Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Memoranda From The Devil and Howard Dean

Law professor Arthur Allen Leff's essay with the title above was excerpted by Glenn Reynolds. Leff adroitly handles the dilemma of the foundations of morality: if there is no God, then there is no foundation; but if there is God, then finding his foundation is all that matters. We humans live entirely in between these poles, unwilling to embrace either.

Leff crafts his answer speaking as the devil himself, a la CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters, and with enormous wit. He does not quite close all the escapes from the dilemma, as alert readers of Lewis's Mere Christianity will note, but the professor does bound the problem quite neatly, clarifying a great deal. The few remaining escapes have their own cost.

Along the same lines, law prof Eugene Volokh notes a gaping logical hole in Howard Dean's recent comments on the theology of the Democratic Party. I don't think this is just a slip or an imprecision on Dean's part. I think this is a view behind the mask, and a deft demonstration that avoidance of dogma can lead to a theology more rigid than any creed or catechism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you can't value people for their own sake, you will not be able to value them for God's sake either. The logic is too simple.

Human dignity, happiness, satisfaction are all knowable. Leff's contention that they are unknowable is an expression of his own mystification because he has entered into a mental realm of his own concepts.

This is consistent with mature Christian theology which holds that we are not saved by the Law but rather through the grace of Jesus Christ.