Beyond Reason and Interest
9 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2012
Date Written: April 1, 2003
As is often the case with a work of genius, Pierre Schlag's The Enchantment of Reason is both stunningly impressive and maddeningly perplexing. It cuts to the heart of all that happens within the legal academy (and sometimes beyond) by identifying our central, and, according to Pierre, highly implausible, premise. Legal academicians and other members of the culture in which we thrive speak "as if" life's most difficult challenges are generally amenable to reasoned solutions. Pierre then thrills us with a deft display of the shallowness of such a poorly disguised conceit. His reasoning is so good, his questions so incisive, and his conclusions to inescapable, that after reading The Enchantment of Reason, an intellectually honest person would be hard-pressed to continue participation in the business as usual game of the American legal academy. This, I gather, is one of Pierre's goals.
But Pierre's book is cryptic, even silent, on the question of how to escape rather than merely to describe the paradoxes and riddles he illuminates. My fear then is that too many will come away from the book with their academic practices intact, acting "as if" Pierre hadn't said anything at all. In this brief essay, I will address those who would dismiss Pierre's work as cynical and woefully short on positive program. I will explain why I find not merely analytical clarity but political passion in Pierre's work. And I will explicitly call upon Pierre to take up the challenges his own work suggests for all those wishing to turn such passion toward useful projects in twenty-first century America.
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