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Mutatis mutandis

April 9, 2014

Last week, the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy Will Baude, professor at University of Chicago Law School wrote about “Zombie Federalism”. Today Prof. Baude follows up on his zombie lawyering in WaPo-Volokh: “Zombie federalism and moral disagreement

This new post is to comment on the “quasi-serious reply” of 3rd year law student Michael Smith at UCLA. Regular readers of this ZombieLaw blog (as if there are any) will remembercoverage of Smith’s article “Prosecuting the Undead: Federal Criminal Law in a World of Zombies”.

Michael Smith also has a Law Blog which includes reading list references for Intro to Philosophy of Mind (which is, of course, a very important subject for zombies; see Chalmers hard problem of consciousness and we are all Dennett-zombies and go batty with Tom Nagel and, nine levels with Güven Güzeldere; the issue of non-physical reality.)

zombie will baude zombie michael smith

Baude’s column today responding to Smith, is a wonderfully high-minded debate on the broad strokes of federalism and states’ rights using zombies as the literal monster but clearly tongue-in-cheek as generic for all forms of oppressed classes. Smith argues for a united human-zombie distinction at the federal level, whereas Baude enjoys flexibility in the state legislatures to decide which zombies are evil.

A few great comments from WaPo users about moral relativism, immigration, race, gender, and terrorist (body odor terrorists? see zombie smell). The most spot on comment is from David M. Nieporent, who posts:

Yup; in states run by Democrats, they’d be giving zombies voting rights and welfare. Republicans won’t even let them get married.

These federalism zombie cliches are older than the Constitution itself and so this debate is itself the zombie (which is also the entire purpose of most federalist society events). This debate will never die, it is the heart of our founding principles. It’s not about resolving the controversy, it’s about deploying it to amplify the variety of mutant-hybrids and new blends. As Bruno Latour says, “we’ve never been modern,” but the false dichotomies (like federalist/anti-federalist) helped proliferate the New World of ideas.

As Baude concludes:

The one serious point is that much of the above applies, mutatis mutandis, to other cases of disagreement over fundamental questions.

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