November 15, 2004

Natural Law

I'm on call this week in Con Law. I normally do my reading and I'm not embarrassed to speak in class, so historically, when I've been on call, nothing really changed. But professor ConLaw has a habit of calling on people with questions like:

So, how would Justice Jackson, based on his dissent in some-case-we-read-two-months-ago, respond to Justice Breyer's concurrence in this case?

Right. So it's a little more difficult to be prepared in con law. So, I really paid attention while doing my reading for today. I read slowly, took notes in the margins, identified key phrases, and even read the relevant chemerinsky chapter (something I've been reserving for after I outline the section).

Sure enough. Professor Con Law called on me today. The conversation did not go as planned:

Prof: BT, I'm going to pick on you. Do you think there is such a thing as "natural law?" Are there discoverable laws about what is just wrong or right?

BT: Ummm, that's a fairly philosophical question...

Prof: [laugh] Welcome to the class. But seriously, do you think there are things that are just wrong?

BT: There are things that society as a whole decides are wrong...

Prof: But what about you? Are some things just wrong?

BT: I don't think we can affirmatively say things are just wrong.

Prof: But what about genocide. Wouldn't you say genocide is wrong?

BT: [conceding] Yes. I would say that genocide is wrong.

Prof: How do you know that?

BT: I don't. I've just put in enough time to form my opinion on this issue and I believe it's wrong.

Prof: You believe it. So if you were president, you'd go invade a country that was committing genocide and you'd tell the American people that you *believed* we needed to do it.

BT: Well, I'd have back-up.

Prof: What do you mean?

BT: I wouldn't be the only one who believed genocide was wrong.

Prof: Okay, so I'll give you back up on the genocide thing. But what about equal protection for women? Would you say that equal protection for women is right? Isn't it just something that is fundamentally good?

BT: Here, today, yes.

Prof: But it's not a moral imperative? Women in some cultures don't deserve gender equality. It hasn't always been correct?

BT: If aliens landed, I'm pretty sure most people wouldn't be so concerned about alien equal protection. But if it turned out that they were nice, one hundred years from now, alien equal protection could be seen as a fundamental right.

Prof: Well, if aliens landed, we'd be the ones who'd need to worry about discrimination.

BT: Good Point.

Not what I was expecting...but fun.

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