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77 Notre Dame Law Review 705 (2002)


In this festschrift article in honor of Tom Shaffer, the author considers what Shaffer’s work may share with “covenantal” ethics, a form of ethical argument that is not interchangeable with other traditions familiar from Shaffer’s body of work, such as the ethics of friendship or care or the ethics of virtue. Describing the ancient understanding of covenants, the article explores a few of the complexities arising from covenantal ethics in a professional context, themes such as the creation of obligation by historical decision, which has implications for the treatment of strangers; the ambivalence of covenantal ethics on the value of equality as it meets difference, critical to interaction with the vulnerable and the wicked; the covenantal relational dynamic of giftedness and entrustment rather than obligation and desert; and the way that covenantal ethics looks at loyalty and accountability.