Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Unified Lives?

Stanley Fish, university law professor, has a good article in the New York Times Opinion section that asks "Should our lives be unified?"

Lots of people have asked how can a person, a killer-for-hire, say, murder people for a living then go home and be a loving husband and father who wouldn't hurt a fly in his personal life. Suggesting "the myth of the unified life, the idea that we all have, or should have, a set of core values to which we are responsive no matter what it is we happen to be doing — working, worshiping, playing, parenting, voting" is faulty.

Fish states further:
While the notion of the unified life is rhetorically appealing — it seems to breathe integrity — it is the entire point of liberal democracies like ours to erect barriers against its full realization. The distinction between the public and the private is at bottom a device to assure that dealings between citizens will be ruled by secular, administrative and political norms rather than religious ones.
Only then, the argument goes, can we be safe from the zealot who decides that we are pawns of Satan and acts accordingly. The strong religious believer asks, Must I be one person at home and in the sanctity of my church and another when I venture out into the world? The liberal state answers, Yes.
So Fish says that we can and often should compartmentalize. One person can't expect another to live by the his/her religious beliefs. A lawyer may believe his client is as guilty as sin but the client is entitled to a defense.

Thanks Stanley Fish I couldn't have said it better.

Read the entire article here.


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