Old Doctrines and New Paradigms

Manila Bulletin, July 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Old Doctrines and New Paradigms


TRADITIONALLY, the truly educated person is regarded as one who has been bred in the humanities and the sciences who, at the same time, has specialized in a particular branch of knowledge. It is not enough that one is an expert in one's profession; it is also required that one has a more than passing understanding of the arts, history, literature, ethics and the humanities in general. Indeed, excellence in liberal education and specialization in a career are the earmarks of the truly educated.

Liberal education and legal expertise

In the profession of law, this same standard is expected of all lawyers. Thus, a course in liberal education or in commerce or in the sciences is a prerequisite to admission to a law school. For those who want to join the judiciary, this combination of general education and specialized knowledge is especially important. In describing an ideal magistrate, one of the most eminent jurists of his time, Judge Learned Hand, declared:

"I venture to believe that it is as important to a judge called upon to pass on a question of constitutional law, to have a bowing acquaintance with Acton and Maitland, with Thucydides, Gibbon and Carlyle, with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and Milton, with Machiavelli, Montaigne and Rabelais, with Plato, Bacon, Hume and Kant as with books that have been specifically written on the subject. For in such matters, everything turns upon the spirit in which he approaches the question before him. The words he must construe are empty vessels into which he can pour nearly everything he will. Men do not gather figs of thistles, nor supply institutions from judges whose outlook is limited by parish or class. They must be aware that there are before them more than verbal problems; more than final solutions cast in generalizations of universal applicability. They must be aware of the changing social tensions in every society which make it an organism; which demand new schemata of application; which will disrupt it, if rigidly confined."

As civilization gets deeper into the e-age, well-rounded general knowledge coupled with career specialization becomes even more crucial. It is no longer enough for judges to be walking encyclopedias of the Constitution, the codes and judicial doctrines. It is as essential that they also have a working knowledge of new paradigms in economics, biotechnology, medicine, world history, computers, telecommunications, digital sciences, mathematics and physics.

In this lecture entitled "Old Doctrines and New Paradigms," I will discuss recent decisions in which the Supreme Court used traditional legal principles and precedents to meet challenges posed by new paradigms, especially those relating, first, to the new economy; second, to constitutional law; third, to political law; and fourth, to medical malpractice. In the process, I will demonstrate why, aside from legal expertise, a well-rounded education is essential to judicial dispensation; and hopefully, I will assess the Supreme Court's success in resolving legal disputes brought by these new paradigms.

A. The new economy

For a start, let me bring up the paradigms of the new economy; namely globalization, liberalization, deregulation and privatization. To those of us who have lived long enough, we know that the last century was dominated by an incessant global struggle of various ideologies and forces. Before the 20th century ended, however, the world witnessed the collapse of colonialism and totalitarianism; and the victory of independence, freedom and nationalism. The Cold War and the balance of nuclear terror have ended. Only one superpower dominates the earth now. Indeed, Pax Americana has prevailed and the world is at relative peace.

As we behold the dawn of the 21st century, the arena for world preeminence has shifted from military warfare to a more subtle economic, informational and intellectual upmanship. In this new race, attention has veered from government control to deregulation, from state ownership to privatization, and from national sovereignty to globalization and liberalization. …

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