From my Commonplace book, No. 5

[Earlier posts in this series: No. 1 / No. 2 / No. 3 / No. 4]

From Lon Fuller, “Principles of Social Order”:

My final conclusion is that, like many other worthwhile humanitarian goals, the rule of law can best be achieved without directly targeting it. What is perhaps most needed is not the immediate expansion of international law, but the expansion of the international community, multiplying and strengthening the mutual relations between nations. When this happened – or rather as As it happens – the law can act as a sort of midwife – or, to change the image, the law can act as a gardener who prunes an imperfectly grown tree to help the tree realize its own capacity for perfection. This can only happen when all concerned genuinely want the plant to grow and grow properly. Our job is to make them want it.

I’m a huge Lone Fuller fan; If you are unfamiliar with his work, I will begin with “The Ethics of Law,” which is, in my opinion, one of the truly great works of legal theory. The above quote, from an essay on international law, packs a lot of interesting ideas into a short and rather brilliantly-sentenced paragraph: that many “valuable human goals” can best be achieved by a kind of misdirection, or averted vision; That law is like a gardener pruning a tree “to help the tree realize its own capacity for perfection”; And that “our job” is to help “all concerned” to reach this state of “really wanting”.