Ronald Dworkin, perhaps the most influential legal philosopher of the last century, spent last fall on Martha’s Vineyard. He was on sabbatical from the law school, and he was working and worrying. He spends half the year in England, and was eager to get back to London, but he could not leave, he said, until the presidential election was over. “It’s a tribal thing,” he explained. “I don’t want to be away in this terrible, critical moment.”
endent b y a d a m l i p ta k
portraits by John Earle
I went to see NYU’s Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law last October, and my flight from Boston, on a tiny propeller plane, provided some unwelcome excitement. I had tried to lose myself in an imposing book called Dworkin and His Critics. But the impenetrable essays, on topics like “Associative Obligations and the State,” only added a note of personal inadequacy to the stabs of terror.
Dworkin is the worldliest of philosophers, and it was odd but somehow reassuring to see him on an all but deserted island on a cold New England Sunday. He wore an old yellow sweater, green khakis and white tennis shoes, and, as he tucked me into his Jeep, I took further comfort from the fact that there was the detritus of ordinary life on its floor, a book-on-tape of a Patricia THE LAW SCHOOL