Editorial 6: On Persons, Things and Obligations in Semiotic Perspective

  • Jan M. BroekmanEmail author
  • Larry Catá Backer


It seems rather challenging: persons, things and obligations do not exist in the sense of ‘natural’ entities. So, how do we come to appreciate their diversification and the order they suggest to represent? A first answer to this question is, that persons, things and obligations are elements embedded in the history of Occidental culture. The period in which they play their role reaches exceptionally wide: from the Twelve Tables erected in the center of Rome around 450 BC to the first Law School in Bologna mid-12th century, and then until our days, when they became incorporated in a variety of national Codes, such as the French or the German. Those concepts fulfilled the task to create an order—not in society and human relations but in the mass of legal-textual materials that had grown rank in the course of the ages. One concludes, that it is history, which has put emphasis on those three concepts. A characteristic feature in that history was the use of a specific language: Latin survived throughout the ages and was for centuries closely tied to the lawyer’s profession. The Justinian Code, still in the mind of legal scholars today, reminds the lawyer of this in the US almost forgotten fact. “Can one study law without knowledge of Latin?” is a challenging question not only for Civil Law. The Justinian Code plays a star role here. Our contemporary law reverberates the Justinian intuition and treats the three as if they were today’s realities. They are realities solely as legal realities, as constructions playing a key role in law and legal discourse.


Human Relation Legal Person Natural Person Legal Discourse Legal Reality 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dickinson School of LawPenn State UniversityCarlisleUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Law and International AffairsPenn State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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