Thursday, 26 November 2009

2nd Monthly Forum of the 'Third World' in Theories Study Group

Dear All,

As a follow up to our last month’s thought-provoking inaugural, you are warmly invited to the 2nd Monthly Forum of the ‘Third World' in Theories Study Group, holding as follows:

Date: Thursday December 10, 2009
Venue: School of Law, University of Westminster, Little Tichtfield Street; Room LTS 205c.
Time: 6-9pm. (By 9pm, however, we’ll break away from the ‘Prison House’ of the Ivory Towers and continue the debate over drinks at Vapiano).

Study Material:
*Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel and Haiti” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 26, No. 4. (Summer, 2000), pp. 821-865 and/or Susan Buck-Morss “Hegel, Haiti and Universal History” University of Pittsburgh Press 2009

Brief Notes:
Susan Buck Morss is a professor of political philosophy and social theory at Cornell University. Her work on Hegel & Haiti drips with deep philosophical and historical insights. It will shock and awe. It may inspire scholarship and activism at a time of perplexity. The ‘Haiti” in the title, recreates the unprecedented freedom struggle, in Haiti, which was fought under the banner of “Liberty or Death’. Buck Morss argues that the master-slave dialectics in Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Mind drew a lot of inspiration from the Haitian Revolution. Hegel’s moment of ‘madness’ in his ‘Philosophy of History’ was equally analysed as “sadly ironic”. By ending the long silence on ‘Hegel and Haiti’, the writer believes that it will be possible to rescue the idea of universal history/freedom from the domineering and occluding meta-narratives of the ‘victors’ and ‘salvaged’ of our time.

As usual we will be adopting a participatory approach, moderated by Dr Radha D’Souza, Reader in Law, University of Westminster.

Looking forward to your attendance,

Wilfred Mamah
Telephone: 02079115000/Ext. 2706

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Shaking Up the Legal Profession

(you know what this is...)

Whether the legal profession in the UK is screaming for pleasure or because of the agonizing pain is open to interpretation after two announcements today.

The Legal Services Board announced and published its consultation paper on alternative business structures, titled, Alternative Business Structures: Approaches to Licensing. It's 113 pages long so I haven't read it yet, but the summary says:
The paper proposes removing restrictions that have, until now, prevented non-lawyers from owning legal service businesses. The new rules will mean that lawyers will have new freedoms to provide their services alongside services from non-lawyers, and for existing legal practices to attract new external investment.

A robust framework of consumer protection, professional competence and commercial integrity is at the heart of proposals. The LSB is currently consulting on guidance to govern the licensing of these new models of service delivery. There are three key protections.

• a test to ensure that non-lawyer owners and managers of new forms of legal practice are fit and proper;

• the introduction of two new roles in every new firm: the Head of Legal Practice and Head of Finance and Administration who will ensure compliance with licence requirements;

• a widening of the complaints handling system to deal with complaints about firms that do not deliver legal services in isolation but instead offer these alongside other services (for example, financial services) whilst ensuring access to the Office for Legal Complaints.

The new framework aims to ensure that lawyers and non-lawyers alike have the commercial freedom to provide legal services to consumers in ways that harness commercial creativity, maximise business efficiencies, embed professional ethics and meet consumer demand.

It has the potential to allow consumers to access their legal services in a variety of new different ways, for example as a part of a 'one stop shop' with other professional services such as insurance, tax advice and accountancy, or through existing legal practices diversifying and developing with the benefit of external investment.

The guidance announced today sets out principles that new ‘licensing authorities’ will be expected to regulate in accordance with, anticipating that the first licences will be issued by mid 2011.

The responsibility for ensuring that current restrictions on individual lawyers preventing them from developing new forms of practice lies with the eight Approved Regulators overseen by the LSB.
The second piece of news concerns the Bar. Its regulator, the Bar Standards Board, has decided, apparently (decision due 19 November), to permit partnerships between barristers and with others. Frances Gibb of the TimesOnline reports:
Hundreds of years of tradition may be ditched today when the ban on barristers joining in partnership with other professionals is lifted.

