Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Commandments & Guidelines

Originally posted on September 11, 2013

The following cartoon has interesting wording:
09-11-2013 01;23;44PM

This is a deep misunderstanding of the nature of law. For the word “government” substitute “necessary,” because it is childish to think that the ten commandments are not ambiguous. For “guidelines” substitute the word “interpretations.” Think of what the Talmud was about, and modern-day Bible classes in many mainstream and alternative Protestant churches. They’re about “exegesis,” which is one or a few people daring to offer their interpretation for what a given passage in the Bible means. That government offers guidelines is implied as foolishly extravagant, but in fact most laws require interpretation as people skirt the edges of the letter this way and that. This is why there are judges and supreme courts. Furthermore, as Shakespeare has Portia argue in The Merchant of Venice, “The quality of mercy is not strain’d.” This means that mere technical legality is not always the test of what is actually moral.

The cartoon digs at guidelines and regulations as artificial and un-necessary, and appeals to that part of some people’s minds who want it to be simple, and based on that desire, believe it can be and really is that simple, if it weren’t for the intellectuals making it complicated. To say again, this cartoon seems to me to be an appeal to the ignorant and their illusion that things should be simple, really are simple, and only seem complex. In fact, things are unendingly complex and it’s just tough. As the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “We should try be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” In other words, beware of over-simplification.

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