MacDonald, Bruno (ed.) Pink Floyd: Through the eyes of . . . the Band, Its Fans, Friends, and Foes  (1996).

June 13, 2007

Pink Floyd“I have instituted proceedings in the High Court against myself for blatant plagarism, as I feel that this sort of thing must be stamped out.” -David Gilmour

Ah, the Floyd, a long time musical obsession of mine. Bruno Macdonald, in this book, has put together a compilation of short articles on Pink Floyd which covers pretty much everything up through the Division Bell album. Its a good selection, too. It includes stuff from die hard fans to the scathing critiques of the band. It also has a crafty little A to Z of all the songs. The highlight of the book for me is the article by Tom Hibbert in which he accuses Roger Waters of being the “gloomiest man in rock,” and having recently seen Roger in concert (at Earl’s Court), I think that I might wholeheartedly agree.

And there are some snippets of law in this baby. Brilliant.

The prevailing legal bit is of course about the Waters v. Floyd in which Roger Waters sued David Gilmour, Rick Wright, and Nick Mason from using the name Pink Floyd after Waters left the band. It is described at one point as a “legal football” of “which one’s Pink?” Waters believed that when he left the band it should have terminated because he was the driving creative force, and fair enough, at the time he was. But that didn’t stop the band from continuing when the original driving creative force left group in the form of a mentally fried Syd Barrett. However, Syd didn’t sue, so who knows. But maybe Water’s had a point as alot of the songs are credited primarily to him (i.e. most of The Wall). Of course I wonder how many of them notice that Mason is the only person to have been in the band from start to finish?

But of course its not all that easy as one finds in a David Fricke article from Rolling Stone article in the book. The real problem began when Waters fired a manager because he assumed Floyd was finished and that contractual obligations could not be completed when there was no band. The manager, Steve O’Rourke, wanted to get the royalty penalties that he felt he was entitled to due to an illegal termination under the contract. Waters apparently offered compromise deals to the others (at this time just Mason and Gilmour), which would have allowed them to retain the name by ratifying his dismissal of O’Rourke. They didn’t bite. So O’Rourke is about to sue Waters and Water’s tells Pink Floyd, “Listen, guys, if those papers come through my door, we all go to court. I am not going to be hung out in court for years and years while you guys are calling yourselves Pink Floyd.” As we all know he sued. Water’s characterizes the suit as a legal issue of who owns a piece of property called Pink Floyd, but recognizes that a court can’t determine “what is or isn’t a rock group.” He even recognizes that “no court in the world is interested in this airy fairy nonsense of what is and isn’t Pink Floyd.” As we all know Gilmour and Mason (and Wright, now) still use the name Pink Floyd so Waters lost out. Unfortunately, I haven’t really researched it enough to give you any more details than that.

There are also a few fleeting references to other law topics. There is an reference to the rise of the psychadellic movement in 1960s London, and its use of pirate radio stations. These were on their way out due to the Marine Offences Act “which was being rushed through the Commons.” This is followed by the police attempts at suppression of drugs, by using raids on the clubs where this music was being played (and taking in a few celebrities too). It does talk about one raid wherein the police searched 750 people and made 11 arrests.

Finally lets not forget that there is mention of one of the great rock songs about the law, “The Trial” off The Wall.

Bruno MacDonald


Lukefahr, Oscar. “We Believe…”:A Survey of the Catholic Faith. (1995)

April 30, 2007

We Believe…: A Survey of the Catholic Faith : Revised and Cross-Referenced to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“Laws are necessary and good, but Christ’s followers must constantly strive to view them according to their mind and heart.”

Oscar Lukefahr, in “We Believe…”, attempts to give a straightfoward and short introduction to Catholicism. Its main audience is intended to be those that are new to the faith, but it could probably be handy for tried and true Catholics as well (not being Catholic myself I’m only assuming). His text covers many parts of the faith and cross references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church making it very easy to reference back to the source of the official doctrine. It is an easy read and is very accessible to the average unitiated reader.

