Sunday, November 1, 2009
In our discussion of Kafka the other day, we dissected his work, "Before the Law." I personally found it interesting to view existentialism through a purely fictional lens, as opposed to the finite and seemingly instructional essays of the other philosophers that we've read. In this story, the protagonist is arrested and tried for a crime without ever learning of what exactly he was convicted of. He is sentenced to death and in a very existential fashion, his last words are "like a dog." He was failed by his dependency on the law. He thought that it represented objective truth, the embodiment of justice, and that it would save him, but he ended up dying while waiting for it to reach him. As we discussed, this has higher implications and can be observed through a broader scope and tell us some things about what exactly law is and how it functions. Kafka talks about the "force" of the law, what fuels it, in other words. It is obviously not inherent, law does not exist outside of humanity (with the exception of natural laws, gravity, etc.). It has no foundation in humankind other than that it is a creation. So one must ask, how does law rule our lives without any objective force behind it? Who gives law this power? Kafka says that by simply recognizing and abiding by the law, the individual willingly gives it authority. So it is the citizens (or victims) under the law that empower it. It is safe to say that this logic is reasonable and, at least to some extent, true. Under this logic, however, an argument can be made that the law is powerless if one doesn't recognize or abide by it. This is, of course, flawed logic because one can still fall victim to the punishments of the law, even if they don't believe in it. My lingering question then, is what exactly does this say about Kafka's theory.