August 29, 2013 Leave a comment
I will be presenting a paper on my dissertation research at the 2014 annual conference of The Herbert and Elinor Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics at Pepperdine University School of Law. There are already some great speakers lined up, and the call for papers is open until September 13. I encourage anyone interested in the relation of love to law to submit a paper. You can see the call below and download the full call for papers here.
The idea that law should be a manifestation of love stands in tension with modern and post-modern notions that law should be solely concerned with individual autonomy or efficiency or that law is by nature only a matter of power. Our reigning schools of legal thought tend to be reductionistic, focusing on a limited aspect of human good. Liberalism leaves individuals isolated and alone. Many law and economics scholars emphasize efficiency, but have provided no basis for the protection of human dignity (at least for the ‘have nots’). Critical legal scholars have deconstructed law and concluded that law is merely power, but generally have failed to provide a basis for reconstruction.
Jeffrie Murphy notes that agape love is not simply concerned with making people’s lives more pleasant. It is not “cuddly.” If agape is the aim, a polity might “design legal practices and institutions with a view to the moral and spiritual improvement of affected citizens.” Would the grounding of law in love yield broad-based human flourishing and authentic freedom? Or might it provide the basis for an authoritarian regime?
The notion of law grounded in love has a rich history. Jesus summarized the Mosaic Law as love of God and neighbor. John Calvin said that all nations’ laws “must be in conformity to that perpetual rule of love.” Over the centuries groups have sought to ground law in love, to good and ill effect.
Law might bear several sorts of relationships to love. Love might be the motivation behind the work of lawyers, judges, legislators, police, and active citizens. The adoption and enforcement of wise laws can be among the most loving things that someone can do. It may also be that law can teach and encourage love. The Jewish law required land owners to allow poor people to harvest the grain at the edges of their fields. It may be that for some, this legal requirement created the good habit—the virtue—of love.
The idea of law grounded in love generates numerous big questions which will be addressed throughout this conference. We invite people from the fields of philosophy, political science, law, history, economics, theology, and psychology to propose presentations and panels on any aspect of this topic, including:
•What is the meaning of agape, and how does it differ from other notions of love, including eros and philia?
•What balance of freedom and order would law grounded in love yield?
•How might law be a manifestation of love toward citizens and how might law encourage citizens to be more loving to one another?
•How does law affect character and how might law grounded in love encourage the development of good character?
•Historical Attempts to Implement Love and Law
•Love, Law, and Justice
•Love, Law, and Current Schools of Legal Thought
•How might love and law shape our understanding of community and the common good?
•How might love grounded in law encourage wealthy citizens to be more caring?
•What sorts of social welfare regimes would love grounded in law generate?
•Would law grounded in love generate dependent citizens?
•What is the relationship between love, law, and theology in our religious traditions?
•What are the insights of ancient and modern thinkers on love and law?
•Love, Economic Justice, and the Global Economy
•Love, Law, and the Human Person
•Love and Substantive Legal Subject Areas
•Love, Law, and Dispute Resolution
•Love, Law, and the Work of Lawyers
•How might law grounded in love encourage forgiveness and reconciliation?