Finding God in the Appellate Brief: A Quick Follow-Up
My post on finding God in the appellate brief has garnered a bit of attention, some appreciative and some not (see the second comment). I did want to clarify what I meant by the reference to God, which seems to have upset some people. First, I am not claiming that good briefs are written by God or under some sort of divine inspiration. Nor am I suggesting that believers write better briefs than unbelievers. Both of these claims strike me as patently absurd. Rather, I wanted to point out that a well-written brief exhibits a kind of beauty, the beauty of reason. A well-played game of chess shows the same sort beauty. My point is that this beauty can be taken by the believer as a trace of the presence of God. Not, mind you, as evidence of God’s exclusive handiwork, nor as evidence of superior moral or even intellectual merit. Rather, it is simply another trace of divine beauty in the world. Put in other terms, the point of the post was not to claim special merit for religious lawyering (whatever that might look like), but rather to see in good lawyering — religious or not — some spiritual beauty.
The other purpose of the post, of course, was to drop a wholly gratuitous reference to Matthew Arnold.
UPDATE: Will Baude writes:
But, and I do mean this non-contentiously, why God, particularly?….
I had always taken the structural beauty of human creations (like the brief, the chess game, or the City of Chicago) to be evidence of the presence and the reason of Mankind. I suppose as an empirical matter this tends to be a circle– those who believe in God think beauty confirms their world while those who believe that the world is chaotic or manmade or whatever else find their own structural theories confirmed.
But what strikes me as odd about chess and the appellate brief is that these are unquestionably the handiwork of man (divinely inspired or not). It always made more sense to me when people took the existence of golden-ratio snail-shells, or certain quantum physical equations, etc., as evidence of some mystic order and orderer of the universe (right or wrong). But here, that explanation doesn’t even seem necessary. So why find God rather than Paul Clement?
A good point to which I have two quick responses. First, I don’t offer the appellate brief as evidence of God’s existence. I look at a glorious sunset, and I experience it as a manifestation of God’s majesty or power. I am not sure, however, that is necessarily compelling evidence of God’s existence to the skeptic. I am not interested in apologetics here.
Second, human reason can be seen as a manifestation of God’s reason. The brief is surely Paul Clement’s handiwork, but Clement — in turn — is God’s handiwork, or (to tweak the point slightly to make it more congruent with my Mormon theology) Clement’s reason is a god-like attribute. To look on Will Baude or his well-crafted arguments is to see God.