"A short genealogy of realism": Peirce, Kevelson and legal semiotics



Publication Details

Sykes, G. L. (2008). "A short genealogy of realism": Peirce, Kevelson and legal semiotics. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, 21 (2), 103-116.


Kevelson remains an important figure in legal semiotics, a co-founder, along with Bernard Jackson, of the International Roundtable for the Semiotics of Law, and of course a valuable and seminal commentator on Peirce in the legal domain. This paper will examine her claim, that through his collaboration with and influence on Oliver Holmes, Peirce should be regarded as a foundational figure in a history of legal realism and modern jurisprudence, and that a legal semiotic can be identified in and not only extrapolated from his seminal writings. This paper will contend that the relationship between Peirce and Holmes should be seen as perplexed and disputatious, rather than close and directly influential, as Kevelson argues. However, regardless of its limitations, Kevelson’s historical inquiry helps provide the ground for a contemporary and historical account of the full picture of a Peircean based legal semiotic and jurisprudence.

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