There are three different types of references to law that can be found in the book. The first is references to occurences of law within the Bible. The second is to Canon Law itself. Finally, there are references to the role of the Catholic Church in the political state.

His references to law in the Bible aren’t by any means a full treatment of the subject. Instead, they are incidental to the story that Lukefahr is telling. He begins with a brief history of the nation of Israel. He notes that in 63 BC the Romans conquered Jerusalem and made Palestine a vassal state. This event created, of course, conflicting regimes in the area: Roman Law versus Jewish Law. He states that throughout its long history “the Israelite nation had little political or military influence” (barring a brief period under David). He then goes on to discuss the formation of the Bible itself as the telling of this history, noting that among the different items collected into the document are laws, which is what the Jewish priests were trained in.

After his discussion of Jewish history he moves into the life of Christ (and the beginnings of Christian history). In describing the political climate, he relates the different sects of Jews that were active at the time. Of particular note are the Sadducees and the Pharisees both of whom strictly followed the written law that could be found in the Torah. Also, he mentions the Zealots, who believed the Messiah would be a military leader and a political leader.

Christ’s tensions with these groups came partly, according to Lukefahr, from his resistance to their observance of “thousands of detailed regulations.” The Sadducees feared that he would cause a “civil disturbance,” whereas the Pharisees accused him of breaking the law. This, of course, leads to one of the most monumental moments in history and an interesting bit of conflict of laws. The Pharisees tried Christ in a secret “unfair trial” and sentenced him to death. They then took him to Pontius Pilate in order that he might be condemned under Roman Law also. Lukefahr claims this is because they didn’t want to bear the blame and because they wanted Christ “to undergo the humiliation of a Roman crucifixion.” They accused him of treason, but Pilate found him innocent. As we all know, though, the Pharisees were persistent and eventually forced Pilate to sanction the execution.

After the death of Christ, the apostles go on telling his story. This is when Canon law begins to develop. One example that can be found in Lukefahr’s work is that many Christians of Jewish background were upset that Paul and Barnabas did not require new converts to follow Jewish Law. This view was rejected by a council in Jerusalem in 49 AD. This council reflects one of the early law making bodies in the church. Councils like this dealt with theological and rule making matters (and still do today). Lukefahr takes note that some people believe that “Christ never intended a Church with its leaders, rituals, laws, and potential for scandal and sin.” he makes the argument though that the Church was intended to have standards of membership and portrays Christ as a rule giver. He states that the church is a society and that “no society can exist without” rules and leaders.

As to specific rules of Canon law, his references are sparse. Propbaly the best place to find them are in his description of the sacrement of Marriage. He discusses specifically the capacity to be wed noting that a marriage can be invalidated by the Church if it violates either Church law or civil law. He also discusses the process for a annulments that are given by a diocesan tribunal. The anullment does not have civil effects and does not affect the status of children. He then discusses the Pauline Priviledge in which the Church amay disolve the marriage of unbaptized persons (and the similar Petrine Priviledge between an unbaptized and a baptized). Finally, he addresses divorce. The Catholic Church does not view civil divorce as ending a marriage, an annulment must be granted. Lukefahr does note though that the civil divorce does not exclude a Catholic from practice of the faith and that the civil divorce may be a necessity in order to protect people from abuse.

He also addresses the Ten Commandments. He argues that if the commandments are kept by all then we can truly be free. For example. if nobody steals then we are free from having to lock up out things, etc. It is an interesting argument, but not terribley well developed.

When it comes to the Church and its functions in the State, Lukefahr begins with the Decree of Milan issued by Constantine in 313 which granted religious toleration to Christians. While he notes that Constantine’s effots ended many problems, he is wary that this “opened a door to church-state entanglements that would create new problems for the Church.” This door is taken advantage of as the Roman Empire begins to collapse allowing the Church to “bec[o]me a civilizing force,” and again when Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800 and “renewed church-state ties, laying the groundwork for corruption and decay.” This corruption persisted until, he claims, the Council of Trent, after which there has been a steady movement “away from secular entanglements.” He even goes so far as to mention the US Constitution as a “new understanding” of the church state relationship.

