The Secularization of the Legal Profession

Over at Mirror of Justice, Rob Vischer (St. Thomas – Minnesota) has an interesting post about a presentation he made last week, at a conference at Notre Dame, about the secularization of the legal profession over the last century. As evidence, he gives the very good example of the move from the “‘moral law’” standard of the 1908 ethical canons to today’s more agnostic approach. Although under the 1908 canons lawyers had a duty to provide moral advice to clients, nowadays moral advice is optional, and, in fact, subtly disfavored. The contemporary lawyer must find a way to achieve the client’s ends within the bounds of the law; we leave questions of morality mostly to the client. As it happens, I made a presentation on this very subject last month at the Forum 2000 Conference in Prague, in which I argued that the new approach is not the abdication of morality, exactly, but the substitution of a morality of individualism for one based on consensus moral norms derived from religion. (A video of the talk is here). Rob has a paper in the works that will no doubt be, like all his scholarship, well worth the reading. – MLM

Bonine et al. eds., “Is There a Middle East?”

Here’s a book about the cohesion — cultural, religious, and socio-political — of the Middle East, Is There a Middle East?: The Evolution of a Geopolitical Concept (Stanford UP 2011), edited by Michael E. Bonine, Abbas Amanat, and Michael Ezekiel Gasper.  Obviously the book will interest students of the political history of Islam, as well as many others.  The publisher’s abstract follows.  — MOD

Is the idea of the “Middle East” simply a geopolitical construct conceived by the West to serve particular strategic and economic interests—or can we identify geographical, historical, cultural, and political patterns to indicate some sort of internal coherence to this label? While the term has achieved common usage, no one studying the region has yet addressed whether this conceptualization has real meaning—and then articulated what and where the Middle East is, or is not.

This volume fills the void, offering a diverse set of voices—from political and cultural historians, to social scientists, geographers, and political economists—to debate the possible manifestations and meanings of the Middle East. At a time when geopolitical forces, social currents, and environmental concerns have brought attention to the region, this volume examines the very definition and geographic and cultural boundaries of the Middle East in an unprecedented way.

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Social Activist & Proponent of Interfaith Dialogue

“If you want to know God, sharpen your sense of the human.”

—Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972)

Earlier this year, Susannah Heschel, professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth, published Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings (Orbis 2011), a collection of works by the volume’s namesake—her father.  The elder Heschel—born in Poland into a Hasidic family with a long connection to the rabbinate—escaped Warsaw for the U.S. only weeks before the Third Reich invaded in 1939.

Through his subsequent career, Heschel advocated interfaith understanding and was active in many of the leading social issues of his day—marching with Martin Luther King Jr.; protesting the Vietnam War; observing Vatican II in an official capacity; and challenging the Catholic Church to amend its occasional strains of anti-Semitism, both past and present.  The publisher’s abstract follows the jump.

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