Friday, June 19, 2009

Bentham argues that religion is in direct competition with secular law

Ferguson, Frances (1947 -) Coherence and Changes in the Unknown World New Literary History - Volume 35, Number 2, Spring 2004, pp. 303-319 The Johns Hopkins University Press

This essay undertakes to understand Foucault's interest in classification in The Order of Things as a contribution to debates about the availability of beliefs. If a standard defense of the possibility of religious belief involves claiming that religious belief does not need justification, it seems to make religious belief (and all sorts of beliefs about things that are not part of the world of experience) look as though it is a mere product of the wills of individuals. Foucault's analysis of historical shifts in the conceptual operations performed by classifications does not suggest, as some commentators have thought, that there is no distinction between facts and fictions.

Instead, his view implies that the modern era recruited concepts for the world of experience, so that individual examples and the concepts that identified them in terms of their types were related more actively to one another than to unseen causes beyond the world of experience. Bentham's discussion of religion in The Influence of Natural Religion on the Temporal Happiness of Mankind of 1822 serves to indicate exactly how far the modern understanding of individuals in relation to groups or types in the social and experiential world came to compete with the possibility of belief in an unseen deity as a cause of the world of our experience.

In Bentham's account, belief in a deity who dispenses posthumous rewards and punishments is not a mere supplement to human law with its present structure of rewards and punishments. Instead, Bentham argues that religion is in direct competition with secular law and its evaluations of human actions, that religion does not give meaning to life but rather deprives human action of significance. Project MUSE Journals New Literary History Volume 35, Number 2, Spring 2004 Coherence and Changes in the Unknown World

Law Ought Not be Centrally Planned (by Don Boudreaux) from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux

In a free society, law isn't simply, or even chiefly, a set of explicit commands handed down from a sovereign (be it a monarch or a democratically elected legislature). A great deal of law - indeed, most law - emerges undesigned from the daily practices of ordinary people interacting with, and sometimes bumping into, each other. People on their own often find ways to minimize these conflicts, and these ways become embedded in people's expectations. These expectations, in turn, become unwritten law - law that good judges find and enforce impartially.

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