Academic Year 2011-2012
Paul E. Nahme is a Ph.D. candidate in the Centre for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Under the supervision of Professors David Novak and Robert Gibbs, he is completing his dissertation entitled, “The Theological Conditions of the Political: Legitimacy and Justification as Categories of Legal and Religious Reason,” focusing on the relationship between Christian, Jewish, and Islamic political theology and the modern liberal constitutional state. He is a recipient of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Graduate Scholarship for this project, as well as having been named the 2009-2010 Tikvah fellow in the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Along with Professors Pamela Klassen and Ruth Marshall, he is also a researcher and founder of the interdisciplinary working group at the University of Toronto, entitled, “The Force of Laws: Legal Subjects and the Power of Commandment.” Since 2009 Paul has served as associate editor, as well as being a co-founder of the University of Toronto Journal for Jewish Thought.
His research interests include legal and political theory, 19th century German idealism, continental philosophy, Medieval Judaeo-Arabic Philosophy and Scholasticism, and political theology.
Constitutional Eschatology: Mono-theism and Legal Pluralism
Eschatology is the conceptualization of the end and purpose of human existence and political association. Constitutionalism has become the formal basis of contemporary legal justification, and hence, the end and purpose of the law, or what Hans Kelsen has called “the norm of norms.” My research project will address how constitutionalism inherits the teleological structure of eschatology. I will discuss the medieval juristic model of Maimonides and his messianic ideal, and how contemporary legal theory can thereby gain a counter-narrative for understanding constitutional authority, including a model of legal pluralism that is nonetheless based upon a political theology. As I see it, Maimonides’ judicial method also provides a future, regulative ideal of a constitution—as an alternative to John Rawls’ theory of public reason—as well as an interpretive and pedagogical praxis for courts of law. The judge must seek out the hypothetical good of society and instruct society in how to attain this good, acknowledging this pedagogy of normativity as a regulative ideal. Through the law, society learns how to become humanity. As legal eschatology, constitutionalism can provide the legal order with this hypothetical goal of a deferred unity, rather than a constructivist and merely procedural formalism that seeks to neutralize difference and conflict.