Deconstructing Jefferson's Candle: Towards a Critical Realist Approach to Cultural Environmentalism and Information Policy

41 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2008 Last revised: 16 Mar 2009

David W. Opderbeck

Seton Hall University - School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2008

Abstract

In this essay, I hope to move information policy towards firmer normative ground by introducing the resources of critical realism and environmental virtue ethics to intellectual property scholarship.

Culture, like the natural environment, will flourish if well-tended and collapse if polluted and despoiled. The cultural environmentalist movement is right to compare human culture to the natural environment, but it strips the environmental metaphor of any normative force when it depicts culture as an infinitely malleable social construction.

Critical realism (as distinguished from critical legal studies) is a broad philosophical and epistemological approach that avoids the extremes of modern positivism and postmodern skepticism. A critical realist perspective suggests that culture, like the natural environment, can be shaped by human activity only within the limits established by the external reality in which we find ourselves. Those limits can be embodied in virtues and practices similar to those that the field of environmental virtue ethics has found helpful in reference to the natural environment.

The essay concludes with an application of these ideas to the network neutrality debate.

Keywords: network neutrality, cultural environmentalism, romantic author, information theory, jefferson, cybernetics, constructivism, cyberspace

Suggested Citation

Opderbeck, David W., Deconstructing Jefferson's Candle: Towards a Critical Realist Approach to Cultural Environmentalism and Information Policy (February 1, 2008). Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 1091024. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1091024 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1091024

David W. Opderbeck (Contact Author)

Seton Hall University - School of Law ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States
973-642-8496 (Phone)

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