Law as an Epistemological Tool: The Evolution of Post-Modern "Configurative Thinking" for Law, Science and Policy

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The contribution of post-modern scholarship to contemporary social thought covers a staggering variety of disciplines. In law and jurisprudence, the shifting vantage points implicit in post-modernism have created a dynamic dualism between observation and participation which has undermined the presumed certitude of clear-cut objectivity as a foundation of truth and validation in the world of social-scientific discourse. Throughout American legal history, many prestigious theorists and jurists have pointed to the objectivity of law as the very foundation of a defensible jurisprudence, and would view the version of post-modernism in the United States identified with critical legal studies as an approach that is designed to annihilate the discipline itself. As such, the bastion of objectivity has been resilient and defended with unusual tenacity.
Today, however, the mighty schools of jurisprudence tend to divide themselves into those who assume certain objectivity in law and those who recognize the shifting of vantage points as an invaluable tool for examining the nature of law and its social and political impact on society. In this paper, we describe the little understood history of post-modernism in the development of contemporary theories of law and jurisprudence and examine the contributions of post-modern thought to contemporary legal scholarship and configurative thinking.


Keywords: Law, Legal Theory, Jurisprudence, Critical Legal Theory, Pragmatism, Configurative Thinking
Stream: Knowledge
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Winston Percival Nagan

Founder and Director, Institute for Human Rights, Peace & Development, University of Florida College of Law
Gainesville, FL, USA

Professor Nagan is the Samuel T. Dell Research Scholar Professor of Law at the University of Florida. As the former Chairman of Amnesty International USA, Professor Nagan has devoted his professional life to the defense of international human rights and has served as an advocate for First Nations and indigenous groups across the globe. His areas of specialization include international law, human rights law, ethnic conflict, comparative constitutional development and studies in law, science and policy.

Zachary Warren

Fellow, Institute for Human Rights, Peace & Development, University of Florida College of Law
Gainesville, Florida, USA

Zachary Warren currently serves as a Fellow for the Institute for Human Rights, Peace & Development at the University of Florida College of Law. He is also an Executive Editor for the Florida Law Review and a Member of the Florida Journal of International Law.

Ref: H08P0688