Law School Discussion

My Yale 250 - Have at it


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #30 on: December 31, 2005, 03:52:25 PM »

i see the gpa as your biggest obstacle, though not necessarily an insurmountable one.  but you've got to address it for the final evaluators, especially because they are professors.

You are right, of course. I am addressing it the best way that I can. Explanations, resume, PS etc. Thanks for the advice.


  • ****
  • 175
  • Editor and freelance Writer
    • View Profile
Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #31 on: December 31, 2005, 06:16:13 PM »
Have you read any Martha Nussbaum or Amartya Sen? I get the anti-Rawls thang you've got going here. It's almost a reason/morals dichotomy--one of the things I brought into my own essay was Thane Rosenbaum's "The Myth of Moral Justice." Law can be entirely based on reason and just plain wrong--hence, Nazi Germany.

Genocide today is different though, yes? It's within borders, and thus can take longer to ferret out. I agree we're still crappy at dealing with it, but I think that has more to do with an argument around the idea of the state--for example, would your argument necessarily lead to the abolishment of states? How does the idea of 'community' fix the niggling issues to do with borders and sovereignty?

If your goal is this specific tone, you've achieved it.

For me, all of the lapses in logic I found were addressed by your given explanation. In fact, the explanation makes me wonder why globalization is in there at all--if you'd really like to give human rights rhetoric the what-for, why not concentrate on that? That's clearly where your energy is most concentrated, based on the explanation given.

Human rights is still in its infancy--moving from theory to policy has proven tricky, and certainly things could be better. The tone of your piece is just so...apocalyptic. There's really no one writing today who has proposed a theory you'd buy into? Is there no positive progress at all? When you say "consider community," how could you flesh that out a bit more within the 250?

I totally get your frustrations, btw. Our rhetoric does not match our actions.

A 'backwards outline' of your essay, as it stands:
1)It's like deja-vu all over again
2)International law isn't helping those who most need it
3)Cultural Relativity--western paradigms rule
4)Reason vs Community (i.e. screw Kant) didn't mention Human Rights by name, nor Rawls, nor Kant. Why not? This seems a conscious decision--but, I'd still invoke 'em all.

Martha Nussbaum makes a powerful argument both for community & for how the western paradigm actually is not exceptionally western at all--and how even if human rights can be argued to be grounded in western thought, there are reasons why this is acceptable, and that we should get so hung up on the location and idea emanated from. It's from Women & Human Development--worth the read. She teaches law at U of C and hangs out with Cass Sunstein.

I wish you well with this--it's a great topic to grapple with, at any rate.



(I dunno why everyone keeps arguing for adding a story--dude, the PS will have that, right?)

For anyone willing to - or interested in - reading the step-by-step of my thinking, re: the actual content of the draft 250, it is below....

I take Habeas’ concerns about sounding know-it-allsy seriously. My issue is that I ruly believe that international law - esp in the area of human rights - is preposterous beyond belief. My sense is that we all know that it is, at least in the back of our minds. How do we reconcile the existence of so-called“laws” against genocide, for example, with having ourselves lived in a time when several have occured and are occuring with little action on the part of the so-called international community? International law is WEAK.

Why is it weak? I guess that I’m driving at a number of questions and issues, and trying to do so into 250 words and without being too dry about it.

1. intl law isn’t based on a sense of community:
Perhaps because we really don’t care that much about those people - we do not believe them to be like us, part of our community. We do not love them. They are simply the beneficiaries of our pity, and that after the fact; perhaps, even, we need them to suffer in order to know how good we ourselves have it... (The contrast with the efficiency and rigor with which international private law enforced is perhaps instructive).

2. intl law’s weakness is in its attempt to ground itself on reason alone:
If intl law, then, is not based on community & love; and if it is based on Kantian Reason (hence, the oh-so-German capitalizations... I’m uncomfortable with the caps too, but used them anyway because it is shorthand for our tradition of thought, and because Kantian thought is not the only type of reason possible) then clearly it is way above my head. I guess, though, that I am a firm believer at the moment in the idea that, to name-drop and distort Oliver Wendell Holmes for a sec,  “the life of the law (cannot be born of) logic (but) of experience”. It seems to me that intl law, currently and in the past, is all about the “a priori” and categorical imperatives, veils of ignorance and thought experiments in which  ahistorical, acultural, apolitical “individuals” make what is equitable and just.  Reminds me of the joke about the economist in jail who escapes by assuming that she has a key to her cell. I cannot imagine a person without history /culture / unconscious/ myth/ poiltics, any more than I can imagine a circle without a shape.

