Patrick Brown


Ethics is fundamentally about ethos, attitude, one's grounded stance or existential orientation, not the extrinsicism of concepts or the formalism of rules. Ethics concerns not just any orientation, but that intimate and demanding form of personal development manifested in the experience and practice of self-transcendence. Conversely, the neglect of ethics as self-transcendence introduces deep distortions into the way we socialize students into notions of ethics and professionalism. It introduces subsequent distortions into the conditions of legal practice. It encourages a superficial and extrinsic minimalism. It encourages, in effect, the disastrous conception of legal ethics as ethical legalism. I begin by considering the role of what I take to be the standard model of legal pedagogy in engendering and perpetuating certain distortions concerning objectivity, value, and the good. I then describe and explore a basic, non-minimalist, and non-formalist notion of ethics centering on the notions of orientation, self-transcendence, and self-constitution; such a view of ethics might serve as a counterpoise to some of the defective notions implicit in the standard model of legal pedagogy. Next, I describe a heuristic model of four levels of happiness, which adds dialectical nuances to the basic account of ethics. I conclude with some brief reflections on the role of faith in promoting an ethos of justice.