In my law and religion seminar this week, we’ve been discussing justifications for religious freedom. Why should the state protect religion? One argument is that religion, on the whole, contributes greatly to social capital. Take aesthetics, for example. How much great art and music has Christianity alone inspired? What a diminished culture we would have without the St. Matthew Passion, the Sistine Chapel, and The Brothers Karamazov.
But, critics object, religion isn’t the only possible source of artistic inspiration. The Enlightenment inspired great works too, like Candide and The Magic Flute. And then there’s this: John Rawls’s ”A Theory of Justice”: The Musical, a current student production at Oxford. (Better hurry, the February 1 performance is already sold out). “A Theory of Justice,” the producers tell us, will be “the world’s first feature-length musical about political philosophy.” Here’s the plot:
In order to draw inspiration for his magnum opus, John Rawls travels back through time to converse (in song) with a selection of political philosophers, including Plato, Locke, Rousseau and Mill. But the journey is not as smooth as he hoped: for as he pursues his love interest, the beautiful student Fairness, through history, he must escape the evil designs of his libertarian arch-nemesis, Robert Nozick, and his objectivist lover, Ayn Rand. Will he achieve his goal of defining Justice as Fairness?
Well, Handel it’s not, but it could be fun in a nerdy sort of way. And it’s nice to see that the musical theater is finally taking Rawls seriously. (H/T: First Thoughts).