Philosophy and Religion

Philosophy Colloquium: Where Did Cardozo Come From?

Fri, 12 Oct 2018 2:15 PM - 3:45 PM

Join the Philosophy Colloquium in Cleveland Hall 112 on Friday, October 12, 2:15-3:45pm as Dr. Joel Levin, Case Western Reserve University Department of Philosophy and School of Law, presents "Where Did Cardozo Come From?"

Where do immigration policy, legal philosophy, religious identity, the rule of law, the clash between mercy and revenge, theology, Social Security, ordinary lawsuits and political theory meet? That is, where does the abstruse thicket of metaphysics, ethics and jurisprudence clear and reveal a way out of ordinary civil conflict, moral dilemmas and the mystery of life's meaning?

Perhaps that clearing is found in the writings of Benjamin Cardozo, legal philosopher and Supreme Court Justice, who embodied a unique philosophical tradition, one forged in persecution and exile, but re-formed in the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the New World. It is the philosophy of the Western Sephardim, exiled Iberian Jews who changed their world and the world generally, from Maimonides who helped initiate the Renaissance, to Spinoza who helped trigger the Enlightenment, to Ricardo who formulated the basic concepts of capitalism, to Mendés France who saw a way past colonialism, and the legal philosopher turned jurist, Benjamin Cardozo, who erected a legal structure that protects rather than merely punishes.

Choosing reason over authority, caution over zeal, charity over duty and mercy over justice, Cardozo built on a Sephardic philosophy of an insular minority that united Platonic reason, prophetic mercy and a ferociously enriched concept of freedom to redefine society and individual responsibility. Sephardim spurned group identity, instead looking to the individual; they rejected grand theory, seeking principles flexible, moral, inclusive and rational, but not necessarily rigorously or rigidly linked. This paper explores concrete legal examples and stories from history to illustrate the ways in which philosophy, social theory, jurisprudence, identity, oppression and exile clashed and reconciled to formulate a politics and law to individuality, mercy and truth.

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