3. intl law is arrogant and elitist:
And there may yet be other problems with it: given that it is founded upon a western conception of reason, of the individual as the paramount moral and political unit, it may not even be able to understand, let alone accomodate other - African, Confucian, Islamic etc - conception of justice, rights, etc. Perhaps this is why it has very little legitimacy. Perhaps this lack of legitimacy is why it is so weak.  I don’t think that I am the only person that thinks it laughable that there are conventions against child labor, declarations on the equality of women, laws against slavery, and articles on the right of all to freedom from absolute poverty even as things flourish?

4. we have seen international reason be this way before, in the early twentieth century
Then too, the war to end all wars had been fought, and history had been proclaimed over. Then too they relied on international law based on reason alone without accounting for the powerful forces of nationalism, ideology, culture, history. Then too, the western elites met at conferences in nice places and solved the problems of the world at a stroke. And the twentieth century, by any measure, was an utter disaster. And here we are again.

5. Frankly, the high-flown rhetoric of intl law, coupled with its weakness, pisses me off a little bit.
Naively, I suppose, I can’t help but feel that that genocide isn’t cool. I find human rights chic, in the face of its obvious failures, frankly obscene.

6. By implication - international law should be founded on politics, history, culture; it should seek legitimacy by being founded upon consensus, an awareness or cultural diversity, on a better developed sense of solidarity. Let’s put the anthropological, the political, the love,  and the historical back into law. That is my suggestion, and I’m willing to devote an entire career to it.


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #32 on: December 31, 2005, 07:25:39 PM »

Martha yes, a little  (the love/community angle). Paul Kahn, too. Sen = overrated. Geertz, for me, the most influential, although indirectly. Maybe Marshall Sahlins, too. James Ferguson, definitely. Didn't want to name drop, too much. See the reaction that a passing mention of Weber elicited?

Within borders? Maybe, although the borders are contested: Kurds, Rwanda-Burundi, Kosovo, Congo etc.. Not sure what moral (or practical) difference that makes? (Benedict Anderson, Eric hobsbawm...)

Apocalyptic? The situation is, but surely not the fact that I'm pointing it out? Willing to be less outraged (would be assuaged, in fact, and happy to pursue a doctoral degree in English lit, maybe) if I thought that the theory was on track and the practice would follow at some time in the future. Not at all convinced that the theory is anywhere near on the right track, though. And no, there is no progress that I can discern. The poor are poorer; the sick are sicker; women emancipated only in the sunny corners of the world. Slavery still with us, although we call it debt-bondage now. What has changed, really, for the poor? Not a whole bunch.

Part of the reason is that human rights rhetoric has crowded out political struggle. And of course, the economist-world bank types (the colonial administrators, loosely, of our day) go out and do their thing: "it's not politics, you see? It's development plans". They are not chastened, of course, that they have failed utterly and in every manner possible and in every place that they have been active in promoting "human development".. they just need to re-jig their development models a little bit, try micrcredit maybe, or property rights r export processing zones, or privatisation or ......

There needs to be a sense of shame about the last century. Cynicism is accepting that this is the way that it has to be, and I'm not there yet. I'm just a little pissed off.


  • ****
  • 419
    • View Profile
Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #33 on: December 31, 2005, 07:59:45 PM »
happy new year! go do something other than this. i know, i know, i am on lsd too. but i have an excuse. i can't afford the time to be hungover (since i have a big trip to prepare for and i am waaaay behind). besides, it is still kind of early here.


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #34 on: December 31, 2005, 08:13:13 PM »
Comes off as a bit forced and trite.  They need to know what YOU think like, not what you think they want you to think like, or what somebody else thinks like.


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #35 on: December 31, 2005, 08:14:49 PM »
I know.. Bit sad, really. Happy New Year!


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #36 on: December 31, 2005, 08:16:01 PM »
Comes off as a bit forced and trite.  They need to know what YOU think like, not what you think they want you to think like, or what somebody else thinks like.

What I think like? Er.. thanks


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #37 on: December 31, 2005, 08:18:50 PM »
Yes, what you think like.  I was assuming your original 250 wasn't based on your thoughts (because you're obviously intelligent and your 250, while well-written, was redolent of bad thinking).  Just be honest with them.


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #38 on: December 31, 2005, 08:20:13 PM »
Which bit was the bad thinking? You've got me interested now.


Re: My Yale 250 - Have at it
« Reply #39 on: December 31, 2005, 08:24:18 PM »
"Enlightenment thought is fashionable once more. "

Don't bash the Enlightenment.  The Enlightenment has gotten us 80 year life expectancies, unimaginable material comfort and release from suffering, and the safest world to live in in modern history. Also, I have a feeling Yale is an institution that respects the achievements of "Enlightenment thinking".  It just comes across as pomo bs.

"It feels like the dawn of the 20th century".

How would you know?  Were you there?