Conference Focuses on Law, Culture, and the Humanities

Keynote speaker James Carroll


The Law School will host the Twelfth Annual Conference for the Association of the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities April 3-4, 2009.

James Carroll, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the College of Arts and Sciences, will be the keynote speaker, and Law Professors Eric Blumenson and Jeffrey Lipshaw will present papers.

The Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities is an organization of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary, humanistically oriented legal scholarship, and the conference is expected to draw more than 200 scholars from around the world.

Law vs. violence

In his keynote address, Carroll will reflect on primitive societies’ penchant for solving the problem of violence with more violence.

“The sublimations of religious sacrifice -- violence enacted for and sanctioned by the divine -- served as a check on cycles of rivalry and revenge, but the great breakthrough came with law, a mode of resolving conflict non-violently,” according to Carroll.

He will argue that “structures of international law are the only alternative to the world-ending violence of new weapons.”

Blumenson and Lipshaw will present papers on the panel “Responsibility and Causation,” chaired by Linda Meyer of Quinnipiac Law School. 

"Law's Illusion"

Lipshaw’s paper, "Law's Illusion:  Scientific Jurisprudence and the Struggle with Judgment," deals with how "thinking like a lawyer" fits into making difficult decisions, with an emphasis on the business context. 

“My thesis is that judgment in the face of great uncertainty about outcomes is still a mystery to philosophers and scientists and, by its very nature, always will be, because we must make a conceptual leap from what we know to what we predict,” said Lipshaw.

Combining abstract theory about thinking with concrete examples from the business world, Lipshaw will look at "law's illusion" -- the way the legal system typically attributes causation and blame, from the standpoint of an objective "scientific" model -- and how that model fails to come to terms with the subjective conceptual leap required for judgment.  

Marijuana Law Reform

Blumenson’s paper, “The Case for Marijuana Law Reform,” argues against the criminalization of marijuana.

“My argument is based on principles of just punishment and autonomy that are accepted in almost all contexts other than drug issues,” he said.

Blumenson addresses the issue on the heels of Massachusetts’ decriminalization of marijuana use and at a time when President Barack Obama has indicated, “in words and possibly through his drug czar appointment, that he is more oriented to a public health than law enforcement approach to drugs.”

Jessica Silbey, associate professor of Law, is coordinating the conference for the Law School.

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Greg Gatlin

Mariellen Norris