Mirror of Justice

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stanley Hauerwas and Law

As Lisa Schiltz noted, the new issue of Duke's journal Law and Contemporary Problems is based on a symposium held at Duke last year (under the remarkable leadership of John Inazu) on the work of Stanley Hauerwas. My paper on intention in the law of bioethics is here. But more importantly, read Stanley's own contribution to the volume on how he became interested in law. Here's a taste:

I was attracted to Tocqueville’s understanding ofAmerican lawyers because I thought he made clear why, if you were interested in "ethics," the law was and is a crucial resource for locating matters of significance in American society. The conflicts and arguments surrounding the law, therefore, can be illuminating for understanding how the moral convictions of Americans work. Thus Tocqueville’s observation, "There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one." But it turns out that most political questions are moral questions in disguise. So I was attracted to the law because I thought the law exemplified how moral convictions entail a politics and how politics and the law manifest our most significant moral commitments.

Put as directly as I can, I was and continue to be fascinated by the law because it is just so damned interesting. One of the reasons the law is interesting is that its processes manifest a rationality that does not need a ground. For, if Tocqueville is right, American law is a law without a bottom. That is, it is a law without a bottom unless you think the Supreme Court is a bottom. So American law remains one of the paradigmatic places you can go to see the moral convictions of the American people displayed. Those convictions may not be my convictions, but the convictions that make me a Christian mean I cannot afford to ignore my neighbor.

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Moreland, Michael | Permalink

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