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Norms and Exceptions. A Comparative Approach to Casuistry
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12/11/2014 to 12/13/2014
When: 12/11/2014

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In the last few decades casuistry, seemingly defeated by the attack launched by Pascal in his Provinciales, has re-emerged in the context of bio-ethics. As it is usually the case, questions related to the present generate questions asked to the past. Law (nomos) and equity, Aristotle famously argued in his Nicomachean Ethics, are not always identical: in some exceptional cases. “It is impossible to lay down a law, so that a decree is needed” (1130 b, 27-29, transl. W. D. Ross). But how did different cultures and different “laws” – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – address the relationship between norms and exceptions? To what extent is a comparative approach to casuistry – in the broad sense of the term – possible? The conference will explore this topic through a series of case studies ¬ (hopefully, the implications of this mise en abyme will be also discussed). ¬ The conference will take place at the Istituto di Studi Umanistici e Sociali della Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, on December 11th-13th, 2014, in the framework of the Balzan Project “Comparing religions. A historical approach (16th-18th centuries),” coordinated by Carlo Ginzburg. Participants: Avishay Sarfatti (Oxford) “The Royal College of Paediatrics 2004 Guideline: A Framework for Casuistry” Gianna Pomata (John Hopkins University) "The Medical Case across Cultures: Comparing the European Observatio and the ChineseYi'an". Jan Bremmer (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) “(Un)written Laws and Transgression in Ancient Greece and Rome” Daniel Barbu (Université de Genève) “Norm and Anomaly: Jews and Christians in the Toledoth Yeshu” Gabriella Aragione (Université de Strasbourg) “Some Laws are not Properly Laws at All: Early Christian Debates about the Concept of Law and the Role of Lawgiver” Caterina Bori (Università di Bologna) Cases, Exempla, Precedents: the Many Roads to Justice (Egypt-Syria 14th-16th Centuries) Marco Cavarzere (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) “Codifying the Exception? Early Modern Casuistries of European Laws.” Islam Dayeh (Freie Universität, Berlin) The Role of “Probability” in Islamic Legal Casuistry: The Case of the Coffee and Tobacco Controversy in the Early Modern Ottoman World Andrew Berns (University of South Carolina) “‘I signed but I did not say’: Oaths against Gambling, Casuistry, and Early Modern Judaism” Lucio Biasiori (Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa i Tatti, Florence) “Norms and Exceptions: the Case of Suicide” Carlo Ginzburg (Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa) Casuistry and Irony: Some Reflections on Pascal’s Provinciales Angela Ballone (Scuola Normale Superiore od Pisa) Imagined Casuistry. Indians and the Construction of Exceptions in the Work of Juan de Juan de Solórzano Pereira (1575-1655) Sanjay Subrahmanyam (UCLA/Collège de France) “Morality and Empire: Cases, Norms and Exceptions in 16th Century Portuguese Asia” Silvia Berti (Università La sapienza, Roma) “The Double Exception, Religious and Civil, of a Sabbatarian Grocer. The Case of Edward Elwall (1676-1744)” Martin Mulsow (Universität Erfurt) “The Exceptionality of Atheism: Can There be an Exemption of the Consensus gentium?” Giovanni Tarantino (University of Melbourne) “The Casuistical Lectures of Samuel Pike and Samuel Hayward (1755)” Anna Belgrado (Università di Pisa) “A Reading of the French Jesuit Joseph-François Lafitau’s Moeurs des sauvages amériquains comparées aux moeurs des premiers temps (1724).” A full programme of the conference with abstracts is accessible through the website of the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa ( and its events' page. For pre-booking and information, contact

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