Luuk de Boer, *21

Department of Classics

The Witness in Ancient Greece and Beyond (2020)

My dissertation, The Witness in Ancient Greece and Beyond, explores the witness, a figure who appears wherever there is a conflict about truth and falsehood. And since such factual truth is at stake everywhere, the witness emerges in all domains of society. Current accounts of the witness, however, have insufficiently addressed the appearance of the witness outside the courtroom. Including the witness as it appears in other domains of society in a general account of the witness then requires one to ask what conception sustains this figure as a whole. The answer to that question, I argue, is that the witness coincides with the possibility of an appeal to an entity who knows the truth and who stands outside the dyad of conflict. This possibility of appealing to a third must be understood as the very possibility of a juridical world. The witness enables the solution of conflict. And this ‘‘juridical world’’ is not only the ‘‘world of the courtroom’’, but a world in which one can decide between competing narratives, whether that is in the courtroom, in historiography, in archaic Greek structures of knowledge, or elsewhere. The dissertation itself, in three parts, is preoccupied with illustrating this philosophical claim historically: first by charting the figure of the witness as a figure who knows, second by mapping the historical identity and coincidence of the figures of the witness and the judge, and third, by tracing the central function of the witness in remembering, and thus making possible the execution of, juridical claims.  
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