Sherwin on Character as a Sacred Bond @RKSherwin @tandfnewsroom

Richard K. Sherwin, New York Law School, is publishing Character is a Sacred Bond in volume 24 of Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities (August 2019). Here is the abstract.

Law clings to rules to stabilize a preferred normative reality. But rules never suffice. Character is the dark matter of law. Ethos anthropos daimon. “Character is fate.” This paradoxically reversible saying by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus asserts that we are defined by the daimon – the god or messenger angel – with which we identify most. As Plato queried in The Phraedrus: which god do you follow, whose love claims you? In contemporary terms we might say, what character type, what emotional ideal, what deep story do you hold most sacred? Out of the maelstrom that is the state of exception – choices must be made. What emotional field shall we occupy when we do politics and law? Bound by what sovereign values or ideals, embodied within what sort of character, emplotted in what sort of political or legal narrative? In synergy with culture, character plays out the emotional conflicts and aspirations of the time. Whether we witness this in the mostly silent resistance of unassimilable characters like Barnardine in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure or in the silent prayer of 19-year-old Emma Gonzalez, in public protest against uncontrolled gun violence in American schools, we are all called upon, as citizens in public life, to occupy an emotional space that attains centrality within deep narratives that vie for political dominance. Reverse engineering liberal society, we might ask: what emotional and character ideals are optimal in order for a particular kind of political society to arise and be sustained? There is a reciprocal (perhaps paradoxically fungible) relationship between the sovereign authority of law and the character ideals that express a capacity and willingness to accept that authority. What will the configuration be? Addressing this question constitutes the ethical, esthetic, and epistemological calling of our time.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.