Thursday, March 24, 2005

Thoughts on the Law and Why Some People Despise It and Lawyers

I was thinking last night about various ontological and metaphysical theories (I’m reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, again, and again, and again…) and then somehow ended up with thoughts about the law, the legal system, and lawyers, and why most people seem to really not like one or all of these (towards the end of this rant, this will relate to issues about health care).

The reason people seem to me to despise the law, its system of function, and find its actions capricious is because it is in its critiquing nature that it reveals how little we know about every so called truth/postulate. The system of inquiry (also known as the legal method) inevitably puts into doubt concepts that one side holds dear and fundamental to their core concept of self/identity, but fail on their own to explore the bounds of. This is not necessarily a fault of their own, most of us don’t deeply introspect our beliefs, and those who do, certainly don’t do it on all of them.

But with the law, in the course of its quest for truth (I know, I know, whatever that means…but that ambiguity is kinda the point of this rant…), law points out the inconsistencies in our beliefs, and sheds light on how much we take on faith and how erroneous human knowledge gained through experience can be. If done right, it is in fact the ultimate expression of pragmatic skepticism. What makes the result of its inquiry so painful to those who were a part of it, is that one side is right and the other is wrong, and that this result is then perceived by many to be a universal truth about themselves and/or their ideals. In fact, the inquisitional process of the law in most cases bases its decisions on particulars, often what people hold to be minutia, to come up with a conclusion that is usually limited in scope. It is a system that tries to come up with conclusions via a mostly deductive process first, and then try to induce from that point onward as little as possible and with caution.

In my experience, the perspective that the public holds does not at all sufficiently mirror the above, and so when they enter into a legal arena which will test their beliefs to determine if they’re right or wrong, they have a WHOLE different concept of what the dig is about than what will actually take place. They think that justice will be served, their justice, but don’t examine just how huge that concept is! I raise this issue on this blog because I believe that this misconception plays into one of the reasons for why the interplay between health and law is so controversial. That is, that individual beliefs are put into this sausage making mechanism that spits something out the other end that in the eyes of the lay person is now a bastardized representation of their beliefs and any conclusions which could have been drawn from those beliefs by them. Now, I don’t mean to knock the lay person –in a way, I’m actually envious as sometimes the unexamined life IS worth living –instead, I am emphasizing what I see to be a fundamental difference in the goals of the law and the values of the lay person bringing their conflict to the system.

Does this mean that the law is not inherently based on making value determinations that are held by each party? I’m not sure…at this point I would argue that it is not, at least not necessarily, as it has to bridge and then analyze with reference to its own ontology, the values of the two parties respectively, and in the course of its determination, the values of any precedence it relies on. Because of this misconception, the parties involved in health related cases (yes, like Schiavo) walk away bitter in having their values vilified by the system. I’m not sure if this legal system or any other in fact is perfectly suited (whatever that would mean) to reconciling conflicting sets of values (perhaps that is something that could be apart of some definition of truth), but in general, I’m in awe of it because it does tend to produce results whose premises are just when considering the aggregate quality and quantity of the values in conflict.


Blogger james gaulte said...

From what I've seen over the years, the "law" is a mechanism for settling disputes or issues.Sometimes in that process, one person's idea of justice is or is not served.Sometimes in that process, the truth( meaning here a correspondence with what actually happened) is discovered or is not.After all the appeals are done, as the gypsy saying says " The dogs bark and the carivan move on " Setting disputes is what its all about, truth or justice as a byproduct may or may not emerge.

April 06, 2005 9:54 AM  
Blogger Bioethics Dude said...

Thanks for the comment James. In re:

Setting disputes is what its all about, truth or justice as a byproduct may or may not emerge.

Agree and hope that came across in my post, the two systems are different in scope and intent. It's similar to the distinction between ethics and the law --the two are related but nowhere the same. --BD

April 06, 2005 11:22 AM  
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December 09, 2005 6:23 PM  

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