Donald R. Davis, Jr.

Law as the Theology of Ordinary Life: Lessons from Hindu Law


The prevailing modern vision of law as secular, instrumental, and positive is a chimera produced in and by European and American nation-states and their courts over the last two centuries. The broader history of law in other times and places reveals notions and practices of law that challenge accepted “truths” about law’s reach and role in human life. In this presentation, a case is made that law everywhere may be profitably seen as the theology of ordinary life. At every level, the laws by which we lead our lives encode assumptions and ideas about what we aspire to as human beings and what we presume about ourselves and others, especially aspects of things near to us such as family, birth, death, sex, money, marriage, and work. Texts of the Hindu law tradition provide the inspiration and the evidence for the presentation, and the lessons learned from Hindu legal texts will serve to begin a new kind of conversation about law and the humanities.