« The Annual Fall Conference at Notre Dame: "Dust of the Earth: On Persons." | Main | Mitchell Hamline School of Law Facing Calls Of Antisemitism »

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Legal scholars are not bound by reality

Following on Paul's recommendation of Noah Chauvin's Against Gap-Filling: I recommend this line towards the end of the piece:

Legal scholars are not bound by reality in the same way as our colleagues in other fields: Whereas they seek to understand and explain phenomena that have happened, are happening, or will happen, and are limited by the facts known or discoverable about these phenomena, our subject matter is the law—something that is (with apologies to adherents of natural law theory) wholly made up by people. Physicists, economists, and art historians must account for the world as they find it. But to the extent a law, legal doctrine, or method of interpretation is imperfect, legal scholars can advocate changing it. Legal scholarship concerns itself not with the world as it is, but the world as it should be.

When I began teaching, there was a line between "theoretical" and "descriptive" scholarship, with the former as "real" and the latter less valuable. But I always believed there is a large class of normative work, while not grounded in deep theory or legal philosophy, digs into and attacks the doctrine. Chauvin describes that.

I also love the first line of that block quote (a colleague said it is his new mantra). My wife is the child of medical academics and has done research in sociology and criminology. When we met (as I was beginning teaching), she laughed at the notion that we seemed to sit at a computer, write whatever we wanted, and get tenure for it.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 2, 2023 at 12:12 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


The comments to this entry are closed.