This is a book about the ethics of the legal profession proceeding from one basic premise: our nation is so dependent on its lawyers that their ethical problems transform themselves into public difficulties.
Torture used to be incompatible with American values. Our Bill of Rights forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and that has come to include all forms of corporal punishment except prison and death by methods purported to be painless. Americans and our government have historically condemned states that torture; we have granted asylum or refuge to those who fear it. The Senate ratified the Convention Against Torture, Congress enacted antitorture legislation, and judicial opinions spoke of "the dastardly and totally inhuman act (...) of torture.” Then came September 11. (shrink)
The law, Holmes said, is no brooding omnipresence in the sky. "If that is true," writes David Luban, "it is because we encounter the legal system in the form of flesh-and-blood human beings: the police if we are unlucky, but for the (marginally) luckier majority, the lawyers." For practical purposes, the lawyers are the law. In this comprehensive study of legal ethics, Luban examines the conflict between common morality and the lawyer's "role morality" under the adversary system and how this (...) conflict becomes a social and political problem for a community. Using real examples and drawing extensively on case law, he develops a systematic philosophical treatment of the problem of role morality in legal practice. He then applies the argument to the problem of confidentiality, outlines an affordable system of legal services for the poor, and provides an in-depth philosophical treatment of ethical problems in public interest law. (shrink)
In this comprehensive collection of essays, most of which appear for the first time, eminent scholars from many disciplines—philosophy, economics, sociology, political science, demography, theology, history, and social psychology—examine the causes, nature, and consequences of present-day consumption patterns in the United States and throughout the world.
David Luban is one of the world's leading scholars of legal ethics. In this collection of his most significant papers he ranges over such topics as the moral psychology of organisational evil, the strengths and weaknesses of the adversary system, and jurisprudence from the lawyer's point of view. His discussion combines philosophical argument, legal analysis and many cases drawn from actual law practice, and he defends a theory of legal ethics that focuses on lawyers' role in enhancing human dignity and (...) human rights. In addition to an analytical introduction, the volume includes two major previously unpublished papers, including a detailed critique of the US government lawyers who produced the notorious 'torture memos'. It will be of interest to a wide range of readers in both philosophy and law. (shrink)
The answer I offer in this Article is that crimes against humanity assault one particular aspect of human being, namely our character as political animals. We are creatures whose nature compels us to live socially, but who cannot do so without artificial political organization that inevitably poses threats to our well-being, and, at the limit, to our very survival. Crimes against humanity represent the worst of those threats; they are the limiting case of politics gone cancerous. Precisely because we cannot (...) live without politics, we exist under the permanent threat that politics will turn cancerous and the indispensable institutions of organized political life will destroy us. That is why all humankind shares an interest in repressing these crimes. The theory that I aim to defend here consists of two propositions: that "humanity" in the label "crimes against humanity" refers to our nature as political animals, and that these crimes pose a universal threat that all humankind shares an interest in repressing. (shrink)
A June 2020 survey found one in four Americans agreeing that “powerful people intentionally planned the coronavirus outbreak.” In fall 2020, seven percent said they believe the elaborate and grotesque mythology of QAnon; another eleven percent were unsure whether they believe it. November and December 2020 found tens of millions of Americans believing in election-theft plots that would require superhuman levels of coordination and secrecy among dozens, perhaps hundreds, of otherwise-unconnected and unidentified miscreants. Conspiracy theories are nothing new, and they (...) raise a question that preoccupied Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism: whatever happened to common sense? Arendt analyzed both conspiracy theories and totalitarian ideologies; in both, she argued, common sense was replaced by “supersense” – her name for all-encompassing Theories of Everything that trace surface political events back to hidden causes. Refuting fake facts doesn’t help, she warned, because “if everyone always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but that no one believes anything at all anymore.” The result, she warns, is a dangerous mix of gullibility and cynicism. My aim in this paper is threefold: to explain Arendt’s arguments, to explore their contemporary relevance, and to examine their consequences through the lens of virtue epistemology. In a section on “the epistemology of bullshit” I use virtue epistemologists’ concepts of epistemic malevolence and epistemic insouciance to examine the production, distribution, and consumption of bullshit, and to define a vice I call culpable credulousness. The final sections discuss the collapse of moral common sense that led multitudes to believe that mass murder can be justified. Arendt sometimes wrote as though morality had mysteriously turned upside-down, replacing “Thou shalt not kill” with “Thou shalt kill.” I argue that this need not be so: the moral principle of justifiable self-defense, applied to fake facts about existential threats, can explain the behavior. Even so, Arendt powerfully analyzes the ways that rules of moral common sense fail in a society where factual common sense has lost its validity. (shrink)
Genocide is the intentional destruction of a group as such. What makes groups important, over and above the individual worth of the group's members? This paper explores Hannah Arendt's efforts to answer that question, and concludes that she failed. In the course of the argument, it examines her understanding of Jewish history, her ideas about “the social,” and her conception of “humanity” as a normative stance toward international responsibility rather than a descriptive concept.
