That a mother should have custody of her child is as obvious as the sun rising on the east. The meaning of motherhood is as definite as it can be. It is a reality beyond which the words can ever describe, but it is there. These preceding sentences are the ones that one can expect to hear from St. Thomas Aquinas, a proponent of natural law if asked about this investigation into King Solomon's judgment.
In the Tagalog language, there is a term, lukso ng dugo, which has no English equivalent, but a literal translation is, the blood leaping. It arises out of the phenomenon that when two unacquainted relatives find each other, at least one of them experiences lukso ng dugo (his/her blood leaps), which hints him/her about the unknown blood relation. It is accepted as knowledge, an intuitive insight, that has to be confirmed eventually as a fact by further investigation.
This might explain why the true mother reacted in the manner expected of her by King Solomon, who obviously was aware of this phenomenon that when he posited the trick question, the true mother would act by instinct as expected, be discovered, and awarded custody of the baby. What else can be as natural as when a mother acts to protect her child at the point of self-sacrifice?
To refute Derrida, saying that the reality of motherhood is a concept to be interpreted that may be repeated and altered is to miss the point. The reality of motherhood is that which cannot be captured by terms but exists in the bond between mother and child that is a biological tie and so much more. In other words, there is a state in which the meaning of motherhood is beyond interpretation. Motherhood is a phenomenon among humans, specifically between a woman who bore a child in her womb and gave birth to that child. But the relationship extends to the nourishment of that child by the mother. It is a relationship that should not be deprived of mothers and their children. It is not a concept, but a real phenomenon beyond description.
To take the child away from his/her mother is against the natural law. The Spartan's law and that of Plato's Republic are against the natural law --it is not the nature of things. The state cannot be superior to the mother-child bond, and the child is not a creature of the state.
In this respect, the naturalist view could be contrasted against the Derrida view in two: 1. That the facts are verifiable in themselves and beyond the interpretation of words; and 2. That the law on motherhood should conform to the natural law, which is likewise discernible.
Yet, philosophers have issues with the fundamental precepts of the naturalist view. Are the facts indeed verifiable? Is natural law indeed discernible. In this regard, David Hume posits that we can’t really know these things, the facts and the natural law, because what we can know are only sense impressions, things that could only be perceived by our senses. If our senses are wrong, and fallible as they are, then we cannot know the facts. We cannot know the natural law.
In the case of King Solomon, what he was trying to do was reconstruct the truth about the real mother, and all he relied upon was his perception on how a true mother would react when given a command to split her baby. What if he misheard the parties, interchanged their words, or confused them in his head? And his law that the mother should have her baby, how did he conceive of such notion? Moses was not with his mom, and it was, providential to his people that he wasn’t as he was adopted by the Egyptian princess. And did the great king’s notion admit of exceptions — are all babies supposed to be with their mothers? How did the great king know the case before him is not one of the exceptions?
Let’s fast forward King Solomon’s case to the present. A modern trial may ensue with the Plaintiff probably presenting testimonies to attest on the factual background of the case and the DNA profile of the parties, which may provide for a compelling case. Yet, the judge could be presented with evidence that reinforces his prejudices, such as for example, proof that the women are all prostitutes, the baby was a product of an all night orgy, and so the baby might as well be born of a pig, neither mother actually deserving to be such. The judge might disregard the evidence and order the baby to be adopted instead, which is not exactly impossible. The judge is limited by what he perceives, and it is not a guarantee he will make full use of his powers of perception in rendering a decision.
The most stunning blow that David Hume can throw is this: What ‘is’ doesn’t mean it ought to be. The fact that King Solomon has seen mothers and their babies together doesn’t mean mothers and babies should always be together. The syllogism is invalid.
So, how are we to know King Solomon got it right?
(To be continued)