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Law no aid to human suffering

Law no aid to human suffering

Despite idealistic notions to the contrary, law cannot alleviate human suffering, according to Finnish law scholar and philosopher Professor Panu Minkkinen.Minkkinen, who teaches legal theory at…

Despite idealistic notions to the contrary, law cannot alleviate human suffering, according to Finnish law scholar and philosopher Professor Panu Minkkinen.

Minkkinen, who teaches legal theory at the University of Leicester in the UK and is adjunct professor of legal theory at the University of Helsinki in Finland, will this week present his views, at Griffith University, on why law is unable to address human suffering.

"It is unrealistic and perhaps even a dangerously romantic idea to expect that law can do much more than [assign responsibility for an injury]," said Minkkinen.

"Law uses the victim's suffering for its own ends, and this is why it cannot be truly ethical."

Titled Visual Arts, Useless Suffering and the Limits of Law, Minkkinen's talk is aimed at challenging ideas that law can be ethical and address human suffering.

Minkkinen will also refer to visual arts, and use famous paintings depicting crucifixions, to illustrate how - unlike law - art can address human suffering.

"Art can show us how suffering includes something that goes beyond our ability to rationalise, an ethical truth that haunts us and calls for deeper emotional responses that law cannot provide," he said.

"After major human atrocities, society has a need to deal with the suffering to move on. Law is an inappropriate tool in this regard. It doesn't understand suffering in terms of human experience or aim to acknowledge those who have been victimised."

Minkkinen said art is the reason why so-called truth commissions have been set up across the globe to address atrocities that law was unable to deal with.

"The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, for example, aims to restore justice after the abolition of apartheid and give voice to its victims," he said.

"However, these commissions strictly speaking are not legal, though often run by legal professionals."

Griffith University's Socio-Legal Research Centre is sponsoring Minkkinen's address as part of its Lighthouse Lecture Series.

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