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February 14, 2013 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Beloved Legal Philosopher Ronald Dworkin Passes Away. Dworkin was described as "perhaps the most influential legal philosopher of the last century" in a 2005 profile. A surprisingly comprehensive collection of his essays for the New York Review of Books are available online. You can also watch his lecture on truth and interpretation. Or you can read about his recent book Justice for Hedgehogs.

NYU Law and the Guardian also have obituaries.
posted by likeatoaster (20 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by facetious at 11:23 AM on February 14, 2013

posted by Cash4Lead at 11:25 AM on February 14, 2013

posted by gauche at 11:26 AM on February 14, 2013

beloved? respected, certainly. admired, definitely. ...but I've been led to believe from one of his former students was that he wasn't exactly the warmest guy in the room.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:32 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is terrible news for law and letters. He will be missed.

My understanding is that he was a very generous colleague and friend.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:33 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Lutoslawski at 12:01 PM on February 14, 2013

Did Dworkin have any good interpreters? I read Law's Empire and remember thinking that it was very interesting but that I couldn't get clear on what its actual claims were. Is there like a "Dworkinstein" out there that gives a clear and persuasive conception of what Dworkin was going for?
posted by grobstein at 12:03 PM on February 14, 2013

posted by stoneweaver at 12:06 PM on February 14, 2013

posted by shivohum at 12:07 PM on February 14, 2013

posted by LobsterMitten at 12:48 PM on February 14, 2013

Grobstein, I'm not an expert on Dworkin (I took a legal philosophy class from the #2 most cited legal philosopher after Dworkin), but my sense is that Dworkin's legacy is more important for his various articles for the NYRB, etc., than for Law's Empire, which is obviously his big best-selling book.

Much of the scope of legal philosophy in Anglo-American philosophy asks what the sources of the law are--these are meta-legal questions about how jurisprudence can actually happen. Dworkin, in Law's Empire (which I only skimmed about a decade ago), offers an initially intuitive but actually really naive answer to this: he asks jurists to become "Hercules," essentially lawyer-philosopher types who can apply ideas of justice to legal cases. This is silly for a number of reasons both practical (how many judges have a phd in philosophy?) and operational (which philosophers? how can you make holdings non-ambiguous?)--as well as punting the question of the actual source of law's authority, which is not Plato or Rawls but, say, the Constitution. However, if you're a law professor who graduated with a philosophy BA, the thesis might sound very appealing...
posted by johnasdf at 12:58 PM on February 14, 2013

Dworkin was a very influential legal philosopher, and a brilliant one. As with others trying to logically prove their legal theory, from Hart to Rawls, I am however reminded of the following H. L. Mencken quote:
"Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong."

As a lawyer outside of academia, though I have yet to be convinced by any legal theorist offering definite answers, I am thankful for his efforts.

posted by delegeferenda at 1:40 PM on February 14, 2013


Don't have to agree with someone to respect them..
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:26 PM on February 14, 2013

Damn, that lecture is wonderful.

posted by Kinbote at 4:27 PM on February 14, 2013

posted by Red Desk at 5:11 PM on February 14, 2013

I teach philosophy. Dworkin was a giant, and not just because he gave good NYRB or anything.

Grobstein: the Blackwell handbook to Phil Law is good.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:08 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

A well-written, brief set of thoughts on his importance by a great law professor, Michael Dorf, in Requiem for a Hedgehog: Ronald Dworkin R.I.P.
posted by shivohum at 8:29 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

is it common for people to type a dot just to acknowledge it? (I'm new here)
posted by superuser at 9:37 AM on February 15, 2013

This piece calls him Scalia's foil in constitutional law.

I would additionally draw attention to his most recent essay about the upcoming Fisher decision, The Case Against Color-Blind Admissions, which I think is a really eloquent argument in favor of affirmative action presented in such a way that is difficult to brush aside.

superuser -- the convention is that a period connotes a moment of silence in obit threads
posted by likeatoaster at 10:55 AM on February 15, 2013

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