This book functions as a handy introduction to the Catholic faith and includes both Theology and a little bit of law. While it is targeted more towards those actively trying to enter the faith, it could prove handy to someone needing an introduction to Catholic teachings.

Oscar Lukefahr

Wallace, Irving; Amy Wallace; David Wallechinsky; Sylvia Wallace – The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People (1993)

March 6, 2007

“But sex is part of us all. As the late Justice William O. Douglas of the US Supreme Court put it, ‘The idea of using censors to bar thoughts of sex is dangerous. A person without sex thoughts is abnormal.'”

The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People consists of a series of short biographical sketches about actors, heads of state, authors, sports stars, and various other people situated in the public eye. Each sketch, of course, seeks to shed light upon the more intimate details of that person’s sexual experience. The book contains numerous fascinating tidbits, but needs editing both in that it is too long (491 pages) and that it is packed full of mistakes (e.g. to whom it may concern: William Faulkner is not from Missouri . . . I swear pearls before swine).

The book is actually ripe with legal tidbits (it is too ripe with them for me to even list them all) including everything from divorce suits to laws about sex to bizarre tort claims. However, a theme can be found in the pages even if it is unintended by the authors. The book is organized alphabetically instead of chronologically so tracing the theme throughout the pages is like a puzzle, but if put together correctly it paints a picture of how laws dealing with sex (mainly through family law) have evolved from early church rule in the matter to state adoption and legislation. Furthermore, it shows how the state (up until recently I would argue) has legitimized the traditional sex roles that came from the origins of family law within the church. The state has drawn those traditional mores foward into modern society, but not just in the realm of family law. For instance obscenity laws often serve to enforce societies views on sexual morality instead of actually outlawing items that are so offensive that they are dangerous. A prime example of this is one of the prongs in the US Supreme Courts formulation of what obscenity is for First Amendment purposes: whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. By using “contemporary community standards” the court allows a community to decide on the level of deviancy from norms (it also allows for things to be constitutional in some places and not others, which is to say the least problematic).

This theme of legitimation by the state in the book is counter balanced by a steady theme of subversion. Subversion of sexual norms were traced throughout history from Popes to heads of state to political activists. Interestingly, this subversion is unlike most political activism, which is often explicit and pronounced. Sexual subversion is usually private due to the nature of the relations, and it only takes on an activist role once it has been exposed to the scandal sheets. Of course this isn’t the rule, both Rasputin and Marquis de Sade (who both have chapters in the book) were quite outspoken subversives for their own ideas about sex. However, it has only been very recent that there have been outspoken and widespread sexual movements that show some sort of solidarity. These movements still suffer from the norms that the state seeks to enforce through of family law, obscenity laws, and other avenues, thus many who would speak do not due to the stigmatizing effects that this sort of legitimation entails.

This is not to say that all restrictions on sexual activity should be repealed, but instead for us to question the true motives of restrictions and whether they serve a purpose that goes further than enforcing the majority’s moral code.

Below I have listed some of the more memorable law related moments from the book as well as a list of Lawyers, Law Students, and Judges that had their own chapters:

Law Moments

  • Father Divine was arrested in Georgia and booked as “John Doe alias God.” He later proved his divinity when a New York Judge who had sentenced him to 6 months in Jail died of a heart attack.
  • Napolean refused to allow punitive legislation against homosexuality.
  • Farouk I painted all of his cars red and then made it illegal for any other cars to be that color. This way he could speed without police interference.
  • Errol Flynn was involved in a saucy little statutory rape suit. He was aquitted.
  • When 10-years-old, Billie Holiday was sentenced to a Catholic Reform school, because she was raped by her neighbor the much, much older Mr. Dick.
  • J. Edgar Hoover said, “I regret to say that we of the FBI are powerless to act in cases of oral-genital intimacy, unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce.”
  • Marie Stopes testified at her divorce trial that her husband “was never effectively rigid.”
  • Oscar Wilde pressed charges against a Marquis who accused him of homosexual activity. The Marquis then showed that he could prove it. Wilde dropped the charges and had to flee the country to escape prosecution.

