The anatomy of the law

The law can present itself in a bewildering array of moods. It can appear as the highest achievement of civilisation, liberating for creative use human resources otherwise dedicated to destruction. It can be seen as the foundation of human dignity and freedom, our best hope for a peaceful world. In man’s capacity to perceive and legislate against his own defects we can discern his chief claim to stand clearly above animal level. Philosophers of former ages have indeed not hesitated to see some kinship with the divine in man’s ability to reorder his own faulty nature, and, in effect, to recreate himself by the law of reason.

A shift in mood and all the bright glitter surrounding the law can collapse into the dust. Law then becomes man’s badge of infamy, his confession of ineradicable perfidy. To say that man can reshape himself by rules is to confess that he is a creature that needs to put a halter on himself before he can live safely with his fellows. If this is something no other animal can do, it is something that no other animal needs to do, for mankind is the only species which chooses his own kind as its preferred prey.

‑ Lon Fuller (15 June 1908 ‑ 8 April 1978)