Judges, Behavioral Scientists, and the Demands of Humanity grapples with one of the most pressing and difficult challenges of our time – how to overcome deep and enduring conflicts that currently divide our community. Professor Burt offers insights into the importance of empathy and identification in breaking down the categories that we use to distance ourselves from the humanity of others and to justify oppression of those we define as outsiders. His solution is hopeful, almost noble. He exhorts judges, social scientists, and by implication, all of us to be our best selves, to focus on how we are part of one overarching human community, to emphasize our commonalities, and to transcend our differences.
Professor Burt's interpretation of the Linus cartoon provides a perspective on the role of empathy and understanding in assessing moral responsibility and legal consequences. If only Lucy understood, she would have behaved differently. She and Linus could have worked it out and transcended this conflict. If only we could see that "all human beings are fundamentally alike," that "each of us can properly be understood as members of the same human species whose essential nature develops according to the same natural rules," we would understand each other and get along. Indeed, Professor Burt asserts that this acknowledgement of sameness is a prerequisite to our ability and willingness to transcend the enduring social conflict underlying our most difficult legal and social problems. He calls on social scientists and judges to assume responsibility for resolving these deep conflicts by using their roles to emphasize our sameness rather than our differences.
Susan P. Sturm,
Sameness and Subordination: The Dangers of a Universal Solution,
U. Pa. L. Rev.
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