Lawyers, Law Students, and Judges

  • Giovanni Jacopo Cassanova
  • Charles Dickens
  • Honore Balzac
  • James Boswell
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • William Gladstone
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Aly Khan
  • Martin Luther
  • Guy de Maupassant
  • Marquis de Sade

The Secret Sex Lives of Famous People
Irving Wallace
Amy Wallace
David Wallechinsky

Currell, Billy. Kentucky Fried Tender (2006).

February 6, 2007

“‘Now before I enter the code,’ Naomi said. ‘Let me tell you the story. It was an eleventh hour deal that Newt Gringrich brokered back in 1995 just before the balanced budget bill was to appear before the White House. Bill was going to sign anyway, but he knew that Gingrich was from Marietta, Georgia and that he had connections with – ‘

‘The Big Chicken.”

Women, Chicken, Money. The Trinity of Tenderness. This is the teaching of Dr. Billy Currell as he takes the reader on a philosophical journey that recasts the evolution of man as being inextricably connected with the Chicken. He shows how chicken (and fried chicken in particular) led to mankind’s big brains, the development of romantic love, the creation of money, and the rise of feminism. Also he shows how it has become the loadstone of peace, security, and capitalism.

Currell’s multifaceted discussion of our existence approaches a social theory that, as far as I am aware, stands with singularity outside the usual realm of sociological studies. It uses the sometimes real, sometimes metaphorical figure of Colonel Sanders as both a Christ-like saviour and as flawed man whose perserverance we should model. The Colonel becomes a founder of both Faith and Government and also a teacher of Love and Eros.

The book covers numerous topics, but it only touches on legal topics tangetially and indirectly. These topics though are most evident in two premises of Dr. Currell: 1) “The first ducat was a bucket” 2) War does not occur in countries with KFCs.

The first proposition looks at the anthropological development of money. He notes that money was first food (the bucket is of course the bucket of Fried Chicken), and that food was the first form of private property. He then quickly traces the evolution of money from meat to grain to gold to paper to plastic. Of course it is at gold (and even more so at paper) level that government becomes entangled in economics. He links paper money to industrialism, and notes that “[i]n 1936, in a move both bold and controversial, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the United States off the gold standard, making paper notes ‘legal tender for all debts public and private.'” It is appropriate here to note that the publisher of this book is a company named Legal Tender and Private. Anyway, what Dr. Currell here is implicitly pointing to is the government legitimation of the system of trade that Currell argues is a result of man’s involvement with the Chicken. It also points to a governmental control over economics that heightens when “money . . . costs nothing to make.” Economics cease to be based on scarcity and become based on numerical value set by the government. This system is different from that which Currell argues gave rise to today’s social structure. In Currell’s analysis it is the scarcity of Chicken and the scarcity of eggs that gives those items value and make them the moving force in the development of society.

However, this change in system is not necessarily seen by Dr. Currell in a negative light. Quite the contrary, Currell points out that under a modern regime man is better off than he ever has been before, thus his proposition that Wars don’t take place in countries with Kentucky Fried Chickens. This is really a statement about Capitalism, as he uses the KFC is a metaphor for modern capitalism with an emphasis on its industrious nature which allows it the flexibility to cope with new and diverse problems. As Currell points out the opposite of Legal Tender and Private is “Vegetarian and Public” and thus linked to a Marxist philosophy that destroys the idea of private property. The idea of property is of course an extention of his earlier argument, but now he shapes it to show that the government legitimation of this system is good. Essentially, an economic system is a legal choice in the beginning, and Currell attempts to show with empirical evidence that the Capitalist choice is not only one based in man’s prehistory, but also is the system that has the more desirable outcome of peace, freedom, and a higher standard of living. He claims that if Colonel Sanders had taught Khruschev to fry chicken then the Cold War would have been ended (the Colonel was apparently enroute to Moscow when Khruschev gave up the ghost), and further suggests that The Colonel could have sorted out the current Gulf Conflict with a plate of Chicken (George W. on one side Saddam on the other).

