stanley fish tackles legal pluralism

Of Fish’s three options, I think most liberal Americans profess to hold #2, but really hold #3. They would like to see their version of law (indeed, of culture, religion, and the whole of politics, too) instituted in every third world society, but they’re (almost) content to wait until the third world “secularizes” on its own initiative–a matter of inevitability, they presume.

(Needless to say, I think this presumption is–for lack of a better word–presumptuous. In fact, it reminds me of the “inevitability” of which the proponents of industrial agriculture spoke in the mid-20th century.)

The problem is that there is no such inevitability. Changes in third world culture and society occur because someone or something (an institution such as the UN, for example) inserts their ideology into the mix. Similarly, changes within our culture occur because one ideology wins out over another–often in trivial battles like the firing of a professor for holding Catholic beliefs about homosexuality. In other words, we’re back to the same ole’ absolutist touting of “my worldview over yours” that American liberals despise.

My point: there’s no escaping it.

Human life necessitates the acceptance of a totalizing worldview. There is simply no other way to live. Anyone claiming to have ditched this for some pluralistic “my beliefs are no truer than yours” is deluded.

I believe this more than I ever have. But it doesn’t mean I don’t also believe in the conception of a State wherein no single belief or worldview is given priority. It’s just that I’m willing to admit an inherent difficulty in such a conception.

Ultimately, (I believe) that makes me a realist instead of an idealist.


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