May 08, 2016
At SSRN; the abstract:
This essay discusses a lengthy review by Professor Michael McConnell of the Stanford Law School in the Yale Law Journal of my 2013 book WHY TOLERATE RELIGION? (Princeton University Press). I identify two important objections that Prof. McConnell raises, but also identify eight different mistakes or misunderstandings that mar other parts of the review. I conclude by taking Prof. McConnell to task for several rhetorical cheap shots that, together with the other errors, suggests that his essay was more a partisan brief than a scholarly evaluation of the arguments. Most surprisingly, the fact that Professor McConnell, in his lengthy review, never actually responds to my book's central thesis--namely, that the inequality between religious and non-religious claims of conscience is not morally defensible--suggests that there may really be no serious argument on the other side.
April 07, 2016
President Obama is at the University of Chicago Law School today discussing the Supreme Court and the nomination of Judge Garland...
...which you can watch here. And if you'd like to know the truth about what's really going on with Supreme Court nomination battles, read this. (I'm not there, I'm at home working, since the faculty have been thrown out of their offices for the day!)
March 17, 2016
...with material perhaps of use to others with general interests in moral and political theory. "Moralities are a Sign-Language of the Affects" offers an interpretation and defense of Nietzsche's moral psychology, with special attention to the relationship between moral judgment and emotional response, and some of the empirical evidence in support of Nietzsche's kind of view. (This paper was published two years ago, but the PDF can now be made available on-line.) "The Death of God and the Death of Morality" offers an interpretation of the moral import of Nietzsche's claim that "God is dead," focusing in particular on its import for moral egalitarianism and the basis of equality problem (in virtue of what are all humans morally equal?).
December 02, 2015
October 16, 2015
Federal Court dismisses another suit alleging misleading law school employment statistics (Michael Simkovic)
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Federal District Court recently dismissed a lawsuit alleging that Florida Coastal School of Law defrauded its students through misleading employment statistics. (hat tip Paul Caron) As noted in the Journal, this is the latest in a long string of victories for defendant law schools in these cases.
The legal issues and relevant facts of many of the suits against law schools are substantially similar because of standardized data collection techniques and methods of disclosure. Although courts thus far have either denied class certification or dismissed these fraud suits on the merits, the language of opinions has tended to be somewhat more sympathetic toward plaintiffs when the defendant law school admitted students with lower undergraduate GPAs and standardized test scores. (For example, compare the decision in Brooklyn to the decision in New York Law School (especially the more plaintiff-friendly appellate opinion)).
Given Florida Coastal's admissions standards--described by the Court as among "the lowest . . .of accredited law schools . . . in the nation"--Florida Coastal may have been among plaintiffs' attorneys best chances for success. Failure in this case does not bode well for future lawsuits against law schools based on similar legal theories and fact patterns.
The Florida Court explained that Florida Coastal students were college-educated and therefore sufficiently sophisticated that they were unlikely to be misled, but rather would have reasonably understood the limits of the data disclosures or requested additional clarifying information.
The Court's detailed reasoning follows:
September 17, 2015
...is now available. I haven't read most of the papers at this point, but I can commend both Ed Rock's and Henry Smith's as particularly interesting. (I was unable to attend the symposium, so I did not hear the papers either.) My own contribution to the symposium is here.
A new draft paper, perhaps of interest to some readers:
Nietzsche famously proclaimed the "death of God," but in so doing it was not God's death that was really notable--Nietzsche assumes that most reflective, modern readers realize that "the belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable” (GS 343)--but the implications of that belief becoming unbelievable, namely, "how much must collapse now that this faith has been undermined," in particular, "the whole of our European morality" (GS 343). What is the connection between the death of God and the death of morality?
I argue that Nietzsche thinks the death of God will undermine two central aspects of our morality: its moral egalitarianism, and its belief in moral responsibility and warranted guilt. I offer an account of how Nietzsche sees the connections, and conclude with some skeptical considerations about whether Nietzsche was right that atheism would, in fact, undermine morality.
A friend on FB, an historian at Harvard, posted the following excerpt from the preceding paper, which leads me to think it might be worth sharing:
Consider the Nietzschean Trolley Problem (apologies for anachronism): a runaway trolley is hurtling down the tracks towards Beethoven, before he has even written the Eroica symphony; by throwing a switch, you can divert the trolley so that it runs down five (or fifty) ordinary people, non-entities (say university professors of law or philosophy) of various stripes (“herd animals” in Nietzschean lingo), and Beethoven is saved. For the anti-egalitarian, this problem is not a problem: one should of course save a human genius at the expense of many mediocrities. To reason that way is, of course, to repudiate moral egalitarianism. Belief in an egalitarian God would thwart that line of reasoning; but absent that belief, what would?
September 03, 2015
September 01, 2015
July 28, 2015
It's educational malpractice to recommend that incoming law students read Llewellyn's "The Bramble Bush"...
...as, alas, Michael Krauss (George Mason) does in The Washington Post no less. Llewellyn's book is delightful and rich with interesting material, but I guarantee it makes no sense to someone who hasn't already read a lot of cases and studied some basic common-law subjects, like torts and contracts. (I offer the basic Jurisprudence course here as a 1L elective in the Spring Quarter, and to those students it makes a lot of sense precisely because they've already seen so many examples of what Llewellyn is talking about.) The one book I recommend to students who ask what to read before starting law school is Ward Farnsworth's The Legal Analyst (though the "Jurisprudence" part of the book isn't really about jurisprudence). This is accessible to a novice, and provides a beginning law student with a variety of useful analytical tools. (Farnsworth, now Dean at Texas, is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and the book actually covers much of the material covered in "Elements of the Law," a required fall quarter class for all 1Ls here--indeed, one of my colleagues who teaches "Elements" uses Farnsworth's book in the class.)