"Time and Space of the Concept of 'Law': in search of the Diversity and its Possibilities of 'Law'"

The symposium "Time and Space of the Concept of "Law": in search of the Diversity and its Possibilities of "Law"" was held on Saturday, December 15, 2012, at Hakusan Campus, Toyo University. The symposium was hosted by the 2nd Unit of the International Research Center for Philosophy, Toyo University. Reseachers in Chinese law, Indian law, Islamic law and ancient Greek and Roman law came together to discuss the diversity of the concept of "law" and its possibilities, from a variety of angles.

The symposium was opened by Yamaguchi Ichiro, the project leader for the 2nd Unit, and Numata Ichiro, also a researcher at the 2nd Unit and effectively in charge of the symposium. In his opening statement, the organizer said the following. "The post?Cold War world, having lost the oppositional axis between the US and the USSR, is now more plural and fluid. Also because of developments in means of communication and transport, it is fair to say that people, goods and information are freely moving across the world. However, it is not very rare that the identity of a state or a nation is particularly emphasized, and one's common sense or mundane understanding [of a concept like 'law'] cannot often be applied. In the space where human beings live, there is always 'law', but its manifestation is extremly diverse. We live by a system of law based on Western law, but we are not free from the traditional Japanese consciousness of law, which is different from Western law. If the same situation is found in other nations across the world, it is necessary to learn, once again, the variety of forms that 'law' takes. We have proposed this symposium because we are convinced that it is required of us to re-examine 'law' and better understand its diversity, given that we have to be aware of the world."

Five panelists responded to this proposition.

First, Prof. Suzuki Ken (School of Law, Hokkaido University), a specialist in contemporary Chinese law, presented a paper entitled "On the specificity of the Chinese concept of law: the future of non?rule based law" in which he examined the particularity of the concept of law in contemporary China, drawing from the Xu Ting incident of 2008. The presentation showed that the concept of "law" had been formed quite differently in China from that in modern Western law : in contemporary China, substantial justice, which takes into accout public opinon and social mores, was prioritised over formalistic justice faithful to the interpretation of law at the expense of the public consensus; that law and politics are on a continuum and are not categorically differentiated from each other, and that Chinese law has "non-rule based characteristics" which originated in its imperial past.

Symposium :Time and Space of the Concept of ’Law’Next, Prof. Numata Ichiro, an expert in ancient Indian law, the IRCP researcher and Associate Professor at Toyo University, presented a paper entitled "Ethics and social norms in ancient India: The connection between dharma and the concept of 'law'." He traced the historical development of the meaning of the Sanskrit term dharma, conventionally translated as "law," in order to systematically understand the varied meanings attached to it. In particular, the ways in which dharma is discussed in classical Indian texts such as the Rigveda, the Upanishads, the dharma sutra or "righteousness threads," and Manusmrti or The Laws of Manu, were examined, and he pointed out the necessity of exploring the meeting point between the diverse meanings attached to "dharma" and "law," taking into consideration these historical developments as well as social contexts.

The third presenter was Horii Satoe, Lecturer ath Oberlin University, and expert in Islamic law. Horii presented a paper entitled "The concept of law in Islam" showing the ways in which "law" has been categorized in Islam, focusing on differences between God-given Shari'a law and Qanun or secular law. She went on to elaborate what kinds of transformations these categories have been subjected to throughout the history, clearly highlighting the relationship between "law" and "God" and their theological underpinnings. 

Symposium :Time and Space of the Concept of ’Law’The fourth presentation was by Dr. Horiuchi Toshio, expert in Indian Buddhism and Research Associate at the IRCP. The presentation was entitled "The diversity of the concept of dharma in Buddhism: from the viewpoint of history of ideas." The Sanskrit term dharma, translated into Chinese using a word meaning "law," does not in Indian Buddhism mean "law" exactly, but carries meanings of "teaching" and "things/elements of existence," though there have been a variety of meanings attached to it. Dr. Horiuchi reviewed the history of Indian Buddhist thought and traced the changes in this unique understanding of dharma in early Buddhism, Abhidharma Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism.

Last, Prof. Kasai Yasunori, expert in ancient Greek and Roman law from the Department of Western Classics Studies, the University of Tokyo, presented a paper entitled "On the concept of law (nomos) in ancient Greece, focusing on legislation and legislators." The paper raised the exciting question of whether Greek law was "Western" law, and focused mainly on the Greek conceptions of legislation and legislators, drawing from Plato's Laws and from court speeches mainly by Demosthenes to present a perspective on their use in the revitalization of Western law. 

Symposium :Time and Space of the Concept of ’Law’In the following plenary, in addition to panenelists' questions and answers, many questions were raised by the floor. Scholars specializing in Indian law or in comparative law came from afar to attend the symposium, and there was a meaningful exchange of views. It was a very useful opportunity to collectively deliberate on the similarities between concepts such as dharma, Shari'a, nomos, and "law," formed in different eras, places, and circumstances.