Where do we get our idea of what is right or wrong, good or evil, what is permitted or prohibited? – The jurists’ response is clear: it’s the wording of the law. Yet this does not clarify who determines the meaning of the words. Jan Schröder’s article in the Research section pursues the question of the meaning of the words in the legal and linguistic theory of the early modern period. He shows how the medieval doctrine of imposition, that is, the determination of meaning by means of authority, gives way in the 17th century to the view that the everyday use of language is authoritative and at the same time historically relative.
Not only jurists but also religion played a decisive role in determining notions of right and wrong, permissible and impermissible in European history, a point highlighted by Elizabeth Papp Kamali in her contribution on the legal meaning of intoxication in medieval English law. In this context, she also examines confession handbooks, which, for obvious reasons, dealt at length with excessive alcohol consumption and its consequences. The significance of religion for the law is particularly evident in Erk Volkmar Heyen’s ... [more]