Dialogues on Law and Justice





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July 2011
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Dialogues #4 - John Witte, Jr. on Law and the West

Legal historian John Witte, Jr. discusses why the positivist view of law has become less compelling. Like his mentor, the late Harold Berman, Witte argues that the key to understanding Western law lies in identifying the rich, early Western dialogue between religious and secular institutions; and it requires an understanding of the ways in which legal authority shifted between church and state throughout history. Similarly, Witte argues that because legal jurisdiction in various matters has shifted from the church to the state, religious presuppositions are still a part of the vocabulary Westerners have always used to define the meaning and limits of the law. If Witte’s formulation is correct, then the consistency of the Western legal system relies upon this strong interplay between secular and religious insights; the prevailing view since the Western Enlightenment, that laws can be described in purely “secular” terms, has had the effect of unravelling the substance of the Western legal tapestry originally woven from threads of secular and religious thought.

Direct download: Dialogues_4-John_WItte_Law_and_West.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:32pm EDT

Dialogues #3 - Michael McConnell on SCOTUS 2010

Just before the opening of the new term of the U. S. Supreme Court, the magazine First Things published a summary of the highlights of the 2010 term. The article was called “A Free Speech Year at the Court,” and it was written by Michael McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at the Stanford Law School. On this edition of Dialogues, Professor McConnell talks with host Ken Myers about how the Court is increasingly collapsing all First Amendment freedoms into freedom of speech, a trend he finds disturbing.

Direct download: Dialogues_3-Michael_McConnell_on_2010.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:29pm EDT

Dialogues #2 - Robert George on Marriage and Law

At the heart of the question of making laws about marriage is a question of definition. Specifically, is “marriage” a noun describing a mere social convention, or does it label something that is part of the order of reality? Can marriage be whatever we want it to be, or is there something about the nature of human being that defines it rather narrowly? On this issue of Dialogues, Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, says that it’s important to insist that marriage has a distinct, inelastic nature. George insists not only that marriage be understood as something with a fixed definition, but as an intrinsic good, something that is morally good prior to any good effects it might have such as social stability, mutual happiness, or the begetting of children. Marriage, rightly understood, is good in and of itself, and law should reflect that reality.

Direct download: Dialogues_2-Robert_George.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:08pm EDT

Dialogues #1 - The Roberts Court and Natural Law

In 2007, MARS HILL AUDIO produced a special report on ideas about law and justice that informed some of the legal reasoning of the U. S. Supreme Court under the then-newly appointed Chief Justice John Roberts.

In September 2011, we launched a series of podcasts that extend that discussion, featuring interviews with legal scholars, philosophers, theologians, historians, and journalists. Each of these podcasts will examine how the making and judging of laws are (or ought to be) guided by principles that surpass mere utility or interest. We have re-presented our original report as the first in this new series.

Ken Myers
Producer and Host

Direct download: Dialogues_1_The_Roberts_Court.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:53pm EDT