In the immediate aftermath of September 11, President Bush stated that the perpetrators of the deed would be brought to justice. Soon afterwards, the President announced that the United States would engage in a war on terrorism. The first of these statements adopts the familiar language of criminal law and criminal justice. It treats the September 11 attacks as horrific crimes—mass murders—and the government’s mission as apprehending and punishing the surviving planners and conspirators for their roles in the crimes. The (...) War on Terrorism is a different proposition, however, and a different model of governmental action—not law but war. Most obviously, it dramatically broadens the scope of action, because now terrorists who knew nothing about September 11 have been earmarked as enemies. But that is only the beginning. (shrink)
This volume brings together the most important writing on torture and the 'war on terror by one of the leading US voices in the torture debate. Philosopher and legal ethicist David Luban reflects on this contentious topic in a powerful sequence of essays including two new and previously unpublished pieces. He analyzes the trade-offs between security and human rights, as well as the connection between torture, humiliation, and human dignity, the fallacy of using ticking bomb scenarios in debates about torture, (...) and the ethics of government lawyers. The book develops an illuminating and novel conception of torture as the use of pain and suffering to communicate absolute dominance over the victim. Factually stimulating and legally informed, this volume provides the clearest analysis to date of the torture debate. It brings the story up to date by discussing the Obama administration's failure to hold torturers accountable. (shrink)
This Article is a contribution to the torture debate. It argues that the abusive interrogation tactics used by the United States in what was then called the “global war on terrorism” are, unequivocally, torture under U.S. law. To some readers, this might sound like déjà vu all over again. Hasn’t this issue been picked over for nearly fifteen years? It has, but we think the legal analysis we offer has been mostly overlooked. We argue that the basic character of the (...) CIA’s interrogation of so-called “high-value detainees” has been misunderstood: both lawyers and commentators have placed far too much emphasis on the dozen or so “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) short-listed in government “torture memos,” and far too little emphasis on other forms of physical violence, psychological stressors, environmental manipulations, and abusive conditions of confinement that are crucial to the question of whether the detainees were tortured. Furthermore, we dispute one of the standard narratives about the origins of the program: that it was the brainchild of civilian contractor psychologists because— in the CIA’s words—“[n]on-standard interrogation methodologies were not an area of expertise of CIA officers or of the US Government generally.” This narrative ignores the CIA’s role in devising these methods, in spite of the decades of prior CIA research and doctrine about forcing interrogation subjects into a state of extreme psychological debilitation, and about how to do so—by making them physically weak, intensely fearful and anxious, and helplessly dependent. By neglecting this history and focusing on the contractors and the EITs they devised, this narrative contributes to the misunderstanding that the torture debate is about EITs and nothing else. In effect, a “torture debate” about EITs and the torture memos neglects the purloined letter in front of our eyes: the abusive conditions the CIA inflicted on prisoners even when they were not subject to EITs, including abuses that the torture memos never bothered to discuss. Unpacking what this debate is really about turns out to be crucial to understanding that such interrogation methods are torture under existing U.S. law. The U.S. Torture Act includes a clause in its definition of mental torture that was intended to ban exactly the kind of interrogation methods the CIA had researched, out of concern that our Cold War adversaries were using them: mind-altering procedures “calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.” That is precisely the “non-standard interrogation methodology” the CIA employed after 9/11. (shrink)
