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The Magic of Court Rooms: The Science of Experiment

Amanda Knox and Magical Transformations of Law

It has been noted by some that in the history of Science there are great dues to be paid to the instrumentalism of magic itself. Far from being opposed to science, magic with its ritualizations and isolations of practices, its heavy dose of the instrumentalization of forces beyond the human, was more a proto-science. This is found from the Hellenistic Age and its daimonology all the way to Newton’s devoted alchemical experiments and theorization. Part of the backbone of this understanding is the realization that the private space filtering of effects (the laboratory of both the magus and the scientist) is key to both producing literal truths, but also to cloister subjective powers such that “magic” happens. The Amanda Knox case seems to show us as well that courts are like laboratories too. These are isolated environments where specifically defined differences are selected out such as to produce a kind of extra-court, transcendent product…justice. But just as well these magical operations, these operations of selection and hermeticism, can tend to produce fantastic magic of the unexpected kind. Especially in cases which bear the currents of strong social shift, the “laboratory” effect actually can work to condense and focus these sub-realities so to conjure something more. It seems that these are not the failings of courtrooms, so much as the effect that comes with truth-procedures themselves.

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4 responses to “The Magic of Court Rooms: The Science of Experiment

  1. johnmccreery December 8, 2009 at 10:00 am

    A plausible sounding suggestion. Could you say a bit more about the specifics of the Amanda Fox case that make it, in your view, a particularly apt example?

    • kvond December 8, 2009 at 2:42 pm

      It was just a passing thought.

    • kvond December 8, 2009 at 3:01 pm

      I guess I should put it another way. I find discussion (or worse, debate) of the Amanda Knox case a bit droll. But the invocation of devils and angels, the inquisition, reference to the legal system, the practices of courts, rituals of evidenturary procedure, the hermeticism of what a court room is, summon up ideas of famous trials, whether they be OJ or Stalinist, and make one realize that there is a very curious power of theatre and apparition which follows along the science, legal, magic corridor.

      It is also interesting that it (in one account) was said that Wittgenstein’s notion of “language game” came out of his thoughts about courts.

  2. Asher Kay December 9, 2009 at 2:44 am

    I’ve heard that too. In 1914, he mentions dolls used in a Paris courtroom to model a car accident.

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