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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"Why We Write"

This post might connect well with Kaimi's, below, about writing while in law practice.  A few years ago, there was a program at the AALS annual meeting called "Why We Write:  Reflections on Legal Scholarship."  Steve Smith, Yale Kamisar, Kim Yuracko, Jonathan Macey, and -- I think -- Emily Sherwin participated, and it was a very helpful and provocative session.  (Like most of the untenured people in the room, I suspect, I particularly identified with Kim Yuracko's quip that she writes "out of fear."  Of course, people familiar with her work know that there is considerably more animating her scholarship than that . . . ). 

Steve Smith said, "The aspiration to make law and legal scholarship into a 'science' (whatever that means) is very common . . . .  I see legal scholarship as a vehicle for resisting science, or at least for resisting 'science.'"  Later, he elaborates, "I believe that science . . . powerfully affects legal scholarship by sponsoring a sort of worldview within which we live and write -- usually without paying much attention to it.  . . .  My thought is that there is some value in trying to maintain a resistance -- not to science, exactly, but to the domination of science and especially of the naturalistic worldview so often associated with science.  There is value in resisting the scientific worldview in favor of some other overarching view in which persons (of various sorts) have ontological primacy over particles." 

Steve also discusses the idea of "scholarship as a calling," or a "vocation," and confesses that "[f]or me the notion of scholarship as a calling, though attractive, is also frustrating or confusing . . . though I got into the legal academy in part from a sense of calling, I have never had any very definite conception of just what that calling is." 

There is more, and it's worth a read.

David Luban, in the Journal of Legal Education, in 2001, also published an essay on this theme, called "Legal Scholarship as a Vocation" (sorry -- no link), using Max Weber's "Science as a Vocation" as his springboard.

So . . . why do we write?


UPDATE:  Here is Larry Ribstein's take.

Posted by Rick Garnett on August 10, 2005 at 12:54 AM | Permalink


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