February 28, 2009
Jurisprudence at the January 2010 AALS Annual Meeting
Longtime readers of my blogs will know of my distaste (shared by all thinking people!) for the annual meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, but my friend Scott Shapiro (Yale) is organizing a panel on "Legal Positivism: For and Against" for the January 2010 meeting in New Orleans, so I'm going to participate for the first time in a long time. Scott has already lined up Mark Greenberg (UCLA) (on the "against" side!), and has some other good invites outstanding. An opportunity to talk with Scott and Mark is always rewarding, so I'll be there, though I may finally force Scott to surrender his positivist union card if he doesn't recant on certain points! In any case, I expect it to be a substantive panel and I thought jurisprudents in law schools might be interested. Of course, leaving Chicago in January for New Orleans is also a non-trivial attraction.
February 2, 2009
Litowitz Reviews "Derrida and Legal Philosophy"
Douglas Litowitz, who has a far higher opinion of Derrida than I do, makes some nice points in this review of a recent collection. From his concluding paragraph:
As the editors correctly point out, Derrida is routinely denounced by scholars unfamiliar with his work. This means that certain people will reject this book simply because it is associated with Derrida. Conversely, certain people embrace everything that Derrida writes, and they will have the opposite, equally uncritical, reaction to this book. In between these extremes is a group of scholars, like myself, who are moderately sympathetic to Derrida. Most of us are generally willing to endure Derrida's lack of argumentative rigor, his endless word games and pretentious deferrals, in exchange for those few shining moments when he offers a truly unique reading of a key text, or when he draws attention to a person or a concept that has been wrongfully excluded or marginalized. Such readers would probably be receptive to a book about Derrida and legal philosophy if it clearly set forth Derrida's notion of justice and demonstrated how it complements, challenges, or improves upon the positions staked out by other legal philosophers. It is curious that instead of reaching out in this way, the contributors to this book seem content to decry Derrida's marginalized status as a legal philosopher without demonstrating why it is so undeserved.
Of course, his marginal status as a legal philosopher (and, I would add, as a philosopher) is deserved, and a book of essays by folks who largely know nothing about legal philosophy is, of course, not in a good position to demonstrate otherwise.
It is true that fans of Derrida routinely assert that "Derrida is routinely denounced by scholars unfamiliar with his work," but what exactly is the evidence that the scholars with a low opinion of Derrida have not read him? As with Simon Critchley, whom we discussed once before, I think more often than not the assertion is not based on any actual evidence but rather on the question-begging assumption that if someone had read Derrida, of course they would appreciate him!