Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fish on Christian Legal Society v. Martinez: This Is a Free-Speech Violation

As a literary critic, Stanley Fish seemed to speak for the radical edge of postmodernism.

Now a law-school professor, he seems to have been Borked.

Writing on the recent Supremes' decision allowing a California Law School to remove the Christian Legal Society from its sanctioned list of student organizations because it demanded Christian sexual behavior of its officers, Fish opines that the decison treats Christian behavior as if it were entirely unrelated to Christian belief. Hence, the policy is inherently discriminatory toward religious groups that don't separate the two.

So Fish sides with Alito and the conservatives on this, and does so with considerable analysis of the arguments.

We await the longer-term reaction to Stanley Fish's transformation from the literary elites who once esteemed him. Sooner or later, the Fish who writes stuff like this will be deemed most foul.


steve-o said...

My favorite Fish quote was concerning deconstructionism. He noted that it relieved him of the need to be right "and demands only that I be interesting."

He's interesting, alright.

JB in CA said...

Several years ago, shortly after he got a joint appointment as a law professor, I had the opportunity to hear Fish speak. I was amused at how quickly he seemed to have retreated from his earlier positions (all the while denying, of course, that he had done so). He even went so far as to declare that Justice Scalia had "cleaned the clocks" of his opponents in a published defense of his originalism (even though, oddly enough, Scalia's originalism was still wrong).

Here's my take on Fish's trajectory. When he was ensconced in the hotbed of postmodernism at Duke University's English department, he adopted the views of a postmodernist. When he became the Dean of Humanities at the University of Illinois, Chicago and took on the mantle of administration, he adopted the views of a pragmatist. When he was transmogrified into a law professor at Florida International University, he adopted the views of a sophist. I agree with Steve-O that he's definitely interesting, but I also think he's more of a chameleon than a Fish.