The Politics of Postmodern Jurisprudence

Abstract

never-never land. In the reality of a concrete context, we are able to grasp the point of a text without slipping into an infinite regress bereft of meaning. 73 Moreover, neither traditions nor prejudices are mere mental forms or ideas that can be replaced by simply imagining different forms or ideas. Prejudices and interests often are learned or absorbed in a deep sense; they become embodied in individuals. Prejudices and interests, then, are not like a pair of rose-colored glasses that can be removed and replaced with a pair of green-tinted glasses. To the contrary, once entrenched or learned, particular prejudices and interests are not easily changed or shaken, though they always remain contingent and potentially alterable.74 Additionally, prejudices, interests, and traditions arise from and are constituted by experiences that are mediated through language. And language, as a practical activity, is communicated through concrete experiences and actions.75 For example, a child learns through a multitude of social interactions the meaning of being a doctor in our society. The child might be a patient of a doctor who talks to and physically treats 73. At a particular point in time, a text can seem to have a multiplicity of meanings only if we imagine it as decontextualized, as existing in some abstract sense. But as Stanley Fish notes, we always encounter a text in a concrete context, and hence, the text always has a determinate meaning (though that meaning can change as the context changes). See Stanley Fish, Normal Circumstances, Literal Language, Direct Speech Acts, the Ordinary, the Everyday, the Obvious, What Goes Without Saying, and Other Special Cases, in INTaPREI1vE SOCIAL SCIENCE A READER, supra note 38, at 243, 256. 74. To me, Gadamer does not adequately make this point, although it is implicit in his approach. Pierre Bourdieu's notion of the embodiment of a practice suggests that prejudices and interests should be understood not merely as a "state of mind," but as a "state of the body." See PIERRE BoURDmu, THE LOGIC OF PRACTICE 68 (Richard Nice trans., Stanford Univ. Press 1990) (1980). In fact, Bourdieu writes that "[1]anguage is a body technique." PIERRE BOURDIEU, LANGUAGE AND SYMBOLIC POWER 86 (John B. Thompson ed. & Gino Raymond & Matthew Adamson trans., Harvard Univ. Press 1991) (1982). Thus, we might understand language and tradition as being, in the words of Julia Annas, "socially embodied" or "embodied in various forms of social life." Julia Annas, Maclntyre on Traditions, 18 PHIL. & PUB. A-F. 388, 388-89 (1989) (discussing Alasdair Macntyre's notion of tradition); see Feldman, The Persistence of Power, supra note 5, at 2258-61 (criticizing Habermas's argument that we can separate symbolic reproduction in a lifeworld from material reproduction). 75. James Boyd White writes: [Olur acts of language are actions in the world, not just in our minds. Even when we think we are simply communicating information, or being rigorously and exclusively intellectual, or just talking, we are in fact engaged in performances, in relation to others, that are ethical and political in character and that can be judged as such. JAMES BOYD WHITE, JUSTICE AS TRANSLATION ix (1990). October 1996]

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Feldman2017ThePO, title={The Politics of Postmodern Jurisprudence}, author={Stephen M. Feldman and Cormac McCarthy}, year={2017} }