of society. After terminating the formative period, where a slight similarity exists in an imagination of order between nomos and dharma, while in China the imagination of harmony prevails instead, the topos of dharma is seen to be promoted under the presupposition of its provision of an overarching order, fit to work as an obligatory signpost through man's life, whereas the initial ritual and ceremonial li-conducts became after their extension into all social spheres the consolidated, socially created and accepted way of life.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:19

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