Friday, May 11, 2007

I Kant, seriously

Okay, I understand completely. It's a legal ethics class (professional responsibility), and it make some sense to know a little about what some prominent ethical philosophers had to say. What I don't get is why we had to read JS Mill and Kant, excerpted, in a law school course. Why not just make a quick summary of the idea, and maybe attribute it to Mill or Kant? After all, they were relatively short excerpts, they barely captured the essence of what Mill and Kant were trying to say, and they were written in that wonderful (sic) arcane style that all of us love to read so much.

And. The only point was to introduce the idea that there actually is an ethical basis for what governs the behavior of lawyers.

Now I know it seems rather childish of me to complain about 20 pages of moral philosophy. After all, I have had to read 300 year old Queens Bench opinions in Contracts and Property class; I've had to absorb the rule against perpetuities, selected parts of the uniform commercial code, and Pennoyer v Neff. So what's wrong with a little Kant and Mill?

Here's what's wrong. I've read these guys before, back in college. I have a good understanding of Mill, and at least a working grasp of Kant. I have happily forgotten the old philosophy that I read in the past, and would have been perfectly content never to think about them again. Re-reading just a short excerpt simply reminded me about the self-flagellation that is moral philosophy. Moreover, the excerpts in my PR text barely scratched the surface of both, and in the case of Kant, they actually got it wrong, at least with regard to the conclusion the authors were drawing (In reality, it was a gross oversimplification rather than actually getting it incorrect, but I digress, the result is the same). So not only did I not care, I actually got angry at the errors. It's the same mistake people make with Nietsche - they read one passage and believe they understand him. You can't do that with Nietsche, and you Kant do that with Kant either.

But at this point, it's behind me. I just had to vent. We're done (hopefully) with the misapprehension of the categorical imperative, and I can shove that bit of torture back to the deeper recesses of my brain and continue to (hopefully) focus on more practical matters. Like exceptions to the hearsay rule (gee, there are only 28 of them)!

1 comment:

Raston said...

I liked Kant and Neitchze :) But I guess I'm weird like that ;)