Tailor-Made for Evil
Hiding Foul Things with Garments of Legal Fictions by Joshua Hren
Gustave Doré's drawing of Dante's illicit lovers Paolo and Francesca presents us with an eternal inversion of their earthbound, extramarital Eros. For though the two lovers are enclosed in sheets, their infernal consummation is not cloaked: we see the nakedness of their affair, rather than the covers which could lend modesty to their misdeeds. In The Revenge of Conscience, J. Budziszewski notes that "because we can't not know that sex belongs with marriage, when we separate them we cover our guilty knowledge with rationalizations."
Doré's sheets give guilty rationalization physical form, even if they fail to conceal the lovers. At times, though, such rationalizations are threaded through less tangible things. Although, in the words of Aquinas, law ought to be a "dictate of reason" concerning "what should be done to insure the common good," legality can also be a garment by which we try to cover our guilt.
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