Law and the Humanities : The upcoming intensive week

As I am about to begin the intensive week of the law and humanities module, I find myself wondering, what are the humanities, really? I am convinced I know the answer to the question and yet I find myself wondering nonetheless.

The humanities are the study of society through different topics like art, history, philosophy etc. They provide a broad array of discussion and thinking that allows us to see beyond what we think we know and ask how or why instead of taking information for granted.

This becomes interesting when paired with the study of law. As a French law student, I have been though through norms, codes and jurisprudence; rarely do we focus on other things. In the past, I personally have chosen modules that included a study of politics and law, philosophy and law and also literature and law.

The study of law and the humanities appeared as a perfect addition to this course. The point being that law is social construct, it can be much more interesting to understand how it works and why it works the way it works through the study of other areas of thought that have influenced it. Law would not have appeared in Ancient Greece and Rome, at the same time as great philosophers, if there was no correlation between the two at some point.

As I read about the imaginary and the difficulty that lies in defining it, I realize that there is a lot we think we understand and yet are unable to define or explain. Albert Einstein said ‘if you can’t explain it simply then you don’t understand it well enough’ – so I guess this is my understanding of humanities. This module will help me make more sense of certain topics and will probably bring even more questions as the week goes by.


One thought on “Law and the Humanities : The upcoming intensive week

  1. mm2049 says:

    This is a very honest and truthful opinion of reading about the legal imaginary and the legal fictions, before the Law and Humanities classes actually took place. One aspect of your blog post has actually struck me. When you say,
    “as I read about the imaginary and the difficulty that lies in defining it, I realize that there is a lot we think we understand and yet are unable to define or explain. Albert Einstein said ‘if you can’t explain it simply then you don’t understand it well enough”.

    After going to the lectures and seminars and learning in detail what the concepts actually meant, I have realised that what you said above could not be more right. It is scary to think of how much the imaginary and the [legal] fictions actually have such an impact on real life. I do not think that the average human being, who has not astutely studied or looked into the matter realises how deeply entrenched the legal imaginary and legal fictions are in everyday life. I wish to illustrate my point by talking about an American case which concerns the issue of corporate legal personality or personhood, as I have been studying the corporation for a while now and my whole degree is based on it.

    In Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission, the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations, as legal persons, were entitled to the First Amendment right of free speech and could therefore spend however much they wanted on political campaigns endorsing the candidates of their choice in elections. So corporations can basically, albeit indirectly, influence the leadership of a country just because they are considered ‘persons’ by the law. Now, we cannot overlook how disproportionate this could be. Because corporations had to enjoy the same rights as natural persons, they were put on the same wavelength before the law; yet, this is completely inaccurate. How can a giant corporation for instance, which has millions of dollars in profit be on the same wavelength as the average middle-class American citizen ? It is quite unconceivable to see how their millions of dollars in political donations will have the same effect as the average citizen who would like to make a small donation to help the local candidate for example. Obviously, generously funded political campaigns are more visible and more likely to attract votes. In 2018, the giant corporation Uline was reported to have contributed at least $31.7 million to the Republicans’ campaign. Can this be compared to an average citizen’s donation? It is hard to see how. So big companies, fictitious beings, are having a direct influence over people’s political life. People are being sold what big capitalistic corporation’s politically want without really realising it and they are most likely to endorse it as well.

    If we think of it, does it not impede on the freedom of speech of natural persons? Or the freedom to think freely and creatively so that they can decide who are going to lead their country and have a massive impact on their lives? It suddenly feels like the corporation’s right as a fictitious person is more powerful than the normal persons right as a natural person. The power of the imaginary strikes again.

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