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Trashing the Supreme Court

Ronald Dworkin, 19 June 1980

The Bretheren: Inside the Supreme Court 
by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong.
Secker, 467 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 436 58122 1
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... This is a great best-seller in America. But it is a deplorable book – mostly silly gossip about the various Justices of the United States Supreme Court in the period from 1969 to 1976, supposedly taken from internal court memoranda never intended to be published, and from off-the-record and not-for-attribution talks with former law clerks about the Justices and with the Justices about each other ...


Bernard Williams, 17 April 1986

A Matter of Principle 
by Ronald Dworkin.
Harvard, 425 pp., £19.95, May 1985, 0 674 55460 4
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... said: ‘I think I should explain something to the Committee. Americans believe in rights.’ Ronald Dworkin is also an American lawyer; he is Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford and much of the time resident in England. He assuredly believes in rights, and his first and now very well-known volume of papers has the title Taking rights seriously. He ...

What about Bert?

Jeremy Waldron: Equality, 9 August 2001

Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality 
by Ronald Dworkin.
Harvard, 511 pp., £23.95, June 2000, 0 674 00219 9
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... In the 13th chapter of this formidable collection of Ronald Dworkin’s writings on equality, we are asked to consider a problem about health cover. The chapter is entitled ‘Playing God: Genes, Clones and Luck’, and the problem has to do with the availability of health insurance to those who are revealed, by genetic testing, to have a higher than ordinary risk of contracting some disease that may require expensive medical treatment ...

Reading the law

Thomas Nagel, 18 September 1986

Law’s Empire 
by Ronald Dworkin.
Harvard/Fontana, 470 pp., £16.95, May 1986, 0 674 51835 7
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... moral and political philosophy. The most distinguished and original American philosopher of law, Ronald Dworkin, has been Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford for many years, but his heart, and much of his influence, are to be found in the United States. Though he often uses examples from British law, the large questions that most engage him are those ...

The Central Questions

Thomas Nagel: H.L.A. Hart, 3 February 2005

A Life of H.L.A. Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream 
by Nicola Lacey.
Oxford, 422 pp., £25, September 2004, 0 19 927497 5
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... interpreted only with the help of moral principles. Hart’s positivism provoked a critique from Ronald Dworkin, who argued that there can be no value-free theory of what it is for a law to exist, and that the outside view cannot be divorced from the inside view of participants in an adequate account. Not only in constitutional adjudication, he ...

Free speech for Rupert Murdoch

Stephen Sedley, 19 December 1991

... the last number of the London Review. Liberty (the NCCL) and polemicists such as Keith Ewing and Ronald Dworkin have confined their attention to a Bill of Rights alone. But the yoking of the two is not accidental. It reflects the cast of mind which two centuries ago in the US found it necessary to temper the creation of a federal state by enacting a ...

Absent Framers

Andreas Teuber, 31 March 1988

... their substantive intentions to settle subsequent efforts to interpret the meaning of the text. As Ronald Dworkin has argued, if they had truly wanted us to be guided by what they specifically had in mind by ‘justice’, ‘cruel and unusual’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, they would not have used such general language, but offered more evidence of ...

On and off the page

Thomas Nagel, 25 July 1991

Isaiah Berlin: A Celebration 
by Edna Margalit and Avishai Margalit.
Hogarth, 224 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 7012 0925 9
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... in ‘Understanding Fascism’. On the subject of positive and negative liberty, the essays by Ronald Dworkin and Yael Tamir form a complementary pair. Dworkin shows how the conflation of positive with negative liberty, which Berlin exposed, has reappeared in current arguments by some American legal theorists to the ...

Brexit and the Constitution

George Letsas, 16 March 2017

... process aimed at selecting, specifying and implementing particular conceptions of justice. As Ronald Dworkin observed, the ultimate basis of legitimacy is the substance of the principles of justice that underpin our laws, and over which no institutional actor, not even the electorate, has absolute control. Referendums have a place in a representative ...

The Edges of Life

Jeremy Waldron, 12 May 1994

Life’s Dominion: An Argument about Abortion and Euthanasia 
by Ronald Dworkin.
HarperCollins, 273 pp., £17.50, May 1993, 0 394 58941 6
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... with the language of intrinsic value than to flirt with sylvan rights. The most striking thesis of Ronald Dworkin’s book is that what I have just said about trees can be said also about foetuses. Though the pro-life movement stridently affirms that foetuses have human rights, Dworkin argues that their position on ...

The Disappeared

Eduardo Rabossi, 27 January 1994

The Angel of Darkness 
by Ernesto Sábato, translated by Andrew Hurley.
Cape, 435 pp., £15.99, May 1993, 0 224 03306 9
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... a first edition of Nunca Más (Never Again). Forty thousand copies were sold on the first day. As Ronald Dworkin put it in his introduction to the English translation: ‘Nunca Más is a report from Hell ... its story has two themes: ultimate brutality and absolute caprice ... the perverse exhilaration of absolute, uncontrolled dominion over ...

Post-Modernism and the Law

Robert Post, 21 February 1991

Languages of Law: From Logics of Memory to Nomadic Masks 
by Peter Goodrich.
Weidenfeld, 353 pp., £30, August 1990, 0 297 82024 9
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Post-Modern Law: Enlightenment, Revolution and the Death of Man 
edited by Anthony Carty.
Edinburgh, 166 pp., £25, August 1990, 0 7486 0156 2
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... for example, he contends that the ‘law ... has abolished interpretation’. Yet, as the work of Ronald Dworkin (who is not even mentioned) convincingly demonstrates, the internal processes of the law are understood by its participants to be, and can in fact usefully be characterised as, quintessentially interpretative. For Goodrich the law is ...

Sensitivity isn’t enough

Peter Berkowitz: The theory of toleration, 7 September 2000

Virtue, Reason and Toleration: The Place of Toleration in Ethical and Political Philosophy 
by Glen Newey.
Edinburgh, 208 pp., £50, November 1999, 0 7486 1244 0
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... from them. This is the opinion of many who practise philosophy in the manner of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin. Philosophical reflection on the nature of toleration, Newey contends, shows that this is wrongheaded. It is, Lord knows, not the abstraction that Newey objects to, but – quite rightly – the conceit that philosophical reflection of ...

In whose interest?

Thomas Nagel: Euthanasia, 6 October 2011

Assisted Death: A Study in Ethics and Law 
by L.W. Sumner.
Oxford, 236 pp., £35, July 2011, 978 0 19 960798 3
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... its life retains the simple experiential value available to an infant? One response, proposed by Ronald Dworkin, is that we must distinguish between the experiential and the critical value of a life. Your directive expresses the view that in such circumstances, despite its primitive experiential value, your existence would not be worth continuing – it ...

The Leader’s Cheerleaders

Simon Jenkins: Party Funding in Britain, 20 September 2007

The Cost of Democracy: Party Funding in Modern British Politics 
by K.D. Ewing.
Hart, 279 pp., £30, March 2007, 978 1 84113 716 2
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... and political committees – who must retain control over the quantity and range of debate.’ Ronald Dworkin attacked this fundamentalism (in an essay of which Ewing seems unaware) as leading America away from voter equality towards the rule of money. ‘Democracy,’ he wrote, ‘is not a pedigree a nation earns by adopting some constitutional ...

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