Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Who is David Novak ... and why does it matter?

David Novak, who taught at the University of Virginia and now teaches at the University of Toronto, is an acclaimed Jewish scholar; he is also, inter alia, a sometime contributor to First Things (e.g., here and here).  It bears mention that Novak dedicated his recent book on religious liberty--which in December Rick Garnett reviewed for First Things (here)--to Robert George.

Yesterday, my copy of Martha Nussbaum's new book arrived in the mail:  From Disgust to Humanity:  Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law (Oxford, 2010).   I was interested to see a blurb by David Novak on the back of the book:

"Those of us holding more traditional views of marriage need to take this book very seriously because in it [Nussbaum] makes the best case for the innovation of same-sex marriage I have ever seen or heard.  And here again she argues in a civil, rational manner that in no way demeans or dismisses those of us who are very much on the other side of the issue, an issue that will still be publicly debated long into the foreseeable future."

Here is how Publisher's Weekly describes Nussbaum's book:

"A meticulous consideration of the legal issues surrounding same-sex relations grounded in a far-reaching investigation of how the notion of disgust has determined both civil legislation and public opinion. Identifying a politics of disgust that centers on irrational fears of contamination, penetrability, and loss of social solidarity, Nussbaum (Hiding from Humanaity) opposes such problematic foundations for legislation with her own notion of a politics of humanity, based on the need for imaginative engagement with others. Linking imagination with America's founding principles of equality and respect, the author vindicates sexual orientation rights as instrumental to the pursuit of happiness, before engaging with contentious rulings on same-sex marriage, sodomy, and discrimination. An elegant and eloquent defender of sexual freedom, the author is at her best describing the insidious role of disgust in law. However, her frequent recourse to John Stuart Mill would seem to demand a more detailed defense of his ideas on harm, and her reflections on marriage add little to the debate. Nonetheless, as the recent public discourse about empathy among Supreme Court judges indicates, Nussbaum's passionate advocacy of the power of imagination is profound and timely."

So much to read:  Vischer, Keenan, Nussbaum, ...  I guess that's what summers are for.


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