Daily Archives: September 15, 2016

Mutual Admiration Society

…for the positivistrelativist approach to law practice and, we suppose, life in general.

The members of this particular troupe are none other than SHG and Judge Kopf.

A few choice quotes:

As the old (and obviously sexist) saying goes, “women feel, priests believe, lawyers think.” The problem is that those who put too much emphasis on their beliefs are blind to thinking. Belief, by definition, requires neither proof nor thought; it’s just what you belief, even if there is absolutely no basis for it. That’s what makes it belief.

The concept of justice has taken on a life devoid of reason, a life based on belief.

That’s the beauty of belief. It requires no logic. It just is, no matter how absurd and irrational.

The law creates rules to be applied, when they work, based on logic and reason.

And finally, where does one search for this elusive concept called “justice”?

The seminary is the right place to do so, as there is no place for such questions in the courthouse.

Yep.  Banished from regular society, justice is confined to theological study among the cloistered.  This coming from a lawyer, cheered on by a judge.


It seems that any educated person should have a passing acquaintance with the subject of epistemology.  And perhaps that’s the main problem:  neither SHG nor Judge Kopf do.

To someone with at least such a passing acquaintance, the rejection of the idea that there is a radical dichotomy between “reason” and “belief” is so elementary that it’s barely worth discussing.  One progresses almost immediately to ridiculing the notion:  reason explains most everything but itself.  That is, we believe in reason.  We know that reason works, and to a large extent how it works, but we don’t know why it works and cannot, under the most rigorous analysis, justify elevating reason over emotion, or random impressionism, or the will to power, or any other basis for human belief and action.

“Lawyers think”?  Not very well, it seems.

Some beliefs are reasonable.  The belief in reason itself, for example.  The belief in God.  The belief in justice, and truth.

Some beliefs are unreasonable.  The belief in unicorns.  This or that “conspiracy theory”.  The belief in evolution.

Just kidding about evolution.  Sort of.

Now, a real student of epistemology might take issue even with these assertions.  You can get to a place in epistemology where you deny the validity of reason, too.  It gets a little circular (By what reason do you deny the validity of reason?), but it’s this kind of thing that has nothing to do with the law, which is – at least in theory – reason applied to the world we all live in, or at least appear to live in.  Practical reason, as Immanuel Kant might say.

Which is to say, SHG and Judge Kopf really don’t know what they’re talking about, because they apparently don’t know anything about epistemology, which probably means they were “political science” majors in college.

About which we might offer some more opinions later.  Political science, that is.

But the bottom line is this:  “justice” may be an elusive concept but in the same way so is “reason”, so is “logic”, so is “love”, so is “truth” and yet all of them – not one of them entirely knowable – are indispensable to human life as we know it.  There is no more reason to banish justice from courtrooms than there is to banish reason or logic or for that matter “law”.  The idea is frankly foolish and has long since been thoroughly discredited, both intellectually and morally.  Its persistence in the legal profession is not a sign of sly cleverness, as its proponents like to pretend, but rather a depressing degeneracy.  The trials at Nuremberg in the middle of the last century were basically about this very thing:

Deficiencies in intellect and education normally have consequences only for the deficient and mal-educated person.  But make such people lawyers and judges and it’s like two six year olds playing with a loaded revolver:  they know just enough to really hurt themselves or others.

In any event, to make the obvious retorts to the truly pedestrian assertions:  reasonable beliefs require both “proof” and thought, or at least rational thought; a life based upon belief – which is to say, every single life of every rational person – is not “by definition” “devoid of reason”; reasonable beliefs cannot defy the principles of logic, but even though logical they are still beliefs and not empirical knowledge or axioms.

SHG often complains that what others write makes people stupider.


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