This paper is a review essay of W. Bradley Wendel's Lawyers and Fidelity to Law, part of a symposium on Wendel's book. Parts I and II aim to situate Wendel's book within the literature on philosophical or theoretical legal ethics. I focus on two points: Wendel's argument that legal ethics should be examined through the lens of political theory rather than moral philosophy, and his emphasis on the role law plays in setting terms of social coexistence in the midst of (...) moral pluralism. Both of these themes lead him to reject viewing legal ethics as an instance of "the problem of role morality." In part III I note the similarity between Wendel's view and that of legal process theorists, and I argue that the view involves too much complacency about the American legal system. Part IV examines the central metaphor of Wendel's book, fidelity to law. I distinguish between two forms of fidelity, personal and interpretive. The former is a relation between persons, while the latter means mimetic accuracy in interpretation, translation, performance of music, portraiture, or other forms of representation. I agree with Wendel's views on the requirement that lawyers exhibit interpretive fidelity toward law, but not personal fidelity. I argue that law is not the kind of thing toward which one can have personal fidelity; rather, the fidelity must be toward other members of the community rather than toward norms as such; and in cases where the law systematically discriminates, or is otherwise systematically unjust, the bonds of reciprocity grounding such a relation are absent, and the kind of unconditional obedience to law that Wendel supports is unjustified. Part V asks where, on Wendel’s view, the morality went. I argue that Wendel's view, which derives from but modifies Joseph Raz's analysis of legal authority as exclusionary reasons, does not succeed—either it begs the question of whether law actually provides exclusionary reasons or, if (as Wendel suggests) the reasons are not wholly exclusionary, Raz’s two levels of reasoning collapse into one, and acting on moral grounds is not in fact excluded by legal authority. I then turn to Wendel's ideas about "moral remainders"—the moral costs that acting on his view of legal ethics may inflict on others. Wendel suggests that some form of atonement can cancel the moral remainder, but I am skeptical that his proposal—atoning through law reform activities—can do the job. (shrink)
David Luban argues in this lecture that the moral foundation of the lawyer's profession lies in the defense of human dignity-and the chief moral danger facing the profession arises when lawyers assault human dignity rather than defend it. The concept of human dignity has a rich philosophical tradition, with some philosophers identifying human dignity as a metaphysical property of individuals-a property such as having a soul, or possessing autonomy. Luban argues instead that human dignity is a relational property of "the (...) dignifier" and "the dignified," emphasizing that assaulting human dignity humiliates the victim. Lawyers honor the human dignity of others by protecting them against humiliations, and defile that dignity by subjecting them to humiliations. The lecture develops these ideas through four traditional issues in legal ethics: the right of criminal defendants to an advocate, the duty of confidentiality, paternalism of attorneys toward their clients, and pro bono service. (shrink)
Integrity is a good thing, isn't it? In ordinary parlance, we sometimes use it as a near synonym for honesty, but the word means much more than honesty alone. It means wholeness or unity of person, an inner consistency between deed and principle. "Integrity" shares etymology with other unity-words-integer, integral, integrate, integration. All derive from the Latin integrare, to make whole. And the person of integrity is the person whose conduct and principles operate in happy harmony. Our psyches always seek (...) that happy harmony. When our conduct and principles clash with each other, the result, social psychology teaches us, is cognitive dissonance. And dissonance theory hypothesizes that one of our fundamental psychic mechanisms is the drive to reduce dissonance. (shrink)
