February 20, 2013
Ronald M. Dworkin LL.B. ’57, renowned legal scholar and philosopher, died on Feb. 13, 2013. A towering figure in the legal world, he was the Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy and New York University and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London. He also taught at Yale Law School.
A number of Harvard Law School professors have written pieces about his life and his contributions to philosophy and legal theory (excerpts and links below). His obituary can be found in the New York Times.
by HLS Professor Charles Fried
For those of us who have read and appreciated Ronnie Dworkin’s writing, who have heard him lecture, debate or teach a class, and most of all who have had the privilege and pleasure of being his friends, he has made our lives better, richer and more delightful. I say better because he was first of all a person of high seriousness and moral commitment. He lived well and chose the loveliest spots to do his living—a mews house by Washington Square, Belgravia in London, Chilmark Pond on Martha’s Vineyard—and in the company of two beautiful and gifted women, his first wife and after her death his second. In all that beauty, elegance and even luxury there could never be any doubt about his constant, consuming seriousness about his work. Montaigne, who would have greatly enjoyed Ronnie’s company, writes in his essay Of Experience that “it is for little souls, buried under the weight of business, to be unable to detach themselves cleanly from it or to leave it and pick it up again.... I think it right that the faculty [of the Sorbonne] should dine all the more comfortably and pleasantly for having used the morning profitably and seriously in the work of their school.” Read More
by HLS Professor Cass Sunstein
Ronald Dworkin, a professor at New York University and the University of Oxford who died this week, was one of the most important legal philosophers of the last 100 years. He may well head the list.
He made countless enduring contributions to philosophy and legal theory. Among his greatest is a distinctive answer to a longstanding question: Do judges find law, or do they make it? His answer is a huge improvement over the crude alternatives that dominate public debates. Read more
by HLS Professor Noah Feldman
Ronald Dworkin, who has died at age 81, was the leading liberal constitutional theorist of his era. But that is not why his ideas are so important nor is it why history will remember him.
Instead, Dworkin’s essential contribution applies equally to American liberal and conservative legal thought: Constitutional decision-making rests on a bedrock of the judges’ political morality -- and so do the rights we enjoy. Read more
Wall Street Journal
by HLS Professor Laurence Tribe
"Ronald Dworkin was one of the few genuine giants of legal philosophy, combining great learning with profound insight in a way that won't soon be seen again." Read more