The decision, to be taken at a public meeting by the Bar Standards Board, the profession’s regulator, has provoked furious controversy because key papers have not been released in advance.

At present barristers cannot form partnerships with each other or with solicitors, and neither can form partnerships with other professionals such as accountants or surveyors. The Legal Services Act paves the way for a complete shake-up in the legal market and sweeps away current restrictions.

Of course the problem with Munch's screamer was solved by its theft. But I don't think anyone is going to steal away the Legal Services Board or the Bar Standards Board just yet. Lawyers will have to adjust and it's not that difficult. The 21st arrived a while ago.

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance - 38th Weekly Meeting

Dear all

On Friday 20th November 2009, from 6 to 8pm, in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster), it’s time for the 38th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance.

It’s time for apologies.

In Plato’s Apology, Socrates defends himself against the charges of being a man "who corrupted the young, refused to worship the gods, and created new deities". The Apology is brief and yet contains the essential taste of all the ironic wit of an enlightened being; it is irreverence of Monty Python and the eloquence of Don Quixote – one wonders how this could ever be the basis of serious philosophical discussion it is so damned funny – and it is also oddly funny that whilst it is one the best of the so-called Platonic dialogues, it is actually an extreme form of Socratic Monologue – a lovable and irascible soliloquy. Is this the perfect portrait of the wise man or the wiseacre in court? One isn't quite sure who Socrates is addressing – his accusers and judges or posterity? Joe thinks he addresses everyone directly with absolutely no apology.

One thing is sure, I add: Socrates’ apology was totally unsuccessful in court.

What function and upshot for today’s apologies of Goldman Sachs for "its role in the financial crisis"? At a corporate conference in New York, Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman’s chief executive told that the bank regretted taking part in the cheap credit boom that fuelled the pre-crisis bubble. “We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret,” Mr Blankfein said. “We apologise.”

Mr Blankfein spoke hours before Goldman revealed plans to invest $500m - or about 2.3 per cent of its estimated bonus and salary pool for 2009 – over five years on business education, technical assistance and venture capital to help 10,000 small businesses across the US. See,s01=1.html?catid=2&SID=google

We will finally convene at Vapiano (19-21 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB) at 8.00pm.

See you on Friday!

Joe and Laura

PS I look forward to hear from you about what you wish to present at the seminars,

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Proceedings of 37th Session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance on Friday the 13th of November 2009 - Joe's Note

1. In attendance, 3 university lecturers, 8 PhD candidates, 5 LLM graduates and 3 professional bankers. If this were an Aikido class, this would be a class of san-dans just sharing their techniques with each other, having fun learning in a serious way.

2. Invariably, in "high-level classes", we engage in discussion about simple and fundamental things.

3. What we enjoy and genuinely appreciate from each other are not complexities for their own sake but clarity and risk.

4. Title of presentation was: "Grotesque Symmetries-- Blame and Defensive Arguments in Plato's Apology and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice".

5. Thanks to Laura Niada for providing a marvellous set of slides and Ece Ozdilek for her assistance.

6. Although the discussion was vibrant with most making contributions, the following is a brief rendition of my intended argument which I believe I failed to make entirely clear. Also, I must thank James Waters in particular for asking questions which forced me to consider the following propositions in some sort of axiomatic and deductive form.

7. Blame and Defensive Arguments make up much of our world communications.

8. Perfect blame would pinpoint causes of misery while perfect defensive arguments would completely exculpate the blamed.

9. These forms of arguments are symmetric over cultures, over time, and evident in courts of law.

10. Does this observation of symmetry give us any important and fundamental information about how we are as humans and is there some way we can make use of this pattern of observations into our daily lives?

11. To find out, we resort to the extreme abstraction (which unfortunately requires some familiarity with an austere vocabulary) of symmetry theory.

12. Distinguish between "substantive symmetry" and "formal symmetry". From Kosso interpreting van Fraasen, substantive symmetry is the use of symmetry arguments which identify and re-describe a particular situation in symmetry terms without adding any extra risk of the person giving the description for being wrong. Thus, the claim made by a substantive symmetry statement is trivial. Nothing risked, nothing gained.

