Monday, March 20, 2006

Positivism as dessicated Nomos

If you have ever wondered about laws and norms in their capacity as guides for our glad cooperation, or just our grudging acquiescence, or even having merely the profound dignity given by being benchmarks against which we violently resist--or wondered about laws and norms in their internal logic, their narrativity that draws you into a world in which the grand sweep of history is more real than what you eat or wear, and an arc, a future-spanning trajectory that makes your desires small but gives them meaning--or wondered about laws and norms as both inspiring and intimidating, making you love and yet recoil--

--you will not find the cup of your wonder filled up by positivism. Consider two sixty-page excerpts from a positivist and a narrativist tract, say Hart's The Concept of Law and Robert Cover's Nomos and Narrative. I think I pick these fairly, as two of the greatest in their schools (if Cover has a school--in fact he has no entry in Wikipedia, to my astonishment and dismay). The former teaches you how to avoid slipping into pitfalls that are so small you would have to be an angel dancing on the head of a pin to even see. The latter expands your universe and makes you feel like a blessed, ignorant Socrates. I take no position on which way the benefit would swing if reading less august samples from the two schools; it may be that reading merely-good analytical works is more valuable than merely-good historicist ones. Perhaps anything but the best narratives just muddy the waters. Perhaps good analysis fills our cup, while the best narratives grow our cup so it can be more fully filled. UIOGD, as is said.


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