Friday, September 30, 2005
Thanks, Michael S., for pointing out Robert Palmer's essay in "The Law Teacher" - it's a great piece for our discussion. I have a few questions, too. For example, while we're at it, let's throw gender into the mix. It seems, for Prof. Palmer, that the quintessential law school experience is where "arguments are laid bare under the cool, white light of legal analysis." Yes, the world of experience and emotions exist - but they should be carefully controlled and cabined in by the neat lines between logic and belief. For Prof. Palmer, reasoning in this way is "comfortable, fun."
My question is, comfortable and fun for whom? I find this way of reasoning grounded primarily in the "cool white light of legal analysis" to be strange, alienating, incomplete, and artificial. What might women's perspectives have to say about this description of law school or law teaching? Prof. Palmer's response to the reaction, "that's just the way I feel," or to statements of "belief", is to shrug and move on. But how often, under those "feelings" and statements of belief can one find a world of "experience" which in a law school course can and should be explored and discussed in a "rational" way.
Perhaps one of the unexplored beauties of our project to develop Catholic legal theory is its potential to draw not only from what seems to be the "cool, white light" of legal analysis," but from the deepest resources of all human experiences - and from the persepctives of both men and women.
When Prof. Palmer posits that "religious concepts are not readily applicable to much of the law school curriculum" - I think what's at work is an extremely limited notion of "religious concepts" and persepctives. I'd like to ask him what is his definition of a "religious concept," and if he could give us a few examples. A large part of our project, I think, consists of identifying what definition of "religious concept" is at work in the legal academy, and exploring how to re-frame that in a more complete and coherent way. Much of our scholarship indicates that "religious concepts" have everything to do with the cultural fabric that shapes all areas of the law - including business law and contracts and property, tax and civil procedure - because questions of justice are at the heart of all of these courses.