Monday, February 18, 2013

Balkinization: Ronald Dworkin: A Eulogy

Balkinization: Ronald Dworkin: A Eulogy: by Jim Fleming, Boston University Law School

  Ronald Dworkin is widely and rightly viewed as the most important legal philosopher of our time and as one of the leading figures in moral and political philosophy. In the words of Marshall Cohen, Dworkin’s jurisprudential writings “constitute the finest contribution yet made by an American writer to the philosophy of law.” And Cohen wrote those words when Dworkin published his first book, Taking Rights Seriously, in 1977! His many outstanding subsequent books and articles made good on that early and prescient assessment. Dworkin is unmatched and unrivaled in legal philosophy and constitutional theory.
            In the words of Tim Scanlon, Dworkin is “our leading public philosopher.” He regularly published essays on legal and political subjects in the New York Review of Books from 1968 until recently. Like many readers, I eagerly opened each issue hoping to find a new piece by Dworkin. I shall miss that. As he said of Judge Learned Hand, I would say of Dworkin: he wrote like a dream. Dworkin had the rare gift of being able to write abstractly in legal philosophy and constitutional theory yet also to write accessibly for the general educated citizen. He brought out the issues of moral and political principle at the heart of the major political and constitutional issues of the day. His writing not only bristles with brilliant insights but also exhorts and uplifts. Moreover, in courageous and spirited exchanges with leading conservatives, like Richard Posner, Robert Bork, and Antonin Scalia, he gave as good as he got and then some!

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