Law in Contemporary Society
My goal in Law School is to learn how to answer questions without really addressing the substance of the question.

-- MatthewZorn - 19 Jan 2010

“For example, at different points in history the legend of King Arthur has served as an artifact of a Medieval past, an image of a Victorian present, and an influence on the World War I future. Malory inherits an Arthur conceived in pre-Medieval folklore and then passes the legend to Tennyson and the Victorians who shape them for the Arthur Conan Doyles of the future. In essence, written records are not isolated flash points in history: present written reflections of the past play a crucial part in developing the “social scripts” of the future.”

That's me quoting me from the conclusion of my undergraduate thesis. It was a significant paragraph buried deep in an extended and wholly incomplete afterthought that I called the conclusion of what I believed to be a rather mediocre paper which had only slightly more substance than Con Law cases. Or: “nonsensical blather.”

Nevertheless, it articulated (rather crudely) the skeletons of a general philosphy that I had become familiar with over the last two months of writing my paper, the idea of reflexivity. I could rehash those last four months of my writing: how the project I began with looked little like the project I ended up with; how I drifted from military history, to literary history, and ultimately settled on a hybrid of history, psychology, and philosophy. And, were anyone actually interested in my thesis I think it would be wholly relevant to write about. But honestly, it would be a waste of everyone's time, including my own, to go into any substantive detail.

Instead, I want this to be more focused and to the point. Detail is important and the background behind my writing is arguably as important in understanding the text of my thesis as is the text itself. But, often detail can obscure the bigger picture and my thesis isn't the point of this post. After reading Cohen and Frank, I don't think I see a need to blabber on about “how certain thinkers I read in those few months before graduation influenced what I ultimately wrote,” yet, I find myself doing that right now. What can I say? I enjoy irony.

The substance, of what I would have written, is this: I no longer saw (or see) history as a sequence as events but history as how a group of people perceive (and subsequently perceive) a sequence of events. Perception is reality, or, as I think it is more accurately stated: reality is perception. There is little semantic distinction, at least mathematically. If A = B then logically B = A. Yet, I do believe there is a distinction between the two which exists in our minds (hence, the reality). The former, to me, suggests that what we see is a function of what objectively exists. The latter, seems to suggest that what exists is merely a function of what we see. And therein lies all the difference—if “reality” is only limited or bound by our perception then we have the power to stretch our “perceptive” abilities to see more of reality. It also suggests (much like reflexivity) that the mere act of perception eliminates any human objectivity.

Back on point—I forgot most of this, even if it was only 8 months ago. Somewhere between a well- paying, interesting, but unintellectual summer job and first semester I seemed to check these ideas at the door. A peek at my rather embarrassingly unoccupied bookshelf reveals the books that truly interest me--books about human nature. I read many of them in my last semester of undergrad—books that taught me more than I learned in the previous 3 ½ years (this is actually false, but I do question the usefulness of a lot of the “knowledge” I learned). To be honest (and this isn't to undercut Prof. Moglen) but I really haven't seen anything from these readings or from Prof. Moglen thus far that I hadn't seen before (I make no claim to fully understanding nor having internalized any of this yet). As I hear Moglen screaming at us right now, “...there are millions smarter than us and we are here as a matter of chance.” That sounds like Taleb.

Thus, I see this class as an opportunity to re-explore these ideas. This is therapy.

And, to conclude my drawn out prose, I want to set some goals for therapy (which I will edit as time drags on): (1) I want to apply the reflexivity paradigm to law (2) Can certainty in law actually create more uncertainty? Can the knowledge of a particular outcome actually lead to less overall knowledge? (3) TBC...

-- MatthewZorn - 04 Feb 2010

My goal in life is to learn how to ask questions without substantive answers.

-- MatthewZorn - 29 Apr 2010



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r5 - 13 Jan 2012 - 23:18:59 - IanSullivan
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