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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

John Locke's birthday

John Locke was born on this day in 1632.  (So were Ingrid Bergman, Charlie Parker, and Slobodan Milosevic.)

Here is Locke's Letter on Toleration (1689).  Here is a paper by Steve Smith, "Toleration and Liberal Commitments."  And, here is an interview with Stanley Fish, "There's No Such Thing as Free Speech."

Question:  Which term is more often used (or misused) in law-school classes:  "Lockean", "Kantian", or "Rawlsian"?

Posted by Rick Garnett on August 29, 2006 at 09:14 AM in Legal Theory | Permalink


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In my Secured Transactions class, even I cannot work in Lockean, Kantian or Rawlsian. I do have a little thing where I can bring in Bleak House, however (can Richard Carstone grant a security interest in his expectation of a settlement from Jarndyce v. Jarndyce?).

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Aug 29, 2006 9:48:00 AM

All three are miss-used quite regularly, but probably Rawls the most these days simply because he's "fresher". Most invocations of all three in law schools are not very good, in my opinion, but the miss-use of Locke and Rawls comes from different areas. In the case of Locke it's usually from libertarians who invoke what they think to be his account of property but mostly just show that they've never bothered to read the second treatis with any care, if they've read it at all, since Locke quite clearly doesn't have a libertarian account of property and it's not all that obvious how you could derive one from his actual view.

Posted by: Matt | Aug 29, 2006 9:56:56 AM

If I had a dime for every time I heard "Wittgensteinian language game" in law school! I don't think the term is misused, but the assumption typically undergirding use of the term--i.e.,that Wittgenstein was right about language--seems wrong to me. One of my career goals, not very likely to be fulfilled, is to make "Fregean" as common in law schools as "Wittgensteinian." If you want to get in on the early action, there are two schools of thought on the pronounciation: Fruh-GEE-an and FRAY-gee-an (with soft G's, not J's, if that makes sense).

Too bad the PBS Bleak House didn't win the acting Emmys. Tulkinghorn and Gillian Andersen were great. I guess it did win for makeup & cinematography, which were also great.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 29, 2006 11:21:44 AM

Even as someone who like Wittgentein pretty well I must agree that I cringe whenever I hear someone in a law school invoke him since, with a few exceptions (Brian Bix, for one) the vast majority of people in a law school who mention him (including faculty) give not the slightest indication of having read or understood him.

Posted by: Matt | Aug 29, 2006 12:08:16 PM

I did plow through the TLP & Investigations for a course in Early Analytic Philosophy, but you'll notice I don't pretend to understand what he's saying (e.g., by citing him in my paper). Kripke's book on Wittgenstein was far more comprehensible, but even he doesn't put much stock in actually getting Wittgenstein right.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 29, 2006 12:30:50 PM

To merge this with the popular culture thread, this reminds me of the MASH episode in which the doctors tell Radar how to impress an intellectual nurse for whom he has fallen. One way is to say, when Bach is mentioned, "Ah, Bach." So he says it, and immediately she responds "Ah, Bach? What do you mean when you say, ah Bach?"

Ah, Wittgenstein.
Ah, Rawls.
Ah, Kant.
Ah, Locke.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Aug 29, 2006 12:41:34 PM

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