What we are reading… Lapsus Judicii | Jean-Luc Nancy

by | 28 Dec 2010

Jurisdiction is the fact of saying right… (7)

Hence, jus [i.e. right (ed)] is essentially articulated by a subject, but a subject that is less substance (this is rather what it loses, as Hegel said) than a potency or potentiality (an ability, will, desire, power, faculty—but always of right) “of action and claim”; a subject that shows itself less through its presence (its own figure, Gestalt) than through the contours of this area that defines its figure and its identity: the outline of the persona. This (juridical) person, this personage, is still one who formulates. Superposing the Etruscan origin of the word (i.e. mask) onto its popular etymology: the mask per-sonat – it amplifies the voice and lets it be heard from afar. The (subject of) right is the one whose potency of voice (or, more precisely, whose mega-phoned voice, whose artificial voice) establishes and circumscribes propriety. This potency is itself artificial and theatrical: the (subject of) right is established—or declared—on a nothingness of being and nature… (39)

Juris-diction is or makes up juris-fiction. Law and case come before right only if they are modeled, shaped, fashioned—fictioned—in and through one another. The implications of this necessity are quite radical, however: the installation or inauguration of right must of itself be fictioned. Jurisdiction as such needs to be declared: each year, the “praetor’s edict” formulates the principles according to which right will be said. Right repeats its installation with the investiture of each person (imposition of toga and mask) who receives or acquires the right to state it. The persona of the judge and his edictum are forged from the same fictitious gesture: right is said here of the case for which there can be no prior right, and which is the case of right … (41)

Translation by Gilbert Leung of extracts from Lapsus Judicii in Jean-Luc Nancy L’Impératif Catégorique (Flammarion 1983) 35–60. The original translation is by Simon Sparks in Jean-Luc Nancy A Finite Thinking (Stanford 2003) 152–171. The page numbers in the text refer to the French.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Join 4,554 other subscribers

We respect your privacy.


Fair access = access according to ability to pay
on a sliding scale down to zero.



Publish your article with us and get read by the largest community of critical legal scholars, with over 4000 subscribers.