Of course, none of this should surprise the lawyer, as it shouldn’t be forgotten that in addition to his divine qualities, his master cooking abilities, and his bawdy language The Colonel was an “aspiring lawyer (his sixth-grade education did not prevent him from practicing).” The Colonel is systemic, and damn that chicken tastes tender.


*It should be noted for the sake of disclosure, that I do indeed know the Dr. Currell and have had the pleasure of peeking in every now and then as he developed his manuscript. Furthermore, he allowed me the great honor of proofing and commenting on the manuscript prepublication. Thus any biases that the reader would like to interpolate are probably present.

Kentucky Fried Tender
Dr. Billy Currell

Dworkin, Ronald – Freedom’s Law: Moral Readings of the American Constitution (1996)

February 2, 2007

“The moral reading proposes that we all – Judges, lawyers, citizens – interpret and apply these abstract clauses on the understanding that they invoke moral principles about political decency and justice.”

Ronald Dworkin presents, in this volume, a series of essays that he uses to highlight what he calls a “moral reading” of the constitution. This moral reading requires the jurist (or whoever else might be working with the document) to interpret the abstract terms of the Bill of Rights “on the understanding that they invoke moral principles about political decency and justice.” He sets this type of reading up as the opposite of an original intent type reading, the abolition of which seems to be his project. My initial and primary problem with his ideas is that he holds that there is no middle ground between the two readings, and bases it on the fact that no one has yet really defined any sort of reading. I find this to be a bit misleading. Intent is important when we look at the law, and this is why “legislative intent” is so often examined when courts must rule on statutes. The Constitution is a historical document and the intent of the framers is quite important when interpreting it, but that should not be the only factor as the document has grown and must grow to deal with new legal quandaries that the framers would not have or could not have had in mind. Dworkin ignores any sort of balancing test that would allow for a mixing of different views to bring about justice.

Dworkin’s project seems less like an attempt to explain constitutional ideas and more like an assault on conservatives and conservative ideals. In my opinion this assault puts his own credibility into question. His disdain for not just conservative ideas, but also for specific figures becomes overpowering by the end of the book. In the final chapter he quotes, with admiration, Judge Learned Hand, who said, “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not to sure that it is right.” Dworkin suffers from being too sure that he is right. I am no constitutional lawyer, but I felt that too often he attempted to shrug off doctrines that he did not agree with as obviously wrong based on the fact that they were conservative in nature. I will try and make this more apparent below in the short discussions of each of his three sections of the book: I. Life, Death, and Race; II. Speech, Conscience, and Sex; and III. Judges.

