20 January 2009

Wolterstroff’s Approach 0.2

Unlike legal academics in the realist tradition, Wolterstorff begins not with remedies for injustice (what he characterizes as “rectifying justice”) but with what he calls primary justice, classically known as distributive and commutative justice. Rejecting “methodological atheism,” Wolterstorff announces early in his Preface that he seeks to “develop a theistic account, specifically, a Christian account” of primary justice. (x) Shasthri’s jurisprudence class at NLU will reach specifically Hindu understandings of jurisprudence in several weeks. I hope a comparison will prove fruitful.

Wolterstorff anticipates objections to importing religious ideas into analytic philosophy by observing that “once upon a time” philosophers assumed that philosophy and religion had to grounded in a few foundational and rational certitudes, excluding by practice if not definition concepts such as God and revelation. Foundationalism, however, has faded as the presupposition of analytic philosophers. In its place Wolterstorff suggests the contemporary paradigm as one of “dialogic pluralism” in which only the goal of the academic enterprise (rather than its starting point) is agreement so that along the way the philosopher is free to appropriate things from folks of various persuasions.

Anticipating the first part of Justice, Wolterstorff describes the two leading conceptions of primary justice as sounding in either inherent rights or in right order (see A. MacIntyre and the O’Donovans for the later). Wolterstorff’s support for the former is not left to the reader’s guesswork: “The conception of justice as inherent rights was not born in the fourteenth or the seventeenth century; this way of thinking about justice goes back into the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.” (xii)

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