13. A Proper Symmetry Argument is fundamental, of great significance to the epistemological and ontological aspirations of humanity, and is in effect a big bet that a particular symmetry identified for a particular observed phenomenon applies generally. This is a scientific hypothesis waiting for confirmatory proof. This is a bet set by a financial trader that his hunch-based calculation will come right. This is a theory of law at the level of proposed legal or equitable remedy will be rendered in the affirmative by the judge. Or not!

14. So, all the grotesque symmetries that we see around us, from terrorists to soldiers killing each other and the highly emotive or insanely rational arguments in support thereof are substantive symmetry arguments. They add nothing to our fundamental understanding of humanity. They are to put it mildly, completely untrustworthy arguments, immediately betraying both a conflict of interest and evident biases which are at bottom self-interested.

15. A proper symmetry argument translated into human interaction is unconditional love, utter gratefulness and unqualified respect--these cannot be finally proved but only like big scientific hypotheses, worked out daily and lived out until proven wrong.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance - 37th Weekly Meeting

Dear all

For the 37th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance, on Friday 13 October 2009, from 6 to 8pm, in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster), we will face blame and defence. Joe will take us through the “Grotesque Symmetries in Law and Finance”:

Having tasted the unearthly delights of logical completeness (which breeds insane rationality) including ontological arguments for the existence of something appearing miraculously out of nothing as being the form of all universalistic scientific explanations (cf Timaeus) and feeling completely dissatisfied by the irresolvable metaphysical antimonies thereof (cf the 1948 radio debate between Father Copleston and Bertrand Russell), we move on to the more mundane and decidable world of "courts" to examine the questions:

(1) what constitutes Truth in courts of law, and

(2) what should be a Perfect Defence.

Both are surprisingly finance questions with explicit financial-economic solutions. According to financial-economic theory, it is now possible for every individual to realize their life long socially provident civilized identity through private-public risk-sharing distribution mechanisms – ie really big securitisation structures encompassing all possible future incomes of all peoples...

We shall look at the concept of "defensive arguments". News and blog spheres are bursting with "accusations". There's lots of blame. In the response to accusations there are a lot of defensive arguments.

The readings for Friday will come from two great "trials": Plato's Apology and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. Both carry exemplars of miscarriages of justice and grotesqueries of bilateral symmetry. On the "buy side", we recommend Robert Shiller's pre-financial crisis book on The New Financial Order.

As usual, everybody is invited to vegetarianly banquet on few pounds of pizza at Vapiano (19-21 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB) at 8.00pm.

See you on Friday!!

Joe and Laura

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance - 36th Weekly Meeting

Dear all

Follows a synopsis for the sumptuously philosophical 36th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance, which will take place on Friday 6 November 2009 in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster).

The time will be 6.00-8.00pm (or sort of….)

There will be some more reading from Plato’s Timaeus and the subject of scientific explanation will be re-introduced with Poincare's famous 1898 essay, "La Mesure du Temps" (The Measure of Time). Basically, Poincare's argument anticipated Einstein's special relativity by at least seven years. The link from physics to legal theory is through what the Buddhist Nagarjuna (200 AD) called conventionalism and what modern physicists call "gauge theory". Both are symmetry arguments, one in high-powered physics and the other in sophisticated legal reasoning.

As a pre-sessional object of contemplation consider the observed fact that: there is no objective sense in which we can say how long an hour is yesterday and today without further conventional concessions. We have no way to measure time objectively except through arbitrary convention. Poincare at the time of his essay wanted the world to use a 240 degree circle.

If the measure of time is merely conventional, does this tell us anything about the conventionality (read here, "invariant relativity") of law? And how the heck does the ancient Timaeus have anything to do with this?

Joe is also keen to re-present with some corrections the 4-fold (2 x 2 matrix) De Rerum Natura argument of John Scotus Erigena (800 AD).

Finally, some YouTube reference: on YouTube you can find an excellent (elegantly eloquent) debate between Father Copleston, the great historian of philosophy and true believer, and Bertrand Russell, the agnostic. Recommended for fans of the ontological argument for the existence of God.