In the first section of the book Dworkin reveals to the reader the first of his two obsessions in the book: abortion. Of the six chapters the first four cover it directly, the fifth deals with tangentially, and the sixth somehow manages to deal with both abortion and affirmative action at the same time (and abortion is probably mentioned in every other essay in the book). As a result Dworkin seems to repeat himself quite a bit by the end of this section (granted these are collected essays so it has more to do with bad editing than bad writing). Dworkin’s premise is that if one applies his moral reading to the constitution then one will come to the conclusion that Roe v. Wade is (and I remember this word being used somewhere) “obviously” right and that fetuses aren’t Constitutional Persons and thus a state has no right to protect them until the third trimester. I had a few qualms about his argument. First, on a technical note it seems that Dworkin really likes to cite himself as a reference, and I find that inherently problematic. Second, I feel as though Dworkin doesn’t engage with the language of Roe v. Wade at all. Instead, I found that he accepts the result of the ruling, but attempts to write in his own reasoning instead of that which the court used. In other words he justifies it in his own terms. Third, I felt like he did a little dance around the crux of what makes abortion and Roe not just controversial, but also a very difficult subject matter that readily leads to different conclusions for different people. He chooses to frame the question around whether a fetus is a “constitutional person” and twice compares fetuses to corporations (the analogy being that they are a being or a person, but that their rights can’t trump fundamental rights of constitutional persons i.e. potential mothers). He seems to skip, in my opinion, the idea that if we deem a fetus a human being it might very well have rights and that there are reasonable arguments for doing so. Instead he hides the ball by using the term “intrinsic value in human life” and making a misplaced value judgment that a fetus deserves recognition as a person with rights when it is recognizable, or has brain functions, or is viable. I don’t fault him for his opinion on Roe, but I never understood how another person applying the same moral test, might not come to the opposite conclusion based on moral principles? His obvious outcome is tied up in ones personal philosophy, which (and this is my final problem) leads him to then makes an ill-founded establishment clause argument. Essentially: if most Christians believe that abortion is wrong, then banning it violates the first amendment. Most Christians were against alcohol during prohibition (lets assume), but the banning of alcohol was proper function of the commerce clause (as interpreted), thus just because a group supported it it doesn’t follow that it violates the establishment clause. It doesn’t follow that if a state decides that a fetus is human being and has a right to life that this is inherently based on religion because Christians support it. This is not to discount religious involvement in the political arena, certainly any such law would be supported by religious groups, but “support for” is different from religiously based. It really is a question of personal philosophy, and it is not a simple as Dworkin wants one to believe.

The second section on the book, Speech, Conscience, and Sex, is where Dworkin shines in the volume. He, in this section, does engage with the Supreme Courts rulings on free speech in a way that not only explicates those rulings, but also makes his views clear on them. He begins with a discussion of New York Times v. Sullivan in light of two major trials involving slander and military generals, and follows it up with an essay as to why that sort of freedom is essential to our democracy. He ends the section with a discussion of Academic Freedom, which I think manages to effectively deal with numerous misconceptions that people have about the academic freedom and to make a valuable argument as to why a state should not meddle with researchers in its colleges. But Dworkin really shines in his essay “McKinnon’s Words,” which is an assault on Katharine McKinnon’s book Only Words and her anti-pornography statutes. McKinnon is a well known radical feminist whose project seeks to bring equality through the law. She started out as a Marxist and so her views often embrace very radical alterations in legal structures. In her book, she argues that pornography should be banned because it violates women’s fourteenth amendment rights to “equal protection” by subjecting them to prejudice and objectification which alienates them from the political process. Her argument runs that equal protection should not be sacrificed to the freedom of speech. She also managed to pass two anti pornography statutes one in the US and one in Canada. The one in the US was struck down as unconstitutional, the one in Canada (due to her definition of pornography – which is flawed) resulted in numerous items being banned including a book by critic bell hooks (hows that for irony). Dworkin sees these ideas as fundamentally flawed and I think rightfully so. He argues that it is the value that we place on freedom of speech in this country that allows for the open political process to work, and that for it to work some dubious things must be allowed to be communicated (including pornography with no political value). If the government can ban these items the slippery slope is open and we all suffer due to exclusion from the political process. He also prints his reply to the letter she published as a response to his article when it was originally published. He states that she called his article “ignorant, appalling, shocking, rock-throwing junk” and compares him to “kept writers in pornography magazines.” Now I haven’t read her actual letter, but if Dworkin reports correctly (I think he probably does) then it show McKinnon’s inability to take part in the actual conversation; instead she opts for the fireworks.

