Monday, May 02, 2005

Study Break - Part II

Clearly this religion-as-the-basis-of-morality-for-lawyers idea struck a chord with a few people, and/or the debate is a welcome distraction from studying. I received this thoughtful response to my last post from Frank Walsh:

Faith, in its diverse and complex manifestations, operates at level much more fundamental than as an indeterminate cousin of ethical argument. Using faith as a moral compass is predicated not on outlining a cogent set of rules upon which to base conduct or contrasting the Catholic and Jewish dogma on a given activity. Rather, faith offers a perspective through which to analyze the normative problems of our day: faith tells us to think of ourselves in a larger context.

By seeing ourselves as just one small part in a vast system with goals infinitely more important than any personal targets we set, the very way young lawyers make ethical choices would be changed. Small term gains pale in comparison to the work that serves a greater purpose. In economic terms, externalities that are not taken into account when thinking only of oneself are efficiently allocated when thinking of the bigger picture. Central to all organized faiths is the concept that to serve the greater good rewards the individual; this is exactly the normative paradigm young lawyers need in the murky waters of legal ethics.

Ethical reasoning deliberated through the perspective of a rational, utility-maximizing person is the cornerstone of moral relativism. Fundamental to any purely secular pursuit of an ethical code is the assumption that we should look at the greater good; all I argue is that religion is a way to ensure the proper goals are maintained. Reasoning holds a central place in the articulation of an ethical code, but that reasoning must begin from the right starting point. To quote our Commander-in-Chief, this normative foundations tells us to "make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself- and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character."

So yes, teach rational thought in law schools. But teach it in the right context. It just might be that looking through the lens of a religious faith is what is needed to put the blurry line between right and wrong back into focus.

-Also, whoever said the original quote must be, based solely on the insightfulness of the quote, ruggedly handsome and possess insatiable boy-next-door charm.

1 comment:

Charles Iragui said...

Frank,

If you're there... I like it. The moral frame of mind rather than a bunch of rules.

best,

Charles

PS: Deborah - you're our blog reporter. Any other scoops?