Maimonides and Contemporary Tort Theory: Law, Religion, Economics and Morality

February 2, 2016

The Institute of Comparative Law and McGill’s Department of Jewish Studies were pleased to host a talk by Professors Yuval Sinai and Benjamin Shmueli, titled “Maimonides and Contemporary Tort Theory: Law, Religion, Economics and Morality.”

Maimonides and Contemporary Tort Theory: Law, Religion, Economics and Morality

Maimonides (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon) is perhaps the best-known and most widely-studied figure in Jewish history from medieval times until the present day. Much research has been devoted to different aspects of Maimonides’ work. Despite the abundance of research on Maimonides, very little has been written about Maimonides as a jurist in general, and about his tort theory in particular.

This research presents, for the first time, Maimonides’ complete tort theory in and of itself. This research compares Maimonides’ theory with other pre-modern tort theories both in the Jewish world and beyond it, in Maimonides’ times and prior thereto, and as compared with modern Western theories. The study will present both the details of the rulings relating to tort, and will seek to establish a rational, systematic legal theory – a theory that allows for a full presentation and overview of Maimonides’ comprehensive conception of tort law, its objectives, and its foundations.

We will mention several surprising points of similarity between certain elements of the theories that were formulated by the cream of the scholars from leading North American universities and between significant elements of the Maimonidean theory that was conceived eight hundred years ago in Egypt. Alongside the similarity between the theories, we will highlight significant differences, some of them deriving from jurisprudential differences, some from the difference between religious law and secular-liberal law, and some from the differences in the historical, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

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