In Plato's Laws, the Athenian Stranger claims that the gods will smile only on a city where the law This passage is the origin of the slogan an abbreviation of which forms our phrase From Plato and Aristotle, through John Adams and John Marshall, down to us, no idea has proven more central to Western political and legal culture. Yet the slogan turns on a very dubious metaphor. Laws do not rule, and the is actually a specific form of rule (...) by men (including, nowadays, a few women). These rulers are not slaves to anything. Furthermore, the construction of the sloganhas unfortunate connotations. It suggests that the personal qualities of the human rulers required to secure the rule of law are nothing more than forbearance and disinterestedness—a resolution to stay out of law's way.Footnotes* I have received helpful comments and criticisms from a number of readers, including the other contributors to this volume and participants in the Georgetown University Law Center faculty workshop. In addition, I should like to thank Brian Bix, Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred Schauer, and Wibren van der Burg for extensive written comments on an earlier draft of this essay. (shrink)
We suggest thinking about the beginning and ending of wars as an exercise in risk management. We argue that states, like individual citizens, must accept that some degree of security risk is inevitable when coexisting with others. We offer two principles for the just management of military risk. The first principle is Morally Justified Bearable Risk, which demands that parties at war temper their claims of justice with the realities of an anarchic and conflicted international system. The second principle, Minimum (...) Consistency toward Risk, mandates that states generally not weigh security threats higher than risks from other sources. (shrink)
International law informs, and is informed by, concerns for global justice. Yet the two fields that engage most with prescribing the normative structure of the world order – international law and the philosophy of global justice – have tended to work on parallel tracks. Many international lawyers, with their commitment to formal sources, regard considerations of substantive (and not merely procedural) justice as ultra vires for much of their work. Philosophers of global justice, in turn, tend to explore the moral (...) commitments of international actors without grappling with the international legal doctrine or institutions. In recent years, however, both disciplines have begun to engage with one another more. This discussion among international lawyers and philosophers addresses the promises of and challenges to interdisciplinary approaches to global justice. The contributors consider the added value of philosophical inquiry to issues facing international law practitioners or scholars, the salience of of international law for political philosophy, and the methodological distinctions between the two fields. The contributors also identify promising lines and examples of interdisciplinary scholarship. (shrink)
Government lawyers and other public officials sometimes face an excruciating moral dilemma: to stay on the job or to quit, when the government is one they find morally abhorrent. Staying may make them complicit in evil policies; it also runs the danger of inuring them to wrongdoing, just as their presence on the job helps inure others. At the same time, staying may be their only opportunity to mitigate those policies – to make evils into lesser evils – and to (...) uphold the rule of law when it is under assault. This Article explores that dilemma in a stark form: through the moral biographies of two lawyers in the Third Reich, both of whom stayed on the job, and both of whom can lay claim to mitigating evil. One, Helmuth James von Moltke, was an anti-Nazi, and a martyr of the resistance; the other, Bernhard Lösener, was a Nazi by conviction who nevertheless claimed to have secretly fought against the persecution of Jews from the improbable post of legal adviser on Jewish matters. The Article critically examines their careers and self-justifications. It frames its analysis through two philosophical arguments: Hannah Arendt’s stern injunction that staying on the job is self-deception or worse, because like it or not, obedience is support; and a contemporary analysis of moral complicity by Chiara Lepora and Robert Goodin. The chief question, with resonance today as well as historically, is whether Arendt is right – and, if not, under what conditions lesser-evilism can succeed. This article will appear in a symposium with comments by Leora Bilsky and Natalie Davidson, Kathleen Clark, Erica Newland, and Shannon Prince. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: Three Faces of Professional Ethics Role Morality A First Try at a Solution: Two‐level Structures A Friendly Amendment: From Two Levels to Four Adversarial Professional Roles The Reciprocal Adjustment of Means and Ends Role Morality as Natural Law.