The final section of Dworkin’s book is entitled Judges and this is where you find his true colors. The first three chapters deal with the nomination and defeat of Robert Bork by president Regean to the Supreme Court. Bork is Dworkin’s second obsession and is mentioned in most, if not every essay, in the book and mentioned with great disdain at that. Dworkin frames this nomination as an important moment in the history of the court, but I don’t think it lived up to Dworkin’s expectations. Instead, it seems as though Dworkin has some sort of petty vendetta against Bork, and maybe more disturbingly his constitutional theory really begins to shine through as one that only accepts liberal views as valid. He seems shocked that Bork’s nomination was politicized by Regean, but openly seems to endorse liberals voting against conservative candidates based on their conservative views. Then he argues that Congress should vote on the virtue of the candidates constitutional philosophy, but hints that anything but a liberal philosophy should be voted down. This is expanded with his discussion in the next two chapters which cover the Clarence Thomas hearings. He is dismayed that the administration is openly nominating candidates that it hopes would overturn Roe v. Wade. He skips what a lot of people skip when discussing stare decisis: What if the tables were turned and Roe went the other way? Would he be as outraged if a liberal administration decided to appoint justices that would overturn that decision? Probably not because he would think that the decision was inherently wrong, but he won’t extend that sort argument to a conservative point of view (because he refuses to accept any sort of conservative critique as valid). He also discusses the constitutional philosophies of these two candidates as if “no constitutional lawyer” would buy into them, but it should read no “liberal constitutional lawyer.” He so sure that he is right that he fails to see that many of the doctrines are currently working to shape our constitution from the bench, and are by virtue of the fact they are quite relevant.

One final point, something that struck me as strange. He mentions that the “black community” supported Thomas and that after he got to the court some tried to justify their support with the idea that if Thomas didn’t make it then it would just be a white conservative (thus better to have a black conservative). Dworkin argues that it is “more insulting” to blacks to have a black conservative on the bench. I wonder if Dworkin thinks Thomas is not a “credit to his race.” Why shouldn’t Thomas be conservative and black, and more importantly, Dworkin, why should that insult black people in a country that prides itself in a multiplicity of views.

To sum up, Dworkin makes some very interesting arguments and is an important jurist, but he is so lost in his political agenda that the law gets left behind so he can pursue his project against conservatism.

Ronald Dworkin

Russell, Bertrand. History of Western Philosophy (1946)

January 23, 2007

“A man may be pardoned if logic compels him, regretfully, to reach conclusions which he deplores, but not for departing from logic in order to be free to advocate crimes.”

If you are looking for a crash course in Philosophy, Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy is a excellent place to start. Russell manages to cover everything from the beginnings of Greek Philosophy to the beginning of the twentieth century (you’ll have to turn somewhere else for more modern philosophy, but you’ll have the background at least).

What this book manages to do that is missed in a lot of Philosophy texts is to put the particular discussion into its historical and social perspective. I think that this is particularly important with philosophy, because Philosophy and social/scientific/political thought interweave with each other so much. A full understanding of the circumstances helps to guide the reader towards the “why” of the development of certain thoughts.

While this book by no means follows law as its sole motivation (there is alot of physics and metaphysics and teleology and logic and other lofty ideas that were way above my head), it does cover extensively the philosophies that stand behind the development of law and politics. However, Russell avoids the weak argument that legal and political developments always occured as a result of philosophical developments. The two are much to intertwined for that argument to hold any water; instead, Russell works to display the interconnectedness of the two schools of thought.

I won’t spend much time attempting to summarize the book as it is along and arduous read, which would make my summary ramble. However it might be helpful to point out the major legal themes that are encompassed in each of the three sections of the book.

The first section, “Ancient Philosophy,” mainly traces Greek influences on western philosophy. In this section there is a fairly easy to read discussion of the development of the City-State and of the differing governmental styles in ancient Greece (mainly those of Sparta and Athens). Next, Russell tackles “Catholic Philosophy” in book two. The significant legal discussion in this section of the book is that on the tension between the Pope and Emperor in their battle for supremacy, which had quite a dramatic effect on not only philosophy but also on both canon and civil law. The last section of the book is “Modern Philosophy,” and in this section the reader will be able to trace the roots of liberalism and socialism as the two major competing political forms of the modern world. I would especially commend you to chapter XIV “Locke’s Political Philosophy,” which gives a very concise review of Lockes philosophy and the effect it has had.

As a final note, I might mention that Russell was writing this during WWII so there a numerous references as to how certain philosophies are reflected in the politics of that era.

History of Western Philosophy (Routledge Classics)
Betrand Russell