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“The science of law,” it has been said, “must be drawn from man’s inmost nature.” The science of obligation – the dimension of jurisprudence that concerns duties – must be founded upon the experiences of humanity. It should draw upon insight into human flourishing, and it should base its conclusion upon the basic goods involved in human life. Similar recommendations might be suggested for the “science,” if it is one, of love. This paper aims to pursue those projects.

The story of David, Bathsheba, and Nathan sheds much light on man’s inmost nature, and on obligation, love, and law. Nathan’s comments must have given David much food for thought. Nathan reminded David of his duty. Of course the Torah forbids adultery, and David had committed it. Nathan’s comments surely led David to reflect about obligation and to ponder the Law.

Nathan’s comments likely led David also to reflect upon himself: to consider where he stood in relation to the Law, and to consider where anyone governed by law must stand. Nathan’s observations further invite the hearer to deliberate about himself, and perhaps about people in general. Such is the force of his statement: “That man is you!”

Part II of this article considers duty. It proposes that thought, belief, and character develop along certain lines in a person who accepts obligation. It commends what it terms the “juristic person.” It discusses what might be called the “anthropology of the juristic person”: the relationship between obligation and character. It describes several goods involved in being a juristic person and in acting upon obligation. It proposes that the juristic person is best suited to governance by the law.

David’s situation also involved love. Nathan, describing the poor man and his lamb, referred to Uriah’s love for Bathsheba. David also loved Bathsheba, at least erotically. Torah has much to say about love. When Nathan states, “That man is you!” he may invite consideration of the meaning and value of various kinds of love.

Part III of this paper explores love and its relation to obligation. Some kinds of erotic love lead to the repudiation of obligation, Part III observes, but other forms of love support it. Devoted, faithful love displays a strong affinity for obligation, and in many ways even resembles it. This paper proposes that the juristic person is best suited to love, and that the person who loves, in the higher sense of that term, participates especially well in the goods of obligation. It proposes that the obligation-bearing, obligation-accepting man or woman resembles a lover.

Part IV of this paper sketches some implications for the law. David’s anger at the rich man, and his hasty demand for capital punishment, display his shortcomings as a judge.


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7 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Domestic Law

    • Judges

    • Law and Society

    • Legal History

    • Religion Law

  • Journal title
    • International Journal of the Jurisprudence of the Family

  • Volume
    • 1

  • Pagination
    • 259

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022