At 8.00pm (…) the class will move to Vapiano (19-21 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB).


Joe and Laura

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Can Legal Education Be Globalized?

(Law School in Buenos Aires. Thanks to FIERnando)

Law is parochial yet it plays a considerable role in globalization. With few exceptions legal education has continued listing towards the local away from the global. Harry Arthurs, along with Carole Silver and Margaret Thornton, is one of the few scholars to investigate globalization and legal education. Arthurs has spent many years thinking about legal education as befits one who has been both Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and President of York University in Canada and written one of the major reports on legal education. (See Julian Webb’s reflections on the 1983 “Arthurs’ Report”.)

The starting point is that political economy has profound influences on the shaping of legal education via the research agendas of legal academics, types of jobs available for graduates, regulatory structures created by government, licensing of law schools, etc. As economies and legal markets adapt to globalization so does the knowledge it is perceived to need. Law schools like to promote themselves as global either in their names—Jindal Global Law School—or in their courses and faculty.

According to Arthurs there is a deeper level to this: globalization of the mind, which has become an ideology. It infuses our thinking where the transnational trumps the national, markets trump politics and law’s role is to make the world safe for markets. This is the “new normal” and it has consequences. The rule of law is seen to protect economic interests from the state; states will be seen to be of less influence than transnational institutions; local resentments consolidate in supranational bodies like the EU or devolution as in Spain or Canada; and the law is decoupled from the state and the state is decentered. Arthurs foresees a new curriculum which contains not judicial decisions but arbitration awards, not legislation but corporate codes of conduct.

Does legal education have to be this pessimistic? Not according to Arthurs. His example of a successful future legal education is found at McGill Law School in Montreal. McGill has developed a “polyjural or transsystemic” curriculum. The result is that
“individual courses and the curriculum as a whole consciously integrate civil and common law perspectives, domestic and international perspectives, the perspectives of state law and of non-state legal systems, and legal perspectives with those of other disciplines” (at 636).
A former McGill dean said “McGill has always been habited by the conviction that a great deal can be gained...from a sustained and humble dialogue with otherness.” And Jukier, a McGill law professor, notes that the idea of otherness is not to be the same but, through the freeing of law from jurisdiction or systemic boundaries, perspectives multiply and understanding is increased. She contrasts this approach with Justice Scalia’s disdain for foreign cases as meaningless dicta (Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003)). Thus, for McGill, law is unbounded, legal systems interpenetrate or meet resistance, common law is mixed with civil and religious, domestic and international law struggle with each other, and law is found in transactions, discourse, and the quotidian routines of life.

Arthurs argues that such a curriculum is refreshing for legal scholars but how do students fare on such a diet? Since McGill favors unpredictability, students might balk, so let them have what they want. Arthurs says this isn’t so far from what law teachers already do as Scalia indicates. He prefers the approach of niche marketing, however, whereby the law school should try to attract those students who will feel most comfortable in the transsystemic environment. But it presupposes adequate knowledge on the part of the students to make an informed choice. Arthurs favored way is “to engage students in serious conversations which will free them from the tyranny of rules.” It has three principles. One is that students’ own experiences have validity in legal studies. Two is that faculty have to show they value questions more than answers. Three is for students to use their new knowledge to interrogate themselves. And four is to help students understand that their lives will be riven by ambiguity, indeterminacy, and irony.

This is a brave approach for a law school to take. And it challenges the faculty’s preconceptions as much as those of the students. Harry Arthurs is raising the stakes for law schools in that many wish to embrace globalization in some way but don’t necessarily know which is the best approach. Constrained by professional regulation, they might ignore it or introduce one or two courses, or they might reconstitute the entire curriculum as a challenge to conventional wisdom. Perhaps the last great revolution in legal education occurred in 1870 when Christopher Columbus Langdell became dean of Harvard Law School in which case the next one is overdue.

[Harry W. Arthurs, Law and Learning in an Era of Globalization, 10 German Law Journal 629 (2009); CLPE Research Paper 22/2009. (German Law Journal version; SSRN version)]